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‘Our government has mastered the skill of inflicting misery’

It’s Independent councillor Jo Rust’s turn to write our weekly Friday Politics column...

As we approach Christmas and the festive season it’s important that we take a moment to remember what it is that we’re celebrating – the birth of a child born to parents who had been forced to leave their town and seek refuge somewhere else. There was no room for them and they had to seek shelter in a stable at a time when they were very vulnerable.

Sadly in 2023 we have too many people on this earth who are vulnerable. Vulnerable due to war, vulnerable due to famine, vulnerable due to their gender or sexuality. But unlike Mary and Joseph, our government wants to provide no shelter, compassion or support. Instead, it wants to send them to a country with a dubious human rights record.

Cllr Jo Rust
Cllr Jo Rust

Rwanda has a sad and long record of genocide, with approximately 800,000 Tutsi people being slaughtered in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Army killing more than 4,000 people in 1995 and in 1996 Rwanda invading Zaire which started the first Congo War leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. In 2010 the United Nations wrote a report investigating 617 alleged violent incidents which, if proven before a court, would have been characterised as crimes of genocide, although the report was rejected by the Rwandan government.

The country is listed as one of the ten lowest-ranked countries in the world for press freedom, being among the most repressive countries in the world against journalists. The list of human rights abuses goes on, yet our government has seen fit to give them hundreds of millions of pounds of our money in a desperate attempt to get itself out of an immigration crisis that its had 13 years to fix.

The current Illegal Migration Act means that anyone who arrives in the UK using an irregular means will have their asylum claim deemed as “inadmissible” – their claim won’t even be considered at all, and the government will be working to have them removed to a third country - Rwanda. The government has worked hard to destroy even the smallest glimmer of hope for people trying to escape terrible situations despite the fact that three out of four people who do cross the channel in a small boat would be recognised as refugees if we processed their claims (Home Office data).

It’s also totally unfounded to claim that those coming to the UK are economic migrants as 54% of them came from just five countries, including Afghanistan and Eritrea which have asylum grant rates of over 97%. The government isn’t even bothering to try and increase the number of safe routes into the UK to reduce the number of people who make the journey. The government has now drafted a law, set to be voted on in the Commons on Tuesday, to try to force a law through saying that Rwanda is safe, after the Supreme Court declared the policy to be unlawful last month.

This draft law is so bad that even one of its architects has resigned their post due to it, with Robert Jenrick stating on the BBC that the bill doesn’t do the job. People can debate the rights and wrongs of immigration, as they should, but to try to remedy it by trying to send vulnerable people to a country with a terrible history of human rights abuses is not the way to solve the issue. This government even shows a distinct lack of compassion to those that it wants to come here for work, banning them under new reforms from bringing their families to live with them when they’re working here in our health and care sectors.

So while we think it’s okay for workers to come and do a job, we don’t want them to be able to live with their families while they do it. Would any of us want to go and provide a service in a sector which is understaffed and overworked already, but not have your family around to provide love and support at the end of a day? This will do nothing to encourage workers from other countries to come and do those hard-to-fill jobs. Quite the reverse. What I’ve found is that this government has the capacity to surprise me with the new ways it comes up with to inflict misery on people. They have mastered that skill to perfection.

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