Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie voted for the Illegal Immigration Bill and now has also fired a new salvo in the battle for hearts and minds on issues to do with refugees and asylum seeking in the UK.
This is a political battle over a humanitarian issue, which calls for cool heads and thoughtful consideration of a 21st century big picture; the crisis of forced migration worldwide, its drivers and appropriate responses.
To announce that she has ‘told the government it needs to close asylum seeker hotel accommodation across Gloucestershire and find a simple safe and legal route policy for those who need assistance’ is stunning in its simplicity and lack of context. Where should people go if their current accommodation is closed? What ‘simple safe and legal route policy for those who need assistance’ does she recommend?
Baillie’s words reference her constituents, communities and services. Yet it is local people who form assistance groups to bring in much needed clothing, toiletries, means of communication such as phones or computer access, and English language lessons for those held in hotel accommodation. Moreover, it is well documented that local sentiments have often been fanned and stirred up by hard-right groups such as the English Constitution party and Patriotic Alternative, in classic cases of incitement.
There is considerable concern over the conservative home secretary’s use of divisive language and the ease with which she announced legislation which, as she said, ‘might break international law’.
Could Ms. Baillie please tell us what she imagines will happen if her wish to ‘close the hotels’ is granted? What pathway to a better future does she offer for those currently caught up in our dysfunctional system? Might she explain in understandable, practical terms what she sees as a safe route?
Lastly, will she take responsibility for her government’s systematic destruction of UK asylum and refugee policy? With its flaunting of human rights and refugee conventions, it is the new bill itself which is illegal.
From the Nailsworth Quaker Meeting Sanctuary Group
Judith Large, Liz Whiteside, Jude Emmet, Wendy Gerard, John Beale, Caroline Beatty