Refugee Action Kingston says Britain needs asylum seekers and migrants

Director of Refugee Action Kingston, Bassam Mahfouz said that “Kingston is a borough of sanctuary”, and Refugee Action Kingston will continue their mission to welcome and support refugees and asylum-seekers.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill proposes that the government be allowed to send those seeking asylum in Britain to Rwanda. 

Rishi Sunak stands against a black background.

The bill has progressed to a parliamentary ping pong stage – a commonly used term for the stage when legislation goes back and forth between the House of Commons and House of Lords. 

The bill, which is one of Sunak’s key pledges, has been plagued with challenges and controversy since it was first introduced by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April 2022. 

Last November (2023), the Supreme Court ruled the policy was unlawful because there was a risk for asylum seekers facing further prejudice and ill-treatment in Rwanda. This breaches British and International Human Rights laws. 

More than 500 people crossed the channel in small boats on Wednesday this week bringing the total this year to 4,043 people – which is higher than the equivalent period last year (3,683) according to figures collated by the BBC.

Refugee Action Kingston said refugees make up 0.3% of the UK population. 

Mahfouz said that communities like Kingston ultimately benefit from immigration. The UK has an aging population and sectors such as social care and hospitality rely to a large extent on immigrants to make up the labour force. 

He described asylum-seekers as “entrepreneurial” by nature to even get to the UK. 

Mahfouz said: “Immigrants are here to join our communities. They want to become working citizens, become financially active, and ultimately pay taxes.”  

Mahfouz said “our own history” is part of why people want to come here, “we spread across the globe and made an empire, people know who we are, our language is spoken so much around the world and people will want to come to a country where they might already know the language and already have family established.”

In April 2023 an International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project  survey found that 52% of Britons thought that immigration numbers should be reduced, but just 32% of people would categorise immigration as bad or very bad. 

Mahfouz said that the typical rhetoric against immigration is diametrically opposed and “nonsensical”. 

He said: “One group says that immigrants are taking all of the jobs, and another group is saying that immigrants are sponging off the state and the taxpayers are bearing the brunt…They can’t be doing both.”

Mahfouz said that the issues our communities are facing is not a “small boats problem” and that the extremist opinions which immigrants face historically “rises when basic needs are not met”. 

Wall with 'Everybody is welcome' graffiti

Mahfouz wants the government to reconsider the Rwanda plan because when there is no legal route for seeking asylum, vulnerable people are pushed into the arms of gangs to make the perilous journey. 

Data from the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project suggests that more than 200 people have died at sea attempting to cross the channel between 2014 and 2023. 

In the same timeframe, it is suggested that 27,000 people have died at sea in the Mediterranean. 

The bill is now being sent between the two houses of Parliament for scrutiny and amendment but yet to be passed.

Rishi Sunak has just a few weeks before spring, when he said the public would see the first flights to Rwanda take off.

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