'Absolutely absurd': James O'Brien blasts Govt over past treatment of refugees

18 March 2022, 16:06

James O'Brien blasts Government over past treatment of refugees

By James Bickerton

James O'Brien has savaged the Government over its past record on refugees, arguing they faced widespread "demonisation" in Britain before the Ukraine crisis.

More than three million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russian troops invaded in February.

Across Britain, 122,000 people have offered to take in Ukrainian refugees as part of a Government sponsored scheme.

However, James O'Brien argued the UK hasn't always been so generous.

He said: "This country up until three weeks ago was one of the most ridiculous places on the planet for the demonisation of refugees.

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"It's incredible to see some of these Tory MPs now coming out and talking about the 'long proud history' this country has. It has nothing of the sort."

In 2021 the UK received just 37,562 asylum applications, versus 122,015 for Germany and 93,475 for France.

James O'Brien drew particular attention to the treatment of Afghan refugees, following the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

He commented: "Claims we've done our bit with Afghans are absolutely absurd.

"They're still living in hotels. Hotels where you've quite likely to get some far-right activist turning up with a camera phone claiming they're being treated far too lavishly."

The UK evacuated around 17,000 people from Afghanistan between April and September 2021, many in desperate circumstances as the Taliban surrounded Kabul airport.

Of these an estimated 7,000 will be eligible for permanent UK resettlement, having worked with British forces, according to the Oxford University's Migration Observatory.

The Government also launched the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which aims to take an additional 20,000 refugees over the next three years.

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The number of refugees resettled in Britain fell dramatically in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, before making a partial recovery in 2021.

However, activists have described the scheme's implementation as sluggish, whilst thousands of Afghan refugees have yet to be rehoused from hotels.

James also said: "I'm working on the principle that there are a lot of people who are sincerely concerned about Ukrainian refugees who managed not to give a hoot about Syrian people fleeing war."

Around five million Syrians have fled their country since 2011, when the country descended into civil war.

Most have gone to neighbours like Turkey, or European countries such as Germany and Sweden.

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