THE Government’s policies on Refugees have been described as “sickening” and “dystopian” during a debate by Bradford Council.
One Councillor said Gary Lineker was right to call out the policies, and others claimed they were an attempt to distract from other problems in the country.
The Council was discussing a motion brought forward by Green Councillor Kevin Warnes (Shipley) at the last full Council meeting of the municipal year on Tuesday evening.
The motion criticised Government policies on refugees, including the forced deportation to Rwanda and the “Stop the Boats” bill – which will see refugees who come by means deemed by Government to be unauthorised detained and deported.
Cllr Warnes’ motion called for the Council to join Refugee Action’s national ‘Fight the Anti Refugee Laws’ pledge, call on the UK Government to withdraw the UK-Rwanda agreement, repeal the Nationality and Borders Act, and work with Local Authorities and communities to build a refugee protection system and work with local organisations and people with lived experience of the asylum system to identify ways to mitigate the effects of the measures in Bradford.
Cllr Warnes said: “I want to speak out on the attempt to criminalise those who try to reach safety. I want to work towards a system that treats all people with compassion.
“These days each claim takes longer and longer to deal with.
He pointed out that despite sweeping claims that most refugees had no right to be in the Country, around 80 per cent of people who came here in small boat crossings are eventually granted leave to remain.
He also told the chamber that despite claims from some, just one in ten people crossing are from Albania.
However, the Government’s new policies were defended by Conservative Councillors.
Councillor Falak Ahmed (Cons, Bingley Rural) said: “Everything else we have tried has failed. It is clear we have a crisis at hand that needs to be dealt with – the current system is unsustainable in terms of infrastructure, cost and community provision.
“A central plank of Brexit was to take back control of our borders."
She told members she had lived in the United Arab Emirates, and suggested the UK could style itself after that country.
She added: “I saw in the UAE people were welcomed, but only if they had a job and the right paperwork was in place.
“Let’s be tolerant and welcoming to people coming to our shores legally and in accordance with our laws. I say no to illegal economic migrants, lets send them to a safe country.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) said: “It is heart-breaking to see people risking their lives to find a better life for themselves. Made even more so by the fact that criminal gangs are extracting huge amounts of money from people who are prepared to pay with their lives.
“We’d all do it. I know I’d risk my life for my family.
“The political activist and human in me wants to, and will be, arguing against the Illegal Migration Bill. It will not be effective and is probably illegal.
“It criminalises people for exercising their rights, creates delays, leaves people in limbo, is unworkable and will be very costly to the taxpayer.”
Councillor Talat Sajawal (Independent) pointed out the difference in public debate over refugees from the Middle East and Africa with refugees from Ukraine.
He said: “The bill is a disgrace coming from one of the richest countries in the world. It is a distraction to cover up the growing crisis in the UK.
“The UK has opened its doors to the UK, but closes them to other countries.
“Gary Lineker was right to highlight the language of the other. In 1930s Germany it was said Jews were not worthy to be Germans. Today were hear language around refugees being rapists and criminals.
“There is different language around refugees from Ukraine and refugees from other countries.”
Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “Government know what they are proposing is unworkable, but if it gets votes for them they don’t care. They are running a country on soundbites.”
Councillor Kamran Hussain (Lab, Toller) said: “No-one chooses to be a refugee, no one wakes up and thinks ‘I’m going to be a victim of war today.’ “The only reason the Government is issuing this sickening, dystopian attack on refugees is because of their record of failure. I know attempts to divide communities will fail. People will unite against this far right appeasing bill. Refugees are welcome in Bradford.”
Members approved the Green motion.