The breaking news is that US President Donald Trump has tested positive for covid-19. It comes just five weeks ahead of the US Presidential election.
That news somewhat puts in the shade Margaret Ferrier MP’s misdemeanours. The SNP MP travelled on train to London while awaiting a test result despite already having experienced “mild symptoms”, and then when she found out she was positive proceeded to hop back on the train to Scotland. She’s apologised, but has had the party whip removed, with widespread calls for her to resign her seat.
What has caught my attention this morning is neither Trump, nor Ferrier, but the Home Office. What do you think counts for “blue sky” thinking in Priti Patel MP’s department in these times of Covid? Whatever comic answers you can come up with probably can’t match the callousness of the real thing.
The FT reported a few days ago that a department discussion about ideas to stop refugees making it across the English channel to UK shores included laying “booms or barriers in parts of the Channel” or “whether it would be possible to link small boats together to form a barrier”. Most barbaric of all, they discussed having “boats with pumps generating waves that would force boats back into French waters – but concerns were raised about capsizing migrants in already over-laden boats”. Well, that’s alright then.
If these horrendous ideas only stayed in the four walls of the Home Office, that would be one thing. But the Guardian has now reported that the UK Government has actually consulted the maritime industry body Maritime UK on introducing the floating walls idea, and has actually trialled the “‘blockade’ tactic” at sea.
Maritime UK has responded by saying “the clear view, which we shared with the Home Office, was that as a matter of international convention, that this is not legally possible”. So we can probably expect floating blockades in one of the busiest sea routes in the world erected on Monday, then.
Patel’s inspiration for the blockades is Australia, a country she also taken the idea of offshore asylum detention centres from. The Home Office has developed “detailed plans” for creating a kind of Guantanamo Bay for refugees in Morocco, Moldova or the south Atlantic islands. Retired ferries, Scottish oil rigs and the Shetlands have also apparently been considered as possible locations, an idea condemned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
There is a good chance none of this will happen, but it’s worth remembering that all of this is being considered in a year where three asylum seekers have died in Glasgow in three separate incidents, all connected to their inhuman treatment at the hands of the Home Office. Asylum seekers are still being kept in hotels for the foreseeable future, despite repeated condemnation by human rights groups and refugees’ advocates. The Home Office has clearly been too busy with other things to address this crisis in Glasgow. And of course we already have an onshore detention centre in Scotland, at Dungavel.
We are not that far off a “Children of Men” style dystopia in this country now, but just imagine what it will be like if you combine the looming global climate refugee crisis with the Home Office’s “blue sky” thinking? That’s a scary prospect.
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