Local councillors reject asylum offshoring plans

Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari Marbini, Oxford City Council and Cllr Sue Lukes, London Borough of Islington call on local councillors to sign the following appeal

Local councillors say: you can either support our communities, or you can divide and discriminate. The government is making the wrong choice.

We are local authority councillors committed to building strong, welcoming and cohesive communities. We are doing just this with refugees and migrants now: supporting the Afghan and Ukrainian refugee programmes, taking “everyone in” during the pandemic, managing difficulties when the Home Office pays hoteliers millions of pounds to place asylum seekers in unsuitable accommodation in our areas. Now, we are appalled by the proposal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

People come to the UK from all over the world to build better lives. We are proud of that – and proud of the diversity and strength of the communities that people establish when they live side-by-side. Local councils have an essential role in supporting this to happen, and helping people to flourish here, no matter where they are from and what their story is.

We know that this current proposal is a choice; we urge the government to choose differently. We ask the government to trust our communities and work with us, not foster racism and division via contracts with foreign governments or private companies. We need investment in housing, in education and in communities. We reject not just this latest outlandish plan, but all attempts to scapegoat and punish people on the move who are our colleagues and neighbours.

The government currently pays £1.5bn a year, mainly to private companies, to manage under 30,000 asylum claims a year, which still take one to three years to resolve whilst asylum seekers’ lives are paralysed by uncertainty. This government has form: it paid £37bn to private companies to run a pandemic test and trace system that performed worse than the desperately underfunded local authority services we run in partnership with our communities. It now proposes to pay billions to the Rwandan government to take people seeking sanctuary in the UK, most of whom would eventually get refugee status and then flourish in our areas.

These unspeakably cruel plans play fast and loose with international law, entrench racism and put people’s lives in danger. They have been tried elsewhere and scrapped because they are inhumane and ineffective as well as very expensive.

We say our communities are better than this and deserve better from central government. We can ensure that everyone who is here belongs here, and we want to play our role in that. We call on the government to abandon this shabby attempt to divide us, and to invest in our communities instead.

Please sign here to indicate your support for this statement.

Image: Home Office Immigration Enforcement vehicle. Author: Philafrenzy,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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