THE Scottish Refugee Council has condemned the “inflammatory, racist, anti-migrant language” being used by the UK Government in plans to move UK migrants from hotels to ferries, barges and ex-military bases.

The proposals form part of the Illegal Migration Bill, which is currently at the committee stage in parliament and aims to cut costs relating to migration and applications for asylum.

The government claims to spend in the region of £6.2m a day on accommodating migrants awaiting processing. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick claims that a move to more “rudimentary accommodation” would serve as a deterrent to those considering Channel crossings.

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Home Secretary Suella Braverman has also outlined plans for a "Rwanda policy", which would see migrants diverted to accomodation in Kigali where they would be held while asylum applications are processed. On a recent visit to Africa she viewed proposed accomodation, posing for photographs and joking how she was looking for contact details for its interior designer.

On Sunday Braverman also singled out British Pakistani men over concerns over 'grooming gangs'. 

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Braverman has also described the crossing of migrants on small boats in the Channel as an “invasion” and wrote in a national newspaper column of “100 million... (potentially up to “one billion”) coming here” and how their entry would “betray” the British public.

The rhetoric and tone of the conversations has been widely condemned by charities and community organisations who work with asylum seekers, including the Scottish Refugee Council who state that the government has stoked up anti-migrant sentiment.

Set up in 1985, the SRC is an independent charity which supports people in need of refugee protection through direct services, practical support and advice.

“We are deeply concerned by the rise in inflammatory, racist, anti-migrant language being used by the UK Government in recent years,” Chris Afuakwah from the Scottish Refugee Council told The Herald.

“In 2016, we were horrified by Nigel Farage standing in front of that Breaking Point poster – and now, seven years later, politicians and public figures have adopted this far-right language and normalised its use.

The Herald: Ukip leader Nigel Farage during his party's referendum Brexit Battle Bus tour in Kingston, London

“Words such as ‘illegal’ and ‘invasion’ evoke fear in people – folk who are already suffering through a pandemic and cost-of-living crisis – and turn them against people who we should be helping and supporting.

“Suella Braverman’s pursuit of the Rwanda policy is bordering on absurd, with her claiming that it is her ‘dream’ to see a deportation flight taking off to Rwanda, and photos of her laughing outside a detention centre. Her rhetoric and the movement she is spearheading are now stranger than fiction, but it has dangerous – and often fatal – consequences for people at the sharp end of her absurd policies.”

Afuakwah insists the decision to house asylum seekers in hotels in the first place represented part of wider attempts by the government to “dismantle the UK’s asylum system”, which has been accelerated since the start of the pandemic.

Afuakwah points to the “Anti-Protest Bill”, “Nationalities and Borders Act”, the deal with Rwanda and the “Illegal Migration Bill” as decisions which have increased pressure on individuals within the asylum system, pushing some to “breaking point”.

“The speed with which this current government is dismantling the UK’s asylum system, and removing us from our obligations under the Refugee Convention, is staggering,” continued Afuakwah.

Read more: Love, loss and sanctuary: On board with Scotland's Ukrainian refugees

“This has sped up rapidly since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when people in the asylum system were moved from housing into hotel rooms, and had their financial support reduced at a time of such deep uncertainty and anxiety. In Glasgow, we lost several people in 2020 as a result of this policy, and saw people pushed to breaking point (e.g. the Park Inn tragedy)."

In June 2020 Sudanese asylum seeker Badreddin Abadlla Adam stabbed six people at Glasgow's Park Inn hotel. The 28-year-old had been placed in the hotel during the coronavirus pandemic and was shot dead by armed officers.

“Since then, it feels like each month has brought a fresh assault," said Afuakwah, "with the anti-protest bill, Nationalities and Borders Act, the Home Office signing a deal with Rwanda to deport people there, and now the Illegal Migration Bill.

“In just a few short years, the UK government has essentially removed people’s ability to claim asylum in the UK, and removed the few safe routes which did exist. This latest bill will criminalise people for how they arrive in the UK and will lead to mass detention, including of children.”

The Scottish Refugee Council state that this change in approach has been particularly disappointing given that the UK Government has already demonstrated how a positive approach to asylum can bring better results with the response to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Afuakwah explained: “A different approach is possible, as we have seen recently too. Whilst the response has been in no way perfect, the UK rose to the challenge of accepting people fleeing Ukraine [after the invasion by Russian troops in 2022], showing that it is possible to accommodate and support people in need of safety.

“These constant changes affect our organisation in every possible way – from the changing needs and anxieties of people we support, to the morale of our team, to the funding available to continue our work.”

The SRC state that the real-life consequences of  increased uncertainty and anxiety among asylum seekers in Scotland as a result of the “stop the boats” policy are profound, and that the government needs to scrap its approach altogether to avoid the situation escalating any further.

Afuakwah highlighted one particular case, that of his organisation’s CEO, Sabir Zazai OBE, who arrived in the UK “on the back of a lorry” and has gone on to contribute significantly to society.

“Across our organisation and throughout our communities, people are expressing concern, outrage and worry over the ‘stop the boats’ policy,” Afuakwah says.

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“On the night of the bill’s second reading, people with lived experience of seeking asylum in the UK organised a demonstration against the policy in Glasgow. People seeking asylum here are terrified about what this bill means for their future in the UK, and are living with the constant fear of eviction, detention and deportation hanging over their heads, while already struggling to survive on just £5 a day. Those living in hotels are dealing with far-right protestors – imagine if you have to flee for your life and then discover that you are still unsafe in the place you found safety.

“Our CEO, Sabir Zazai, arrived in the UK on the back of a lorry twenty years ago. He recently received an OBE for his services to the UK. If he arrived in the same way now, he’d face detention, deportation, criminalisation and dehumanisation.

“This policy isn’t about stopping boats – of course, we all want people to stop having to risk their lives at sea in order to seek asylum. But this bill will do nothing to stop people taking desperate measures to get to safety. It seeks to act as a deterrent, but for as long as people’s homes are destabilised by war, terror and persecution, and for as long as no safe routes exist, people will seek safety on our shores. This bill attempts to detach the UK from its international obligations to help them.

“If you can’t seek asylum on UK soil, and you can’t seek asylum here from outwith the UK, then you can’t seek asylum in the UK. Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right enshrined by the Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a signatory, following the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is a right that we all share. We should all be very concerned by attempts to remove that right. We never know when we might need it.

“We need to see this Bill scrapped.”