The first week back at Westminster saw some alarming developments for all who care for the Refugee Convention and the refugees it protects. It seems the government is using the arrival of increased (but still, in the broader scheme of things, infinitesimally small) numbers of small boats across the channel as an excuse to undermine domestic legislation protecting refugees. I don't believe for a minute it the mooted "fairer borders bill" will be anything of the sort. Rather, based on what was said this week it will be about empowering the government to kick out more refugees before they have the chance to properly make a claim.
It is absolutely right to tackle the people smuggling gangs who exploit desperate people. But in fact the government assists these gangs by refusing to provide safe routes for refugees to get to the UK from the continent - meaning the people smugglers are their only option. Provision of safe legal routes is not a panacea - but it would make a considerable difference. But it seems after Brexit there will be fewer safe routes, rather than more, with the government continuing to backslide on "Dublin" rules which allowed asylum seekers to claim in a country where they have family.
The Home Affairs Committee heard from officials on Thursday who confirmed that the overwhelming majority of the people making these crossings are refugees, coming from countries such as Syria, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan and Sudan. The UK recognises as refugees way over half of people from these countries who seek protection. But to hear many Tory MPs, you would have thought the opposite. As i said in my own contribution to the debate, there are lots of reasons for many of these people to have their claims heard in the UK. But they can't - except by using smugglers.
Instead, the government is now spending huge sums of taxpayers money chartering flights to remove refugees back to EU countries that already deal with many more asylum claims than the UK does. We await confirmation about how much this costs, and what information the Home Office has about what happens to them thereafter - in particular, how many simply end up trying to make their way over the channel again. This policy seems irrational, immoral and irresponsible.
What we certainly do not need is for the Home Secretary to be taking advice from a politician with a terrible history of xenophobic and inhumane policies. Yet the Times reported that was exactly what she was doing on the same day that she chose not to be in Parliament to answer questions. Ex-Australian PM Tony Abbott is the last person we should be learning from.
There is a better way.