Let’s have a look at the immigration debate in the post-election coalition honeymoon. While the opposition is looking for a new leader and while their candidates are deciding how to position themselves on immigration, a respected and crucially important organisation has been brought to the brink of closure.
Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) provides legal advice and representation for thousands of vulnerable people. Payment for the work which they have already done has been delayed by the Government for bureaucratic reasons and now, unable to pay their costs, they face closure. Their campaigning to prevent this has attracted many supporters and much media coverage over the past few weeks.
And while RMJ’s struggle to survive continues another announcement was made this week. The Government is planning to invest £4m in setting up a ‘reintegration centre’ in Afghanistan for children deported back from the UK. 12 unaccompanied children will be sent back each month and because their families cannot be found they will be looked after in the ‘reintegration centre’. Leaving aside the long list of child protection issues, leaving aside the long list of humanitarian concerns, leaving aside the cost of ‘reintegration’ which comes to £27,777 per child, let’s remind ourselves where are we sending these kids back to. Last time I checked Afghanistan was referred to as a ‘failed state’ and for the past 9 years, 9,000 British soldiers with thousands of other troops have been trying to fix it and catch ‘you know who’.
Should we not be asking ourselves what the consequences are of gathering together 144 young man aged 16 to 18 in a camp in Kabul? Dare we imagine how these young men might feel having made a difficult journey to seek sanctuary and who are now being forcibly removed from that democracy? Are we ‘managing migration’ by spending £4m on 144 kids or are we setting up a recruitment camp for ‘you know who’? Is there not a better, more useful and more humane way of spending £4m? Perhaps the Government could consider using a bit of that money to pay RMJ for the work they have already done? Perhaps voluntary return incentivised with training and education deserves some consideration? It would cost less and would also help provide skills and knowledge to rebuild Afghanistan.