by Douna Haj Ahmed
As a Syrian refugee living in the UK, I have met many people who entered this country illegally. They share their stories and tales of the horror-filled moments during the perilous journey through the seas and forests, searching for a safer existence.
What touches me the most is when they tell me how happy they are when they land on British shores. Someone said to me that what they felt when they set their feet on British soil was the feeling of someone who rose from death to live again.
Now, by introducing their new policy on asylum, the British government wants these people to die again. It may not be dead in the literal meaning, but your existence as a human being deprived of the fundamental rights such as justice, freedom and dignity, may be worse than death itself.
Now, by introducing their new policy on asylum, the British government wants these people to die again
For the past 18 months, Priti Patel has worked tirelessly to get this policy passed. She is constantly describing it as a ‘deal for the British people’, but she forgets that it is a deal made with people’s lives and futures as bargaining chips.
Has she ever thought of what makes any human being take this dangerous journey? It is because the life they leave behind is of no value because of the persecution and injustice they face in their homeland.
Maybe she needs to understand what it is like for a mother to throw herself with her baby into the sea, in a desperate attempt for a decent life. By coming to the UK, asylum-seekers expect to find a haven, a sanctuary where they can flee persecution, conflict, and instability.
The Home Office’s record on “fixing” illegal immigration has been one failure after another
Patel claims that this policy will deter boats and traffickers. There is no evidence of this deterrent effect. When Israel tried paying Rwanda to take refugees and asylum seekers a few years ago, an independent report showed that this increased people smuggling and increased the activity of the criminal gangs.
The Home Office’s record on “fixing” illegal immigration has been one failure after another. There has been a total failure to crack down on the criminal gangs that are at the heart of this problem. Prosecutions for human trafficking and non-sexual exploitation have fallen from 59 in 2015 to just two in 2020.
Three years ago, Patel promised to halve the number of crossings. This number has increased tenfold, however.
When the UK failed to deal with abuses in its detention centres, how can it oversee processes that are 5,000 miles away? This catastrophic policy has nothing to do with the global migration crisis and everything to do with distracting from the Prime Minister’s political troubles.
As a Syrian refugee forced to leave everything behind and start a new life with no family in a new country, I can feel and understand the disappointment of all asylum seekers and victims of prosecution
How can the UK demand China stop persecuting the Uighurs while what it is doing through this law is very similar to what China is doing in the concentration camps for the Uighurs? What the British government is doing maybe more hypocritical. China, at least, is doing what it is doing on its own land.
In contrast, the UK does not accept the violation of human rights on its land, so it is prepared to send immigrants to an unknown future. Their fundamental rights risk being abused in a country whose citizens have been subjected to daily violations by the ruling regime.
Nothing can describe my feelings towards what is happening. As a Syrian refugee forced to leave everything behind and start a new life with no family in a new country, I can feel and understand the disappointment of all asylum seekers and victims of prosecution. I am shocked and disappointed.
Great disasters represent significant steps backwards for civilization. This law may not mean the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip away at the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics. Still, it is no less fundamental to our existence, for, without it, human beings will indeed cease to exist before long.
I want to remind the British government that the world is watching, and history does not forget.
Douna Haj Ahmed is a Syrian journalist and current participant on the Refugee Journalism Project.