Friday 3 February 2023

Who's next?


When it comes to the misdeeds of important people like Tory Cabinet Ministers, the PM is keen for us all to know that he is firmly committed to the idea of due process and giving people a fair hearing. That, it seems, means that it is entirely acceptable to keep the miscreants in the Cabinet until an ‘independent’ investigator appointed by, answerable to, and only allowed to investigate according to rules set by, the PM reports at which point ‘due process’ means that the PM can decide whether to ignore the report or not. Because, when push comes to shove, the PM is judge, jury and executioner. ‘Due process’ also means that investigations into even quite minor matters can take weeks or months but it is important, according to the PM, to properly establish the facts.

When it comes to lesser mortals the same principles don’t apply, for apparently obvious reasons which somehow escape me. Yesterday, he announced that ‘illegal migrants’ would be detained on arrival and deported within days or weeks. Since there is no such thing, in law, as an ‘illegal migrant’, it might not actually be that difficult to round up all none of them and put them on an imaginary aeroplane: that wouldn’t take days, or even hours, to accomplish. That isn’t what he means, though – he’s using the phrase ‘illegal migrants’ to play to prejudices and bigotry rather than as a precise term which any decent lawyer would rebut. Whatever the nomenclature, his intention is clear. Desperate people, taking huge risks to get to the UK, will be rounded up and held in detention camps until they can be sent somewhere – anywhere – before any lawyers have any chance to talk to them and put their case before the courts in any sort of legal process. In order to facilitate this speeding up of the process, he is planning to recruit more people into the Home Office to fast-track the automatic refusal of asylum. Despite the alleged 'lack of money' there's always enough available to implement inhumane policies. Rather than speed up the process of giving people a proper hearing in a court of law, the plan is to deport them before their cases ever get anywhere near a court. ‘Due process’ and a ‘fair hearing’ mean two very different things to Sunak, depending on who the individual is. Top of his list for circumventing any sort of 'due process', apparently, are people without proper documentation. Some of us might feel that that is almost a classic definition of ‘refugee’.

He clearly thinks that the idea of rounding up thousands of people and holding them in detention camps for as many days or weeks as might be required will appeal to the sector of the electorate whose votes he needs and wants. That’s the only basis on which the policy makes any sense. Whilst detaining thousands of people arbitrarily without trial is the thin end of a very large wedge, history teaches us that many people are willing to ignore what happens to ‘others’ because they never believe that they might be next. But history also teaches us that if treating one group inhumanely and ignoring their rights doesn’t do the trick, the perpetrators will inevitably move on to the next target group. And people who so obviously think that ‘they’ have the right to govern as they choose and the rest of us must simply do as we are told can always find another target group.

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