As the rightwing press and political establishment bust a collective blood vessel at yesterday’s ECJ’s ruling that EU Member States should not return asylum seekers back to the first EU Member State in which they seek asylum (in this case Greece) in cases where there is evidence of a systematic failure to respect fundamental human rights, the coverage and the spokespeople involved deserve a bit of examination.
The Daily Express carries the story prominently. The first two people it quotes are Priti Patel, Tory MP and Alp Mehmet, Migration Watch’s second in command. It has been relatively recent development that organisations such as the Conservative party and Migration Watch can turn to migrant voices to express their opposition to migration.
In a spectacular exercise of pulling-up-the-ladder-up-once-you-have-used-it, Ms Patel, the daughter of Ugandan Indian parents, former press officer for the referendum party, and supporter of the reintroduction of the death penalty, shows her enduring hatred of the European Union and others who cross borders.
Alp Mehmet who over the past year has taken more of the speeches and press work away from the eccentric Andrew Green, founder of Migration Watch, is an asset to the alleged ‘Think Tank’ with his splendidly Turkish Cypriot name. Alp arrived at the age of eight from Cyprus.
Dramatised panic over asylum seekers is a classic old trick in the anti-migration field. The facts of asylum seeking in the UK betray this panic for what it really is: an exercise in whipping up ill-founded fear and opposition. Since 2002 there has been a dramatic decrease in the numbers of people seeking asylum here, a drop from 84,132 in 2002 to 17,916 in 2010. This is a drop of 78.7% what more do these people want?
Then there is the question of the situation facing people being removed to Greece. “Greece is an EU country” exclaims Alp. Yes, but Greece is a country which – as even the Express itself reports – holds asylum seekers in “often degrading conditions in camps” near the Turkish border. Priti’s fellow Tory MP James Clappison confirms the camps are ‘terrible’. This is substantiated by widespread evidence.
But that doesn’t matter to our Little Englander friends, Priti and Alp. The story for them is about what goes on within the borders of the UK, not what happens to those in most need of help or sanctuary from torture.
How two people who owe their wellbeing, their privileged status and their high profile and influential positions in society to the fact that the UK allowed one, and the other’s parents, into the country in their time of need, could be so vitriolic and graceless to others who find themselves in a similar, but far worse position now is any one’s guess. But it’s distinctly ungenerous and has put quite a sour taste into the season of goodwill to all.