Political Asylum seekers vs Illegal immigration: Keep the distinction!
At a conference last year by the group ‘Freedom from Torture’ new evidence was unveiled about the ongoing torture of Tamils, sent back to Sri Lanka, due to their ‘political’ activities in the UK or elsewhere (see http://www.freedomfromtorture.org/
srilanka-report). Sri Lanka is one amongst many regimes (more than we care to admit) that routinely use torture as a way of finding out information or punishing victims for their views or activities. Most of the torture victims could only share their experience because the guards had been bribed to release them (god only knows what happens to those with no family or money). Yet, we in the West continue to trade with Sri Lanka (and others) whilst pontificating on the world stage about human rights and even use it to justify military action e.g. Libya etc. Essentially, if the regime is part of the ‘in-crowd’, authorities will turn a blind-eye to their behaviour (whilst disingenuously and dishonestly castigating others who are in the ‘out-crowd’, for all manner of alleged crimes).
The West, especially Britain, has a noble history of granting political asylum, whether Marx or Mazzini, and has traditionally been a mark of our civilised approach to political dissent. However, the asylum system has been massively abused in recent years by individuals, often under the instruction of ‘human traffickers’, claiming to be either a ‘vulnerable’ nationality they are not (which happened a great deal when the Kosovo crisis erupted) and/or they are in personal danger due to their political views/activities. So much so that claiming asylum has become synonymous in the public mind with immigration, even illegal immigration, per sae. Sadly this has meant, especially as the Government is under pressure to fulfil its’ promise to cut immigration and increase deportations, that we are now seeing genuine ‘political’ refugees being sent back to unsavoury regimes. Whilst illegal immigration must be tackled urgently and energetically, we must also protect genuine political refugees from torture or worse, at all costs.
Date: February 4, 2012