Monday, 7 March 2022


The Conservative government is back to form, treating refugees dreadfully and showing near-indifference to the crisis unfolding in Ukraine. While other countries are offering to take huge numbers of refugees, including their pets, the Tories have accepted only 50 applications out of 5,535 so far - an acceptance rate of less than 1%. 

France has accused the UK of a "lack of humanity" after we turned away 150 refugees at Calais, and a French minister wrote to Priti Patel expressing his disgust. The UK's response to this crisis is a national disgrace, but at least we lit up a building blue and yellow, right?

It's not all been great from our European counterparts though - while Poland rightly says it will welcome a huge influx of refugees (one million so far), there have been sickening examples of black and brown refugees being denied entry into their country from Ukraine.

The racism hierarchy has become a refugee hierarchy. 

Those words are certainly not intended as an attack on Ukrainian refugees though, they deserve our sympathy and have every right to asylum. It's just the difference in attitudes could not be starker right now.

1.5 million Ukrainians are desperately seeking asylum and many more are likely too terrified to attempt to leave, given the reports of Russian troops firing on women and children in refugee queues. 76% of the British public support welcoming Ukrainian refugees into the UK. I don't have a figure on how many would support welcoming Yemeni refugees, but I'm guessing the figure would be much lower.

While Ukrainians are offered free Eurostar travel to the country of their choice, middle eastern refugees are being left to drown in the sea. While the world weeps at the plight of Ukrainian children, it shrugs with indifference when a school bus is blown to pieces in The Yemen with a British bomb.

Imagine the UK was selling arms to Russia, right now, as it massacres Ukrainians. Well, this is exactly what we're doing with Saudi Arabia, and even worse, we're helping them direct the bombs. We are using our technical expertise to help Saudis fire British-made rockets that cannot be launched without our say so. Britain and America could end this genocide tomorrow, yet we continue the killing and create refugees with a "let 'em drown" policy.

If your heart is bleeding for Ukrainian refugees, but not Yemeni refugees, either your empathy only kicks in when the media tells it too, or you're racist. And in this context, a media-controlled robot is not much better than a racist. The correct response is to welcome all refugees without conditions.

While I have highlighted the double standard around western attitudes towards refugees, it's worth returning to my original point that the UK is treating Ukrainian refugees horribly and that is clearly unacceptable. Visa restrictions mean it's difficult for anyone without immediate family in the UK to enter the country and even adult children are not counted as immediate family. Ukrainians have been describing the paperwork as a "nightmare".

Sorry, but what exactly is there to consider here? We know the war is happening. We know civilians are being butchered and homes are being reduced to rubble. There is no process we need to follow to establish these are genuine refugees, and genuine refugees have every right to enter our country under international law.

Priti Patel has made much about how she will not recognise refugees who arrive in this country through improper channels. So what is she going to do with Ukrainians that enter the country the "improper way"? Deport them to the warzone? Of course she isn't, because as much as I could believe she would be willing to do this, it would be a huge violation of international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention explicitly states you cannot hold a refugee's method of entry into your country against them. This is because refugees are desperate people who will do anything to get to safety and their safety is all that matters.

One thing this crisis has exposed is the absurdity of the argument that Britain takes more than its fair share of refugees. This was never true and it was also never true that people were coming here because the streets are paved with gold and they can live a life of luxury on state benefits. Hell, we don't even allow refugees to work on arrival and we give them less than forty quid a week to live on. We treat refugees horribly, even on those rare occasions we do accept them. It's about time we started doing more to help other countries than sending our weapons.