The Fool on the Hill

The Fool on the Hill: Home

By: Simon Brooke :: 22 May 2023

White text, 'Can you imagine a land where refugees are welcome? Yes!' over a blue toned monochrome image showing Roza Salih, Kurdish refugee, being elected as a Glasgow City councillor.

The United Kingdom's two largest political parties — those which vie to become the Westminster government — agree on many things. But one of the things on which they agree is that the United Kingdom's long-standing tradition of providing safe haven for those oppressed or unsafe within their hope countries has had its day; that even our binding commitments under the 1951 Refugee Convention are now unsupportable. Instead, we now seek to prevent refugees from landing on our shores, even at risk to their lives. We even threaten to deport refugees — whether or not they have valid claims to asylum — to Rwanda.

Why? Because the parties believe that the xenophobia of voters in key groups in England is such that extending an open-handed welcome with those with valid claims to refugee status would result in their losing votes, and thus their chance of power.

I'm not persuaded that there's evidence that refusing refuge is a vote winner in England, but there's certainly no evidence that it is in Scotland. Quite the contrary. Scotland has repeatedly held spontaneous demonstrations to prevent the removal of asylum seekers. Scotland has proactively welcomed Syrian refugees, settling pro-rata almost twice as many as England.

In any case, the temperate zones of the planet — all the nations of the temperate zones, not just Scotland, not just the United Kingdom, not just Europe — are going to have to accept (many) more refugees, because the damage to the climate of which we are responsible for a significant share is going to make some warmer parts of the world uninhabitable.

Immigration is, of course, a function of the union government, and there's no real prospect that they will change that. So petitioning Westminster to transfer power to accept asylum claims to Scotland will probably not succeed. But is may serve to shame Westminster, may serve to cause at least the Labour party to question whether its commitment to Fortress Britain is really a vote winner.

Therefore I have proposed a petition:

Devolve the power to welcome refugees to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Devolve the power to accept migrants claiming to be refugees, to process claims to refugee status, and to grant to refugees with claims assessed as valid indefinite leave to remain within their respective territories, to Scotland, to Wales, and to Northern Ireland.

Scotland welcomes refugees. Scotland also needs immigration. Our economy has an unmet need for labour in many sectors. Devolving power to welcome refugees to Scotland would help the UK to fulfil its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention without putting pressure on communities in England who object to welcoming refugees. Devolving this power also to Wales and to Northern Ireland them to manage refugee flows to satisfy the wishes of their respective electorates.

This has to go through a short procedure, but will hopefully within a few days become a live petition on the Westminster parliament petitions site.

When it does, I hope that you will support it.

OK, confession. At least part of what motivated me to actually start this petition was a post on by Pete Alex Harris, in which he wrote:

I think the #Yes movement in Scotland should coordinate to create satirical, scathing and inconvenient petitions on and add 100k signatures so the Westminster joke parliament has to debate and respond to them.

Should be easy, 100K is actually a tiny fraction of pro-independence adults living in Scotland. All we lack is coordination and focused spite.

It should be easy to make 100 petitions about the UK government's failings since, well that's everything they do.

This petition, then, is designed to be inconvenient. It is, in part, part of an attempt to jam up the Westminster parliament by forcing it to debate many things on which the positions of the major political parties are not merely poorly chosen but actually immoral and/or illegal (this one is clearly both): to force them to defend the wholly indefensible.

We are all, every one of us, potential refugees. We none of us did anything to merit being born in a relatively stable part of the world. If we cannot feel fellow feeling, sympathy, community, from those fleeing persecution, war, famine, and climate disaster, then we are less than human.

I do not expect this petition to change government policy. Because I don't, it's possible to see the petition as a form of spam, a wrecking action. I'd like to argue that it isn't. I strongly believe that our government's (and our loyal opposition's) choice to resile from our commitments under the Refugee Convention is evil, immoral, wrong, and foolish: against our interests. When a government indulges in policies which are evil, immoral, wrong, and foolish, I believe it is the duty of a good citizen to use the mechanisms offered by our democratic processes to oppose it.

Tags: Politics UK Constitution Climate

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