Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: On trust, trauma and transformation

Editorial: On trust, trauma and transformation


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: On trust, trauma and transformation

Last week, the Home Office published their “Comprehensive Improvement Plan” – their in-depth response to Wendy Williams highly critical report into the Windrush scandal. Announcing the plan, the Home Secretary promised to “transform the Home Office” – and, unusually, the transformation being proposed was a welcome one, foregrounding words such as equality, human rights, and human impact.

Yet this plan was published the day after leaked news that the Home Office had considered the viability of sending asylum seekers to various far-flung states and remote volcanic islands (or even disused ferries, we learned later) to have their claims processed – and just three days before the Home Secretary promised to “fix” the UK’s asylum system by clamping down on appeals and removing people faster.

In this context, it’s hard to believe there is any real intention to implement the positive transformation of the Home Office outlined in the improvement plan – to make it more compassionate, to ensure a focus on people not cases, to eliminate ignorance and thoughtlessness towards issues of race and migration. 

Priti Patel’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference and the absurd ideas proposed for asylum processing indicate not only a lack of compassion, but also a continuation of the same ignorance that led to the Windrush scandal – about Britain’s obligations to asylum seekers under international law, about our duty to protect human rights, and about the real reasons why people move and the devastating impact of indefinite detention on a ship or volcanic island on people who have faced trauma

Home Office officials were quick to point out that none of the proposals for asylum processing centres away from the UK were anywhere near reality. But we also heard from Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft, a reliable source, that “all options are on the table” – and indeed, the very fact that such options were considered at all suggests a Home Office still wedded to the idea of appearing, and being, “tough” on migration, an approach that has led to untold numbers of innocent people being detained, deported, stripped of their rights or separated from their families.

We’re told in the Home Office’s improvement plan that the department wants to consult much more closely with migrants groups and communities in future – and as one of those groups, we are already seeing this in action. It’s a good – and long overdue – initiative, but for it to work, us migrants have to trust that the Home Office is genuinely committed to reform, that consulting with us isn’t just a tick-box exercise. When we continue to hear vicious rhetoric that paints us as a problem to be outsourced or sent offshore, that trust is hard to build.

A truly compassionate Home Office doesn’t mean flowers and chocolates for newly arrived asylum seekers, or even for everyone arriving to be given the right to stay here. What we’re asking for should be fundamental to any state claiming to be part of a modern, humane world.

We need all asylum seekers to be given appropriate, Covid-safe accommodation and adequate financial support. We need faster, more accurate decisions on asylum claims and the ban on asylum seekers’ right to work lifted. We need the restart and expansion of refugee resettlement programmes, and the creation of safe, legal routes to the UK. And even before any of this, we need to hear rhetoric that consistently aligns with the positive vision laid out in the Home Office’s own improvement plan. 

Only then can trust start to be built – trust in the Home Office and in the idea that genuine transformation is possible.   


TOP IMAGE: Ascension Island-Green Mt and Two Sisters from Comfortless Cove road, Drew Avery, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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