A glimmer of hope or sign of chaos?
Lots of news about immigration in today’s papers. Well, in the Daily Express mainly, the front page of which screams: ‘Immigration soars to new record’.
The story is about the number of foreigners told they can stay in the UK permanently – 1.2 million since 1997 – and the number of Britons who have left: two million Britons in the same period.
Asylum is, of course, also part of the story and the Express is quick to point out that the “UK is 1st choice of asylum seekers”. That refers to Europe and, of course, most asylum seekers don’t head in this direction. Most Iraqis, for example, have fled to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and some of the few that have come to the UK have faced being returned.
The Express goes on to report “another twist to Labour’s immigration chaos”. What is this dramatic twist? That failed asylum seekers in Wales have been granted free health care.
The term `asylum seeker’ has all but lost its true meaning. Few associate it with people fleeing war, torture and persecution. The most vulnerable men, women and children. People who look to a wealthy and civilised country like the UK to provide sanctuary.
The way in which a country like this looks after such desperate individuals is a measure of our humanity and given the UK government’s policy of forced destitution for refused asylum seekers we don’t score too highly. Amnesty is part of the Still Human Still Here campaign against this policy (which also restricts access to health care). So one man’s sign of chaos is another’s glimmer of hope.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales, Edwina Hart, that she will change the eligibility requirement for access to the NHS in Wales, to ensure that those asylum seekers whose claim has failed but who for whatever reason have not been able to return to their country of origin can still access hospital care was a victory for campaigners whose ‘We’ll keep a welcome…’ campaign won cross-party political support.
All good, except that BBC Wales’ Political Editor points out in her blog that the Conservatives’ support may not have been wholehearted. And going back to the Daily Express, it is interesting to note how the Tories’ immigration spokesman invokes the fear of Islamic terrorism to ram home his point about immigration.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.