The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Great Britain:
A Floating Prison for Migrants

Aug 21, 2023

This article is translated from the August 18 issue, #2872 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

For months, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party have been waving the immigration scarecrow in an attempt to make people forget their failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and to divide working people.

The latest episode in this sinister series: the barge Bibby Stockholm, moored on England’s south coast in Dorset, “welcomed” its first “residents” at the beginning of August. At 90 meters long and three stories high, it is expected to accommodate up to 500 people in its 222 rooms. Although the government claims that the facility respects human rights, it is in fact a floating prison.

The firefighters’ union has denounced the safety shortcomings of a barge designed to hold half as many people. Migrant aid associations have protested against the conditions, which are likely to be worse than in existing holding centers. The discovery of legionella in the pipes on August 12 confirmed these warnings and led to the provisional evacuation of the first arrivals.

This deliberate inhumanity is in line with the policy defined in 2012 by the Home Secretary, the future Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May: to create a “hostile environment” for immigration, on the pretext of discouraging would-be emigrants, and above all to play to the voters most susceptible to xenophobic demagogy. Sunak praised this new form of accommodation for migrants, which would cost taxpayers thirty times less than a hotel….

In July, the Conservative majority in Parliament passed a law prohibiting anyone who has entered the U.K. illegally from applying for asylum, which, according to the UN, is against international law. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, on the other hand, having failed to push through her plan to systematically deport so-called illegal immigrants to Rwanda, is now considering deportations to Ascension Island, a little speck of British territory lost in the middle of the South Atlantic.

When it comes to anti-refugee delirium, she and her peers know no bounds. Anything goes, as long as it can be used to divert attention from the real culprits of the crisis: the capitalists.