26 May 2022

Conference backs campaign for safe routes for refugees

PCS pledged to oppose the government’s nationalities and borders legislation and work with refugee groups to campaign for safe routes for refugees to reach the UK.

Conference had a general debate on the government’s anti-refugee legislation and policies, including a discussion of the Nationalities and Borders Act and the home secretary’s Channel pushback policy and plans to deport asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.

Motion A47, moved by Pete from DWP Birmingham South on Wednesday afternoon, condemned home secretary Priti Patel’s “pushback” proposal to turn back refugees in the English Channel as a brutal racist policy, placing these refugees’ lives in danger.

PCS members and others could face physical and mental danger if forced to engage in this process, the motion warned.

Pete described the nationalities and borders act as a “vicious piece of legislation that whips up racism.”

“The act is about creating a racist environment in this country,” he said. “We have to be proud to be fighting back against the anti-asylum policies of this government.”

The bill could affect almost half of all Asian British people along with 2 in 5 black British people. This has created distress in these communities and deepened a self of alienation from society.

John from the Home Office seconded the motion and said he was really angry that we have to bring these motions but have to do so because “the government does not have basic humanity or know what it means”.

He said such policies were part of the government's false narrative that the UK is “full up”.

The decision of the PCS Home Office Group and NEC to work with Care4Calais to take successful legal action against the proposal to turn back refugees in the English Channel, was commended. The work of Care4Calais, Stand Up To Racism, BARAC and others has been crucial in supporting refugees and developing arguments and campaigns against racism in the UK.

Steve from DWP Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders branch moved motion A217 which condemned the government’s Rwanda deportation plans and called on the union to continue to campaign against them.

“The immigration system in this country is brutal and racist but what the government wants to do now is particularly cruel,” he said.

“What we need is safe legal routes but the government has made a political decision not to do that.”

Steve from DfT East Midlands branch seconded A217 said the Rwanda policy would “traumatise asylum seekers”.

“The policy deflects from the ongoing litany of shame of partygate,” he said.

Kate from DWP Bucks and Oxon branch said: “We must fight this racist government’s attempts to divide us. Refugees are welcome here.”

Home Office group chair James Cox, who spoke to support A47 on behalf of the NEC, said the department’s policies had widespread opposition from members.

“Claiming asylum is not a criminal act, it is a right. The act sows division and scapegoats refugees. It is a fundamentally racist piece of legislation,” he said.

Mohammed Shafiq from DWP Greater Manchester branch said he was really proud to be part of a movement that “doesn’t stand on the sidelines.”

“This is the fight of our lifetime but it’s a fight we can win,” he told conference.

Zita Holbourne spoke to A217 on behalf of the NEC and highlighted how PCS has worked for years to support refugees and fighting “some of the most racist, draconian policies”.

“We’re proud to stand with others in opposition to this horrific racist (Rwanda) policy,” she said.

A47, which was carried unanimously, instructed the NEC to:

  • Oppose the nationalities and borders legislation, support protests against the legislation including providing speakers and to campaign for its repeal.
  • Work with Care4Calais and other refugee groups to campaign for safe routes for refugees to reach Britain.
  • Reaffirm PCS’ commitment to working with Stand Up to Racism, BARAC and other anti-racist organisations to produce information challenging the impact of the bill and more generally challenge the poison of racism that the Tories’ anti-refugee and anti-migrant policies breeds.
  • Oppose policies which seek to scapegoat members of our community, whether they be born here or elsewhere.