Daily archives: August 17, 2022

Ever Further Right 155

Well over 70% of migrants arriving in small boats are eventually found by the British state to be genuine refugees seeking asylum. I know this from a quite remarkable speech by Lord Kerr.

John Kerr is something of a mystery to me. I came across a video of this simply superb speech he made in the House of Lords last November (I missed it as I was in jail). It is well worth reading:

It really is not a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Desai, because he raises the bar far too high. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, for this appallingly well-timed debate, to which I would just like to contribute three sets of facts. First, overall refugee numbers are currently running at about half of where they were 20 years ago. We are not the preferred destination in Europe. We are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, well down the list of preferred destinations.

Secondly, yes, small boat numbers are up, partly for the reason the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, adduced — the fences, patrols and heat sensors around the train tracks and marshalling yards mean that people are now driven to the even more dangerous sea route. But the principal reason clandestine numbers are up is that official resettlement routes are shut. Our schemes, in practice, no longer exist. We have closed the Syrian scheme, we have scrapped the Dubs scheme, we have left Dublin III and we have not got an Afghan scheme up and running. The largest group crossing the channel in the last 18 months, by nationality, were Iranians. In the last 18 months, 3,187 Iranians came. In the same period, one got in by the official route. How many came from Yemen in these 18 months? Yemen is riven by civil war and famine. None came by the official route — not one.

My third set of facts is as in the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The Home Secretary says that 70% of channel crossers are

“economic migrants … not genuine asylum seekers”.

That is plainly not true. Her own department’s data show that, of the top 10 nationalities arriving in small boats, virtually all seek asylum—61% are granted it at the initial stage and 59% of the rest on appeal. The facts suggest that well over 70% of asylum seekers coming across the channel in small boats are genuine asylum seekers, not economic migrants.

That is hardly surprising because the top four countries they come from are Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria — not Ghana, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. These people are fleeing persecution and destitution, and the sea route from France is the only one open to many of them. Why not have a humanitarian visa, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said? The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, gave the answer to the objection of the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. Those who had a valid claim for asylum would not be at peril on the sea.

Unless we provide a safe route, we are complicit with the people smugglers. Yes, we can condemn their case and we mourn yesterday’s dead, but that does not seem to stop us planning to break with the refugee convention. Our compassion is well controlled because it does not stop us planning, in the borders Bill, to criminalise those who survive the peril of the seas and those at Dover who try to help them. Of course, we can go down that road. But if we do, let us at least be honest enough to admit that what drives us down that road is sheer political prejudice, not the facts, because the facts do not support the case for cruelty.

That is a great speech and I applaud the humanitarianism behind it.

John Kerr is ostensibly a pillar of the Establishment – the former head of the British diplomatic service. To those people who believe in shadowy world governments and the great reset, John Kerr would appear to be right at the heart of darkness. He was for 12 years secretary of the Bilderberg Group and is a member of the executive committee of the Trilateral Commission. He was for 13 years a trustee of the Rhodes Trust. He was a key architect of the merger that created Royal Dutch Shell plc of which he was Deputy Chairman. I could go on and on.

He is a crossbench member of the House of Lords, meaning not party affiliated.

You do not expect somebody of that background to be making such a strong, unqualified attack on the government in parliament from the liberal left, openly calling Priti Patel a liar:

The Home Secretary says that 70% of channel crossers are “economic migrants … not genuine asylum seekers”. That is plainly not true.

I first dealt with John Kerr in the Foreign Office which he then headed when embroiled in the “Arms to Africa” affair. I must say I liked him immediately – fiercely intelligent, very much to the point, but with a constant twinkle in his eye. I make no claim the liking was mutual. But I also sensed, as you do when discussing policy issues, that the political direction he came from was not that different to my own.

Five years later I was quitting the FCO as a whistleblower, John Kerr having retired in the interim (for what it’s worth, I have always felt that had he still been in post, matters would have been resolved internally and my life have been very different). My split with the FCO over torture and extraordinary rendition was then front page news, and Angus Robertson, then one of the tiny SNP group in Westminster, asked to see me (this was 2004).

I briefed Robertson in Portcullis House on my whistleblowing (having at that time no suspicions of the man). I also spoke to him about Scotland’s maritime boundaries and the international law route to achieving independence, offering any assistance I could to the SNP. He more or less told me that I wasn’t needed, explaining in a conspiratorial whisper “we’ve got John Kerr”. That was much more surprising of Salmond’s more radical SNP than it would be of the corporatist SNP now.

Liz Truss was referring to the FCDO when she said the civil service was “woke” and had “creeping antisemitism”. She was specifically referring to Foreign Office officials minuting Israeli human rights violations.

Truss was also annoyed by Foreign Office officials pointing out Rwanda’s very bad human rights record in relation to the plan to deport asylum seekers there. She has tried to suppress some of these minutes from FCDO officials by public interest immunity certificates, which are today being challenged in the courts.

The political culture of the FCDO is not left wing at all, I can assure you – particularly not after twelve years of Tory governments controlling the top appointments. There does remain, however, a certain level of commitment to honesty which plainly Truss found highly inconvenient. When the government has moved so far right that it cannot work with civil servants who are just carrying out their job, when as conventional a figure as John Kerr is appalled by government cruelty, our society has very plainly moved towards fascism.

The drift to the right has become a surge.


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