UK must ‘stop demonising people and consider its own role’ in the refugee crisis, campaigners say

Support us and go ad-free

The UK must stop “demonising” refugees and consider its own role in creating the circumstances they are escaping from, campaigners say.

Many refugees have risked their lives to reach the UK this year by crossing the English Channel in everything from kayaks to a paddling pool.

The list of countries they hail from is diverse, but many have left nations wracked by conflicts the UK has played a part in.

Places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya have all seen direct British military involvement.

Meanwhile, a small number of migrants have been seen coming from Yemen. It is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. A Saudi-led assault on the country started in 2015. According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK government “has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime” since the assault began.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

UK-built and licensed Typhoon and Tornado warplanes have been used in combat missions by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced last month that the UK would resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the government’s analysis of multiple alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) involving Saudi air strikes in Yemen concluded they were “isolated incidents”.

In response to the government’s announcement, CAAT’s Andrew Smith said:

The evidence shows a clear pattern of heinous and appalling breaches of International humanitarian law by a coalition which has repeatedly targeted civilian gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and market places. The government claims that these are isolated incidents, but how many hundreds of isolated incidents would it take for the Government to stop supplying the weaponry?

The Home Office has not provided numbers of how many people from Yemen have crossed to the UK by boat in 2020.

However, analysis by the PA news agency of the available data reveals that at least 23 of the boats intercepted by Border Force have contained one or more people who said they were Yemeni nationals.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who is a member of All-Party Parliamentary Group for Yemen, told PA the government has a responsibility to refugees and criticised its response to small boats crossings.

She said:

I think it has been really difficult for people to get out of Yemen really, given the circumstances it has been in.

Historically the numbers of Yemenis that have made it here has been quite a low number.

Thewliss called on the government to establish safe and legal routes for people wishing to claim asylum in the UK.

Commenting on the UK’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, she said:

We are selling arms to one party in a conflict, we really have to step up and take more responsibility than (we) normally would.

Saudi Arabia cannot be trusted to use the arms that we sell them responsibly. We should not be selling to them, it’s as simple as that.

On the wider small boats issue, Thewliss said the idea of sending the Navy in to deal with people in rubber dinghies is “outrageous” and said the government was using it as a distraction from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In February PA revealed how a Saudi Arabian cargo ship feared to be carrying weapons for the Yemen conflict made a “cloak-and-dagger” stop at a UK dock under cover of darkness.

Smith said:

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world.

It is a crisis that has been exacerbated and fuelled by UK-made arms and the UK government’s support for the brutal Saudi-led bombardment.

Many of the people crossing the Channel have left terrible circumstances.

They are people that deserve empathy and solidarity, not the kind of scaremongering and scapegoating that we have seen from Boris Johnson and his colleagues.

Governments like the UK must stop demonising refugees and consider their own roles in creating the circumstances that people are escaping from.

Featured image via Flickr/ Campaign Against Arms Trade

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. England is one resaon there is a refugee problem as sanity flees the insanity of the Western Powers insatiable desire for horrid violence inflicted upon distant shores. These Powers have a vested interest in creating a horrid social mess for the sole reason they are irresponsible. The language used is the same as missionaries. “its for your own good.” You’ll be happy when its all over, and your brainwashed. to our standards.”
      They have learned nothing at all from history
      These leaders are very sick puppies who own this Earthling Extinction Event by earning a profit on their insanity.
      Its that simple.
      Its sickness.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.