I have to say I was knocked over by Michael Howard’s latest policy. If the Tories were to win the next election (just so it’s clear we are deep into hypothetical territory), they would set a quota of 20,000 or so refugees a year that the UK would take.
Yes, this is the same Michael Howard whose own family fled from Romania to Wales as refugees in 1939. And it comes despite a promise from shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin that Tory plans would not include a cap on refugees.
20,000 may seem a respectably high figure. It’s more than we currently accept. But, of course, our current figures – we accept about half the proportion that France does – are artificially low after a wave of anti-asylum hysteria led in equal parts by Labour, the Tories and the media.
The notion is, of course, unworkable. If we can’t manage quotas in any other area of public life, how are we going to manage them in this one. We don’t know how many refugees are trying to get into Britain. We don’t have any control over who declares themselves for asylum and who is simply plugged straight into the sweat shops and the sex trade (although under Howard’s Way there would certainly be many more). We don’t control the routes by which they come in. In fact, we don’t even understand the routes, since we have closed off all legal routes for asylum seekers to enter Britain.
It’s also completely soulless. Are we really going to tell someone who has been tortured, raped, has seen their children slaughtered in front of their eyes and has paid every penny they have to get out of their mother-land which they love – are we really going to tell this person ‘Sorry, you are number 20,001 and therefore Britain is full.’
Michael, just stop it, ok? You have established your right wing credentials. At least now try to inject some common sense.
The only real winners from the quota proposal are the people traffickers. The vulnerable are their easiest prey. And we – if Michael Howard gets his way – will be making that prey a lot easier.