All refugees are equal

But are some more equal than others?

Though the number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK is small compared to other European nations, the numbers of Ukrainians being accepted here is large in comparison to those reaching our shores from other war-torn nations across the globe. And while there are heart-warming stories of Ukrainians being welcomed into UK homes via the government’s family scheme and the Homes for Ukrainians sponsorship scheme, the distressing incidents of other asylum seekers being rounded up to await one-way flights to Rwanda continues.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is the child of immigrants, her parents arriving in the UK from Uganda in the 1960’s. So it might be reasonable to presume she has a certain empathy with new arrivals hoping to make a fresh start – by whichever means they arrive. But despite her plan to send those seeking asylum here in the UK to Rwanda for “processing” receiving criticism from many, she continues to take a hard line.

Her critics include the Archbishop of Canterbury who called the scheme “ungodly”. Patel’s response to the archbishop was basically, “You come up with a better idea then”, as she described her move as a “bold and innovative” way of combating the “deadly trade” of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. The “processing” referred to in the Patel plan means that refugees sent to Rwanda will – whatever they want themselves – be applying to settle in that country. Just last year, Rwanda was singled out by the UK for its poor human rights record.

Aside from the battle for Ukraine, the World Population Review says there are currently around 20 other wars continuing across the globe. Most are civil wars or terrorist insurgencies rather than one nation’s invasion of another, but they are still wars.

The death toll increases daily as do the numbers attempting to escape the slaughter to seek sanctuary. Some countries are generous in accepting the desperate, others are not. For the most part, the UK government adopts a mainly “keep ‘em out at all costs” approach, so for the majority of asylum seekers hopes of a visa to stay are slim.

But the refugee issue is not restricted to the UK, with some from Ukraine also suffering racism and violence as they try to enter a new country.

Experts at Harvard University’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported in an article that at some European national borders, black and Roma Ukrainians were being treated differently from their white compatriots. In Poland, black Ukrainian students reported waiting at the border in freezing conditions while busloads of white Ukrainians were driven past them. And in Romania, police officers aggressively removed Ukrainian Roma women from refugee-dedicated rooms. The authors of the report wrote, “The message that European countries have been delivering for years is that they have the power and willingness to open their doors to refugees, but only if those refugees look like ‘Europeans.’” As the Archbishop of Canterbury would very likely say – it’s ungodly.

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