Cheney Payne calls out Rishi Sunak over "Stop the Boats"

16 Mar 2023

The news across the last week has been dominated by the next addition to the Conservative government’s culture war campaign, with the announcement of the ‘Illegal Immigration Bill.’  Directly quoting the Home Secretary, this Bill:

“Enable detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed.  It puts a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants and will radically narrow the number of challenges and appeals that can suspend removal.  Only those under 18, medically unfit to fly, or at real risk of serious and irreversible harm – an exceedingly high bar - in the country we are removing them to, will be able to delay their removal. Any other claims will be heard remotely, after removal.”

Rishi Sunak here is committing to “stopping the boats” in the hope that no one will think about the people in them. 

Even Keir Starmer, in his challenges to Rishi Sunak in parliament, focused on whether the boats will actually stop, and not the cruelty and inhumanity of these proposals.  He took the government to task on the basis that these plans will not work, and focused on their failures to create effective policy for asylum seekers.  While he is not wrong, the logistics of the government’s “stop the boats” policy are far from the most egregious part of these proposals.  While the Conservative government plays into the prejudices of its right-wing electorate, I am disappointed that the Labour opposition are treading the same turf. 

This is not about whether the boats will stop, but about what will happen to the people for whom they are the only route to safety. 

Without safe and legal routes for refugees and asylum seekers to come to the UK, those fleeing war and disaster are left with no option other than to be forced to take dangerous ways to cross the channel, and under this proposed Bill, to be offered no protection or support when they arrive.  Making small boat crossings illegal will not make them stop: it will make them even more dangerous. 

The UK government openly admits that this Bill is likely to breach the European Convention on Human Rights and International Law. The UN Human Rights Council has stated that it is profoundly concerned that it would be “a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”

Cambridge has always been a city enriched by its international links.  Time and time again, Cambridge has offered sanctuary to those fleeing war and disasters overseas, offering resettlement to refugees from Syria, the Lebanon, Afghanistan and Ukraine.  Cambridge has done this; not because it was the most popular decision at the time, but because it is the right thing to do. 

As a Liberal Democrat, I believe everyone deserves to live in a free, fair and open society.  It is our moral obligation to safeguard this by providing sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, war, and violence.

As a Councillor I have been proud to work with the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign (CRRC) to ensure that we are a city of sanctuary that always strives to welcome as many refugees as possible. As your Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate I am committed to campaigning for safe and legal routes to the UK; the one effective way we can stop dangerous and desperate English Channel crossings. 

Someone needs to make the case for humanity, for compassion, and for internationalism.  As a Liberal Democrat, an internationalist and an humanitarian I am proud to take a stand as someone prepared to do the right thing and work hard to ensure the UK continues to offer safe refuge to those in need of it.  I can only hope that others, committed also to doing the right thing, will join me.

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