Date: October 25, 2023
In a heated session in the Commons, Conservative immigration minister Robert Jenrick has come under fire for his remarks, with critics accusing him of engaging in “nasty” dog-whistle politics. Jenrick claimed that Labour’s proposed new towns would soon be “filled with illegal migrants,” a statement that has been vehemently condemned by campaigners and opposition MPs alike.
Jenrick’s comments followed recent statements by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who warned of a “hurricane” of migrants and alleged that some asylum seekers were pretending to be gay to gain refugee status.
The controversy deepened as Jenrick announced plans to reduce the number of hotels used to house migrants by 50 over the next three months. Labour criticized the move as lacking ambition, emphasizing that 350 hotels would still be in use during the winter months. The opposition accused the Tories of squandering taxpayers’ money on alternatives like the Bibby Stockholm barge instead of addressing the backlog of asylum claims.
In response to Jenrick’s remarks, critics, including the Refugee Council and the Liberal Democrats, called out the government’s use of hostile and misleading rhetoric. The language used by ministers has raised concerns about its potential to endanger vulnerable individuals within the asylum system.
Furthermore, the accusation of dog-whistle politics has drawn strong reactions from various quarters. Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, condemned the rhetoric as a distraction from the government’s failures in managing the asylum system. Rachel Goodall, head of asylum services at Refugee Action, expressed deep concern about the use of far-right and racist language, emphasizing the need to stop the dehumanization of minority and protected groups.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, criticized Jenrick’s announcement of reducing hotel usage as lacking ambition, pointing out that there would still be 350 asylum hotels in operation by the end of winter. Kinnock accused Jenrick of overseeing a chaotic situation, emphasizing the government’s failure to meet its promises regarding hotel use.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, criticized the decision to close hotels, citing a spiraling backlog and warning of a homelessness crisis for newly recognized refugees.
The controversy also shed light on the government’s housing strategies, including plans to use disused military bases and barges to cut costs. The cost of housing asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, has drawn scrutiny, with Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper criticizing the government for exacerbating the problem rather than finding effective solutions.
As the debate rages on, critics continue to emphasize the need for a more humane and sensible approach to asylum policies, urging the government to focus on addressing the existing challenges rather than resorting to divisive rhetoric.