Priti Patel abandons refugee women

Georgina Andrews, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

It has been revealed that the Home Office is secretly planning another network of immigration detention units for women, despite their pledge to reform the system and decrease the amount of vulnerable people detained.

This autumn, the first detention centre in this plan will open where a former youth prison stood in County Durham.

In addition to this facility and others alike, the Home Office has informed asylum groups that they were considering smaller units for women around the UK. There’s no guarantee that children will be spared from detainment in these facilities.

Up to 85% of women seeking asylum are fleeing abuse, sexual violence and trafficking. The mental health of these women is of great concern, as conditions in detention units reach new lows, re-traumatising women, the majority of whom have PTSD and other mental health conditions caused by the violence they fled from. Almost half of detained women are suicidal. Some women have also reported abuse at the hands of male members of staff in these units but fear for their safety if they come forward. It’s paramount that women asylum seekers are not detained in these appalling facilities.

In 2018, 9 out of 10 immigration detention facilities were run by private contractors, with firms, such as Serco, making up to 30% profit on Home Office contracts. Due to commercial confidentiality agreements, these contracts do not have to be published with detailed financial information so it’s hard to say exactly how much profit is made. However, what we do know is that the Tories’ primary goal is to protect the interests of capital and to make profit in every sector of society, in most cases to the detriment of the working class. This isn’t a system that can be reformed under capitalism because the inherent nature of these facilities is to exploit and dehumanise oppressed people for profit, something the Conservative Party and Labour alike can’t stop even if they wanted to.

Even Priti Patel herself has described the asylum system as “trampling over the weak.” Regardless, Patel cares more about profit than human lives, leaving the women cruelly impacted by the asylum system to never have justice.

Alongside these policies, worsening public opinion against asylum seekers is high on the Tory agenda. The rise of xenophobia and nationalism in the UK has fuelled the justification of the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, which allows the government to enforce their barbaric policies with impunity. Mainstream media has ignored the plight of asylum seekers too, hiding the devastation caused by the government from the public eye.

Another scheme, backed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, that would’ve ensured women seeking asylum would not go into detention has been scrapped. This was decided before the evaluation of the pilot scheme’s success took place, showing that the Tories never intended to end the detainment of vulnerable people.

New detention units are also being planned for women in existing immigration detention centres for men, however the timescale, location and number of units have not yet been released.

Many of the new schemes are designed to keep campaigners in check, as their demands are promised to be met, but, as with most reforms, they are abandoned in light of the needs of capitalism. Reform is important to empower asylum seekers, however, this is not enough to free them from exploitation and oppression.

Priti Patel’s U-turn is a drop in the ocean of the number of times the government has lied and cheated the working class. It’s clear that only socialism can truly change the conditions of asylum seekers in Britain.

Georgina Andrews

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