By Rosalind Robson
The government is in trouble. It is failing in every department. New Labour appears untrustworthy and ineffective. They need to do something to outflank a resurgent Tory Party. They want to answer their critics at the Daily Mail. What do they do? They plan to take the children of destitute and vulnerable people into care! Under new asylum legislation children of those asylum seekers, whose application for asylum has been turned down, could be taken into care if their parents refuse to "voluntarily" leave the country.
David Blunkett, forced to defend himself, in the wake of Tory MPs hypocritically, but tellingly, calling his government "crypto-fascist", did it like this:
"...turning up at the family home in the middle of the night, waking the children from their beds with searchlights and security and putting them on a flight That is massively traumatic to children."
"If the family refuses to go and they have not got benefits and therefore the children are at risk of destitution, is it better to actually take them into care or allow them to be destitute?"
Inside a New Labour asylum prison
Solidarity received this report about conditions in Dungavel, one of New Labour's deportation centres for "failed" asylum seekers
Despite the comfortable surroundings, Dungavel is undoubtedly a prison. [Detainees] may not move about except under escort. Even going into the grounds to enjoy what little summer they get requires the presence of a security officer. They do not consider themselves criminals. Many of them have held down jobs and made a reasonable law-abiding life in Britain before being lifted by the police, either when they went to the police station to report in or in a dawn raid when a family could be told that they had an hour to pack their belongings and be ready to leave. What was not packed was left to the mercy of friends and relatives.
The greatest concern is the waiting to see or hear from lawyers. Depression is a very real and widespread problem in Dungavel and there have been several suicide attempts.
I do not know what agreement the treatment of the children contravenes, but it certainly breaks the law. The children are not receiving proper education. There is a teacher in Dungavel, certainly, but with upwards of 20 children whose ages range from 5 to 16 she can hardly deliver the quality of education they need. Besides the education in Dungavel is optional, so the children do not bother going and their parent(s) are often too depressed or disorientated to insist on them going.
MSPs and religious leaders of all denominations have condemned the fact that the children are not allowed access to local schools but have been ignored. The asylum seekers are under the authority of the Home Office who apparently answer to no-one but themselves.
Does he think that a child, separated from her parents and maybe her siblings too, will not suffer from that experience? Will she actually not mind being in a strange place with strange people?
She may have already suffered great trauma in her life. If she is a Romany girl she may have seen her family home fire-bombed by neo-Nazis. But according to this government she couldn't have possibly suffered very greatly because it happened to her in a place like the Czech republic, an EU country, a civilized country, a country just like the UK.
Does David Blunkett not remember that it was New Labour in the first place who made these "failed asylum seekers" destitute? Took away their benefits and rights to housing. Never mind being "woken in the family home" it is more likely that these "illegals" - for the likes of Blunkett they're just rag-tag bits of flotsam and jettsom, sub-human beings and their brats - will be woken from the floor of a mosque or church, or an over-crowded bed sit.
Why does Blunkett think that people with nothing, absolutely nothing, still do not want to go "home"? Is it something to do with the fact that the vast majority of asylum seekers, whether they manage to make it or not through the myriad obstacles, the whole dehumanising process of claiming asylum, are from countries that are famed for their human rights abuses? Places like Somalia, China and Zimbabwe (a country that the UK government thinks is pretty "safe").
The truth is New Labour plans to rip children away from their parents because that will help them meet one of their precious targets on asylum - their target for deportations. The statistics suggest that it is easier to deport families than it is to deport single people. It is less easy to hide away if you have a family. If New Labour can be even more efficient here then so much the better.
In New Labour's world of double-speak "targets" and "incentives" amount to the most obscene bullying. And of course the latest asylum legislation is of a piece with the other authoritarian measures New Labour plans: ID cards, emergency powers that could stop anti-war demonstrations on grounds of national security, abolition of some jury trials etc, etc.
Thousands of people come here expecting to make a safe life - not a rich life, but a safe life - for themselves and their children.
Fleeing for their lives, they come without official documents. New Labour locks them up.
They fail to get through the system - a system which for all its all too real "toughness" still grants asylum on appeal to a fifth of those who are refused when they first claim.
Then New Labour starves them by taking away their.
Then David Blunkett takes away their children.
The labour movement must now respond to these proposals with vehemence. We need to defend asylum seekers, asserting the truth of their situation, to win back benefits for asylum seekers. The chances are New Labour will be forced not to take children into care, but that does not mean they won't put children in asylum jail (see box).
But we also need to reverse all cuts in the welfare state. It is the social deprivation the working class faces - cuts in benefits, social housing and social services - that underpins this Government's treatment of asylum seekers.
Full rights for all refugees.
Rebuild the welfare state!