The Tory Brexit Withdrawal Bill went through the House of Commons this week with a series of amendments — one ending the right to family reunion for unaccompanied child refugees within the EU.
The so-called “Dublin regulation” is set to be removed with a majority of 96, a damning sign of what is yet come and the callousness of this latest Tory government.
But none of this should surprise us. Only days after their victory in December, prominent members of the far-right took to social media to announce that they had now joined the Conservative Party. Be they Tommy Robinson or Paul Golding (and whether their memberships are fake or not) this was a signal to the racists and bigots of the EDL and Britain First: here is your new home. Since Brexit, the political base of the Conservatives had already shifted to the right, and these latest far-right endorsements take it radically further.
With climate change obliterating local environments, and conflicts tearing societies apart, the UNHCR estimate that there are currently over 70 million people displaced from their homes — the highest figure on record. In that number includes 13 million child refugees under the age of 18. Every single one of these people deserves the same rights to healthcare, nourishment, secure housing and basic support as anyone else, and yet they are being systematically denied this.
In the rush and chaos of fleeing war and poverty in the back of a packed lorry or an over-crowded raft, it should be no shock how frequently families are split up, either forcibly or by accident. Further eroding the right for unaccompanied children to escape the horrors of detention centres and refugee camps through familial reunion will only exacerbate their suffering and insecurity.
Socialists must therefore argue against the border controls that restrict them from reuniting, and fight for safe and legal routes for this to happen.
In the Labour Campaign for Free Movement we have worked to raise the consciousness in the Labour Party on issues affecting migrants and refugees, and won major party policy changes in 2019, including the unconditional right to family reunion. Despite its omission from the Party’s 2019 General Election manifesto, socialists must honour this conference decision, and campaign for the right to family reunion — and especially now, as that right comes closer to outright abolition.
Outside of parliament we’re working now to build international links with those fighting the forces of global reaction —and to bring down the government as soon as possible to prevent more damage from being inflicted.
• Josh Lovell is a member of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement Steering Committee, writing here in a personal capacity
Two million not “settled”
The latest government statistics, published on 16 January, show 2.7 million EU citizens living in Britain as having applied for “settled status”.
58% of applications processed have gained settled status, but 41% only the shakier “pre-settled status”. Six applications have been refused outright.
Anything up to 900,000 people had not yet applied, and their status will be unclear after 31 January. That makes a total of up to two million not clearly “settled”.
Even those settled are demanding a physical document to prove their status, fearing that they may face troubles when citing only online credentials. The government is refusing.
The leading nationalities-of-origin for EU citizens living in Britain are Poland (512,300 applicants), Romania (435,700), Italy (291,000), and Portugal (231,000).