Colin Turbett – 21 April 2022
Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after stabbing six people in a Glasgow hotel in June 2020 at the height of Covid lockdown. This young Sudanese asylum seeker had been placed in the Park Inn at the start of the pandemic by the Mears Group (the private company with the contract to accommodate asylum seekers in Glasgow), in order to make things easier for them from a management point of view. The Mears group took over from discredited SERCO in Glasgow in 2019, but the evidence suggest that as an enterprise interested in profit for their shareholders, they are also as flawed and unaccountable for their actions. SERCO continues as one of the other private corporations to provide such services elsewhere in the UK. According to a report released under FOI to the BBC last week, Badreddin had contacted Mears and support organisations asking for help with both accommodation and health on 72 occasions prior to the breakdown that had such devastating consequences. The report refers to lessons learned, and advises that hotel staff are now being provided with mental health awareness and de-escalation training.
Meanwhile the use of hotel accommodation throughout Britain for asylum seekers and those already granted refugee status (including many Afghans who arrived here immediately after the Taliban takeover) has increased. All sides in the debates surrounding this issue are agreed that hotels are not suitable for accommodating such vulnerable people. The report about Badreddin’s death admits that there was a 250% increase in reports of suicide and self-harm amongst asylum seekers in Glasgow over the four-month period after he and others were moved into hotels. Instead of the care they needed, these vulnerable people were placed in a dangerous and escalating situation where severe mental health issues became endemic.
Last week the Government announced new procedures for ‘processing’ young men like Badreddin that will involve them being given a one-way ticket to Rwanda in Central Africa, where, if they meet the criteria for refugee status, they will be invited to stay permanently. In a speech in Westminster that was reminiscent of Putin’s justification for his invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson described Rwanda as the land of milk and honey, their plans as warm and caring, but aimed at breaking the criminal gangs who provide dangerous cross channel passage to the UK. Rwanda, within living memory, was the site of internecine genocide, and whilst it deserves credit for putting those times behind it, is geopolitically located in a part of the world that can hardly be described as prosperous, safe or stable. It’s a move not dissimilar to the plans of the Nazis to move Europe’s Jews to Madagascar in the 1940s – human trafficking by any other name and quite fascist in its malevolence. If asylum seekers want to go to Rwanda they can, but those who want to come to the UK have good reasons to do so, often related to language and family ties. They do not lightly put their lives, and those of their children, at risk crossing the Channel, and many die in the attempt.
No doubt in a period when populist distraction from its disastrous public policies and scandalous private behaviours is needed, the Tories will find support for their plans amongst their core supporters. Opponents of the Government, including all the organisations that care about asylum seekers and refugees, have condemned the proposals as heartless and with far reaching negative consequences. The fact remains that whilst we impose border restrictions on some, along lines that are clearly racist in origin (e.g. they do not apply to white Ukrainians), criminal activity will follow to exploit their plight. This mirrors the vast official industry surrounding the existing arrangements that provides jobs for those who police our borders and ‘process’ and accommodate those who succeed in getting to our shores.
In a further twist, our Navy, whose resources will increase as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, will immediately take over policing the Channel from UK Border Force, following a long British tradition of using service personnel and resources for non-defence purposes like strike-breaking and keeping foreign fishermen out of ‘our’ waters. We could solve our asylum ‘problem’ by opening our borders and encouraging other countries to do the same. The growing numbers of refugees from parts of the world affected by climate change and war, and our government’s pathetic contribution to their resolution, points to their priorities: the continued pursuit of profit and the planet’s exploitation.
Common Weal’s Caring for All starts with a definition of care as a fundamental aspect of human life and relationships. It outlines a proposal for a National Care Service that supports care in all its forms for all Scotland’s people throughout their lives. Badreddin was let down because the services were not there: the suggestion that they can be substituted for by training up hotel staff shows a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of care needed, and the level of skill and experience required. Community based early intervention support services that help deal with issues that can escalate into serious mental health conditions are key to a National Care Service worthy of the name. These can be provided through community hubs and a Glasgow based one focused on refugees would offer a perfect example of what we mean. This is the opposite of the kind of dystopian society wanted by privileged Tory leaders and their funders and supporters.
We hear a lot about human rights – they were even mentioned in the government’s justification for sending people to Rwanda. This rather points to the fact that they mean little unless they sit alongside what we describe in Caring for All as the Four Rs : Rights, Resources (sufficient to meet need), Responsibilities (of government to make them available), and Relationships (the human aspect of care and what makes it all work). These are the bricks upon which a National Care Service should be built – one that values human beings whatever their background and circumstances, and provides them with the support they need to lead a full and rich life. This from support to parents and carers to fulfil family obligations, to the detailed and complex services for those in crisis or with acute needs. The organisation needed to provide such services should be determined at as local and democratically accountable level as possible – which is why we favour local councils over vast bureaucracies answerable only to Scottish government ministers. It is through such inhuman and faceless organisations that human beings like Badreddin Abadlla Adam were so badly let down.
Finally, Scottish Government must state how their commitment to create a National Care Service will include asylum seekers, improve their situations, and mitigate some of the disastrous impact of Westminster asylum policy.
Care Reform Working Group