Refugees ‘scapegoated’ by government, claims Rayner

Labour’s deputy leader addressed a meeting of campaign network Citizens UK in central London on Monday night, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Angela Rayner, speaking at the Citizens UK event on Monday night (credit Sylvie Pope/Citizens UK)
Angela Rayner, speaking at the Citizens UK event on Monday night (credit Sylvie Pope/Citizens UK)

Refugees are being scapegoated for the government’s failures on immigration, Angela Rayner told a packed meeting in central London on Monday (1st).

Speaking at an event hosted by the grassroots campaign network Citizens UK, Labour’s deputy leader also said that parts of the general election have been “nasty” and admitted that if Labour forms the next government, it “won’t always be easy”.

With just days until the election, Rayner fielded questions from Citizens UK representatives on wages, housing, migration and devolution at Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall.

She told the event that under the current government, refugees are being “scapegoated, while those in power fail to take responsibility for our crumbling immigration system”.

Labour have repeatedly highlighted the fact that more than 50,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats since Rishi Sunak became prime minister, and say the Tories have created a “perma-backlog” by failing to process their asylum claims in a timely fashion.

The Conservatives have likewise accused Labour of failing to properly explain how they will “stop the boats” and claim that Sir Keir Starmer’s party would remove a vital “deterrent” for illegal migrants by scrapping the Tory plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

On immigration more broadly, the Tories have said that voters “should not surrender to uncontrolled, unlimited immigration under Labour”, despite Labour’s manifesto pledging to reduce net migration.

Rayner said later in her speech to Citizens UK: “Bits of this election campaign have been a bit nasty and if we win this Thursday (4th), being in government won’t always be easy either.

“But we know that change has to happen, and we know how change has to happen – [through the] good graft of people like you. Decisions made not just by those in Westminster and Whitehall, but by those with skin in the game.”

The event also heard from Sara Gezdari, the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, and Lord Newby, who leads the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Gezdari pointed out that the Tories have promised to ensure that “safe and legal routes” are available for asylum seekers, building on the Government’s schemes for those fleeing Hong Kong, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

The Conservative manifesto promises to “give parliament control of how many places we offer on safe and legal routes to support those in genuine need from around the world, with a cap based on the capacity of local areas”.

Lord Newby said the Lib Dems would “allow all asylum seekers to work within three months of arriving in the United Kingdom, instead of festering, not being allowed to work, costing the country, having a miserable time”.

He added: “We should be embracing them and using their talents, rather than wasting them.”

The law currently states that people who have claimed asylum in the UK can apply for permission to work if they have been waiting twelve months for a decision, and only if they are not themselves considered responsible for the delay.

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