Against Offshore Detention

This piece was written by our comrades from the West London Resistance Collective. They will be holding a new-joiners Zoom meeting on Friday 6th May at 18:30. Get in touch if you want to go along. Their contact details and a QR code to their Anti-Raid Whatsapp group are at the bottom of the article.

Standing up to the Rwanda Deal and the British Border Regime

This month saw the announcement of the British government’s new immigration scheme in which asylum seekers are to be sent to Rwanda while their claims are processed. It is essential that we recognise this move towards offshore detention for what it is: an expansion of the carceral treatment of migrants and refugees and an attempt to make the realities of global inequality invisible to the British public.

The £120 million plan has been put forward as a deterrent to unsafe channel crossings and against human trafficking and smuggling, and is a clear response to poll results criticising Johnson and Patel’s ability to limit channel crossings. While the Tories have touted the plan as “a global first”, setting a “new international standard”, offshore detention is nothing new. The plan is influenced by Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ of migrant and refugee detention on nearby former British and Australian colonies like Manus Island and Nauru, where harsh conditions abound, causing suicide attempts from children as young as seven years old. Israel has attempted to set up agreements to “process” asylum seekers in Rwanda and Uganda, and the EU and the US have invested vast amounts in border externalisation programmes, funding detention and processing centres throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and beyond.

We need to acknowledge this proposal for what it is: a further criminalisation of anyone trying to enter the UK, a ramping up of the border and incarceration regime, and a clear example of what Harsha Walia terms border imperialism. We must make clear that arguments about deterring migrants or limiting human trafficking are hollow. Making existing routes of migration more difficult invariably forces those seeking to migrate into more dangerous routes. When Boris Johnson states “our compassion may be infinite but our capacity to help people is not”, we must shine a light on both sides of the lie – British treatment of refugees and migrants has never been compassionate, and it is highly limited in practice: the UK’s total of 126,720 refugees pales in comparison to states like Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, and Sudan, Turkey hosting 3.7 million, the others hosting over a million each.   

Narratives around limited capacity serve to maintain neoliberal politics of scarcity and lack of investment in public services, and enforce a divide-and-rule tactic around those who “deserve” to be here and those who don’t. We must recognise how this undermines internationalist solidarity and ignores the dependence of British wealth on exploitation at home and around the world. Our resistance to the border regime must centre the rights and humanity of all regardless of status, and we must reject carceral solutions to global social and economic problems. Offshore detention is the epitome of what Angela Davis notes as the ideological function of the prison: “it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and global capitalism”.

Immigration detention, like all incarceration, disappears people, not problems. By fighting against immigration detention, immigration raids, and calling for an end to the criminalisation of migrants and an end to the border, we emphasise global worker solidarity against capitalist exploitation and imperialism. We must make it emphatically clear that the enemy doesn’t arrive by boat, but by limousine.  

The West London Resistance Collective seeks to build resistance to immigration enforcement and work with others to build relationships and awareness of our rights and protect our communities. Find us on Twitter @WestLdnAntiRaid or email us at to get involved.

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