By Alison Phipps

Home Secretary Theresa May told the Conservative Party annual conference: “What I’m proposing is a deal – the fewer people there are who wrongly claim asylum in Britain, the more generous we can be in helping the most vulnerable people in the world’s most dangerous places.

“And my message to the immigration campaigners and human rights lawyers is this – you can play your part in making this happen or you can try to frustrate it. But if you choose to frustrate it, you will have to live with the knowledge that you are depriving people in genuine need of the sanctuary our country can offer.”

The thing about blackmail is that it actually has to be meaningful. We already suspected that the UK Government’s policy on the Mediterranean, for example, was: "Let them drown - it will be a deterrent." If Ms May were offering resettlement to a meaningful number of people, this attempt at blackmail might be more successful. But she isn’t.

The Government’s response to the refugee crisis remains woefully inadequate, while research evidence of the benefits of immigration is wilfully set aside.

"Rivers of blood" aside, the question we must ask is: "What happens next?’ What are the consequences of this new asylum model and effectively setting aside the Refugee Convention?"

We have a clear example from Australia. The Home Secretary's plan was closely aligned to the one the government of Tony Abbott implemented. It stopped, and turned back, the boats arriving in Australia. Anyone coming by a route other than resettlement direct from camps would be taken offshore. Anyone actually making the journey themselves rather than waiting for five, six or nine years for agencies to make decisions on the woefully inadequate quotas to be doled out to a very few lucky people would stand no chance of a new life.

Just as Mrs May is suggesting for the UK, those in the Australian system have no right to claim asylum in the country they have reached. They are housed on Manus Island or Nauru before being sent to third countries outwith Australian jurisdiction. In the detention facilities, self-harm and suicide rates have rocketed and women and children are routinely abused.

The Human Rights Commissioner has been vilified for speaking out against the abuses and it is a criminal offence for doctors identifying child abuse among the detainees to report this. This is the brave new world of the new asylum model and the blackmail revealed in Mrs May’s immigration speech.

To gain refugee status in the UK is a long, painful and protracted process. It routinely involves periods of destitution and detention. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money, though very lucrative for shareholders in the security industry, and it is not driven by evidence as a policy, but by ideology. To be with someone when they receive notice that they have been “recognised as a refugee” is a precious experience. It is a sign of new life and hope. But we only grant refugee status for five years and the proposal in the speech is for this to be reviewed at the end of that period.

I was in Khartoum last year and met a man from Eritrea who had been detained in the UK and deported. He was tortured for two years after his deportation and now lives as a refugee in the Sudan. He drives a rickshaw and tells every passenger what it is that the UK really stands for. Our reputation in the world is as enablers of torture, purveyors of injustice and implementing unjust laws. This will come back to haunt us.

Philosopher Simone Weil, writing during the Second World War, describes the way the powerful come to understand themselves as being beyond the law, charity, justice, evidence. In setting aside the Refugee Convention and appeal rights for asylum seekers; in seeking to leave the European Convention on Human Rights; in crass attempts at blackmail and by using language that drips with falsehoods, the Home Secretary fits Weil’s description of the powerful most keenly. It is a darkness “in which the strong sincerely believe that their cause is more just than that of the weak”.

This is not blackmail; it is terror.

Alison Phipps is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies and Co-convener of Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network, the University of Glasgow.