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From: The Socialist issue 1099, 2 September 2020: Tory schools chaos - unions must fight for safety

Search site for keywords: Kent - Tory - Asylum - Cuts - Refugees - Austerity

Don't blame asylum seekers for Tory cuts

Fight against capitalist austerity

'The Jungle' camp in Calais, photo Paul Mattsson

'The Jungle' camp in Calais, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party and Dave Carr

The plight of refugees fleeing war, oppression, and poverty, was grimly highlighted by the recent tragedy of a Sudanese migrant, who died attempting to cross the English Channel in a flimsy dinghy.

Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel sidestepped any responsibility for this unnecessary death by blaming "abhorrent criminal gangs" - even though in this case the migrant, and his friend, acted alone.

But criminals can cash in on migrants' plight simply because migrants cannot apply for asylum in Britain without being physically present. Without a legal route, illegal and dangerous crossings of the Channel or the Mediterranean Sea by migrants inevitably mean more deaths.

The French authorities must also shoulder blame since the "dire" conditions in informal migrants' camps around Calais - to quote a French parliamentary report - are driving migrants into the sea. Macron's government, like his predecessors, does not want asylum seekers and have evicted them from camps and refused them state support.

Of course, obtaining residency and citizenship in Britain and other European countries is a different question if you're super-rich. A sizeable investment in a company or property will qualify for a 'Golden Visa', no questions asked.

Demonised

Hypocritically, right-wing politicians - having crippled vital public services through years of austerity cuts, while bailing out fat-cat corporations through tax concessions and quantitative easing, etc - demonise migrants by saying our crumbling welfare services will be overwhelmed by refugees.

Yet this Tory government immediately found an enormous 'money tree' to prop up British capitalism during the current coronavirus crisis - with no mention of 'how are we going to pay for it?'

Unfortunately, in the absence of a fighting alternative to austerity cuts, the 'we can't afford them' argument can resonate with some working-class people who can't get proper housing or access to inadequate public services.

The Tory leader of Kent County Council, councillor Roger Gough, stoked resentment of unaccompanied asylum seeker children by saying, "increased numbers arriving, particularly during lockdown,... has ultimately put an inevitable strain on Kent's finite social care resources... putting the council at risk of not being able to provide their duty of care to these children."

Central government spending cuts - passed on to the public without a fightback by councils - have created huge pressures on local services such as housing and education. Without a fight to stop the cuts and fully fund services, it is easy for right-wing politicians to scapegoat refugees.

It is therefore essential that support for refugees is linked to the fight against austerity - for homes, jobs and services for all.

The Socialist Party campaigns for a mass council house building programme, for rent controls, for a £12 an hour minimum wage, for an end to the cuts and privatisation of public services, and more besides (see page 3).

The key to such a fightback is the mobilisation of the seven million-strong trade union movement that potentially can unite the working class around such a programme.

The wealth exists to provide help for refugees. However, it should not come from those already suffering austerity but from the enormous riches of the super-rich capitalists - both in Britain and internationally.

Globally, the capitalist profit system creates huge inequalities of wealth and health provision, inflicts mass unemployment and poverty on billions of people, destroys the environment, and creates and sustains devastating wars.

The only way to permanently end the refugee crisis is to fight for a democratic socialist world to end the wars, poverty and persecution that force people to flee, and create a world in which people can move, live and work in decency and with dignity.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 2 September 2020

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