Depraved indifference is a phrase from US law and refers to situations where an individual knows that, whilst they do not intend to kill somebody, their reckless or careless actions or inactions may well result in death. I think this applies to the current Home Secretary’s asylum policy. The government claims it will deter asylum seekers.
I do not believe they are trying to kill anyone. They may not wish for anyone to die. But their actions guarantee death for some in the cold waters of the Channel.
Letting people onto the Bibby Stockholm without properly checking the plumbing for Legionnaires’ Disease – an inherent risk in such a barge – must count as ‘careless’ or ‘reckless’. And the person responsible must be the head of the organisation – the Home Secretary. I dream of a conviction of the Home Secretary under such a law, fully aware that it will never happen.
Depraved indifference is an apt description of the manner in which the Home Secretary has mismanaged the arrival of a relatively small number of refugees.
Why do I say small numbers? Because the net figure for immigration – net meaning long-term arrivals minus long-term departures – for 2022 was 606,000. The total crossing the Channel in small boats was 45,755 in 2022. So the number is fairly small. And remember that on current figures the Home Office will eventually confirm the right of asylum for between 85% and 91% of those 45,755. That leaves less than 7,000 individuals who have no legal right to stay in the UK – barely 1% of the 606,000. I think that counts as small.
‘Mismanaged’ is a staggeringly mild word for what the Home Office has done.
On average, the 38,000 who will eventually be granted asylum will languish for four years in miserable hotels, severely dilapidated ex-barracks and, if they have their way, on barges. This will cost in excess of £100,000 per person – even when you stuff entire families into a double room or multiple young men into a cell on a barge.
And there are currently people who have waited 11 years to be processed, and the vast majority will finally be granted asylum – after the Home Office have wasted over £250,000 failing to process each of them. If Braverman’s dream comes true it is estimated that the cost for each refugee who arrives in Rwanda will be £160,000. Why would anyone do this?
It is all about deterrence
The claim from the Home Secretary and the Government is that this will deter people making this dangerous journey and break the criminal gangs who transport them.
It won’t. You have to be scared to travel thousands of miles with no certainty. You have to be terrified to send one of your family halfway around the world in the hope they can earn enough and send money home. You have to be scared beyond measure.
Refugees do not come to the UK for the benefits – they can get twice as much in France. They come because there is some connection – usually community or family or language. Our long colonial history means half the world has some English.
Deterrence does not work. It will not work. We should stop pretending it will.
They arrive illegally and should be told to “f*** off back to France”
But provided they are genuine asylum seekers then, under UK and international law, they have the legal right to seek asylum in the country of their choice. It used to be possible to go to UK embassies and begin the asylum process – but the Conservative Government scrapped that in September 2011.
It used to be possible to travel to the UK and claim asylum after arrival – but the Conservatives made this impossible in April last year with the Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
And they are working on the well-named ‘Illegal’ Migration Bill which would make arriving other than by a non-existent legal route or via any country where the individual was not at risk of persecution a reason for refusing any claim. It is highly likely that this will breach the UK’s treaty obligations, such as the UN Convention on Refugees, and will be made ineffective by the courts of the UK or the European Court of Human Rights.
When there is no legal route, the criminals will step in. Prohibition of alcohol in the United States a century ago created huge opportunities for criminals to trade in the forbidden goods. The same is true of making little boats the only viable route for asylum seekers. The criminals have responded by setting up their system of selling expensive tickets on inflatable boats, and pushing them out into the choppy waters of the Channel.
So what could Braverman do?
Only by creating legal means for people to do what is reasonable will the illegal routes become unnecessary.
France has offered to help with a processing centre near Calais so that the asylum seekers could undergo an initial assessment and then travel to the UK by a legal route. The same could be done at UK embassies.
Under current law, a person arriving in the UK by an irregular route, such as a small boat, can only claim asylum if they present themselves to the authorities as rapidly as reasonably possible. Legal routes could be established that incorporate this principle. People arriving by other means or by different routes could then quite reasonably have any claim be considered with greater suspicion. If a person fails to claim then, as at present, they would not have a legal right to stay in the UK.
Home Office staff are required to reject a certain percentage of applicants. This means there are lots of appeals supported by all those ‘lefty’ lawyers who just want the law applied equally to everyone. And most of the appeals succeed.
Lawyers who try to cheat the system by advising clients to lie, should be prosecuted. The performance targets for Home Office staff should not be with rejecting applicants but with having the fewest rejections that get taken to appeal and the fewest successful appeals.
Speed of processing is critical. The longer people wait for a decision, the more difficult their lives will become. Recruiting and training the necessary staff cannot be done overnight.
What to do in the wait?
So whilst people wait for that processing they should be allowed to work. Not all of them will be able to do so but all those ‘young men’ will be more than capable of working. Many will have been selected by their families because they can work and, if they can work, they can send money home and feed their relatives. Families sending one person to claim asylum do not send their old or mothers with young children or their daughters – for obvious reasons. They send their sons. They send their young men.
Once they start work, they can pay some or all of their costs of food and accommodation. These are asylum seekers who want to become legitimate. If they had intended to disappear into the shadow economy they would never have reported to the authorities.
Some of them will be qualified doctors and nurses. Some may have fewer skills but they can all help support themselves and the UK economy. They can start to fill some of the thousands of vacancies across the country.
Indifference and depravity?
The Home Secretary claims she wants to stop the boats – but every action and every policy says otherwise.
If closing every avenue but launching little boats into the busiest shipping lane in the world is not indifference, what is?
Deliberately creating the circumstances where decisions are delayed by years and proposing ridiculous ‘solutions’ can only be defined as depravity.