The result has Actions. Britain’s political elite has long-term decided to pander to – or deliberately stoke – bigotry against migrants and refugees.
It is a joint enterprise with rightwing media outlets that have sought to portray some of the world’s most vulnerable people as a marauding mob, undeserving drains of resources, and incompatible with British culture.
It has reaped rich political dividends redirected abroad: justified public anger at the lack of affordable housing and secure jobs, crudely caricaturing austerity that erodes living standards.
It has been necessary to strip migrants and refugees of their humanity, to achieve the aim: most human beings do not tolerate harm against those we see as being committed people like us.
It brings us to the Manston migrant processing base in Kent where lobbed petrol bombs were on Sunday at a Dover Border Force immigration center. Let alone if humans were housing cats and dogs, most people would find the conditions at Manston impossible. More than double the official maximum capacity – sleep on blankets on floors around 4,000 people seeking asylum.
Where people check before being sent to a detention center or accommodation, this is considered a short-term detention facility.
But these human beings are imprisoned for up to four weeks. Although scabies is known to run rampant in heavily overcrowded states diphtheria outbreaks have happened.
You may ask yourselves whether this can be legal. The answer is no. The home secretary, Suella Braverman, stands accused of ignoring advice that it is against the law to detain asylum seekers for so long in these detested conditions. (The Home Office claims Braverman was taking urgent decisions to alleviate issues at Manston and source alternative accommodation). She faces court by refugee charities.
That pantomime rightwinger is farcically unsuitable to hold one of the great offices of state should now be clear to all but those afflicted with ultra-partisan faith. We now know that she sent official documents six times to her emails – a wanton violation of the ministerial code. Civil servants tell me they also are sacked for such egregious behavior, but different standards apply to our senior politicians.
First, her support helped Boris Johnson from standing for party leader again; and second, a government intent on renewed unliked austerity measures will seek to deflect public anger by pressing a big red button labeled culture war.
Indeed, Sir Roger Gale, the Tory MP was representing the constituency in which Manston situated, has condemned the government’s policy. He has suggested that a deliberate decision take not to book space in local hotels, leading to disastrous overcrowding and inhumane conditions.
(A Home Office spokesperson later told the BBC that claims advice deliberately ignored were baseless.) A local refugee campaigner, Bridget Chapman, me that the authorities learned cynical lessons from another holding center, the Napier barracks in Folkestone, where campaigners and journalists can talk to asylum seekers and learn about the conditions there.
I visited: people who had fled violence and persecution in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan and were living in conditions that violated basic sanitary and hygiene requirements. But such access has been largely deni in Manston, where conditions are even worse properly.
Manston is shrouded in other myths, too. Benny Hunter said to another local refugee campaigner that establishment media outlets were pushing the idea that everyone was from Albania and mostly adult men who were economic migrants. He wouldn’t want to pander to the plan that men were not vulnerable Albanians were not potential refugees they went and saw families with young children, who were crying over the fence that they were from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq – places with war, conflict, and despotism.
While the circumstances behind the Dover petrol bomb are uncovering, some things can be sure. Public hostility has been ramped up systematically to desperate people fleeing to our shores by politicians, newspapers, and broadcasters.
With legal routes closed off, asylum seekers arriving on a small boat stretched as a sinister invading force. Local citizens languishing on social housing waiting lists (because politicians refused to build council homes) or stuck waiting weeks for GP appointments are showing to believe that the problem lies with desperate newcomers.
The likes of Braverman are there to shield the political elite from their failure to provide the citizens of a wealthy nation with a comfortable standard of living and adequate public provision, refocusing resentment on all the wrong targets.
In the process, they have inflicted cruelty on often already traumatized people. That there is finally, at least, some outcry at this travesty is to be halloo. But these scandals will happen again and again until we stop allowing politicians and their media allies to scapegoat asylum seekers for problems created by the powerful.