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The ‘Safe Country’ Illusion

The Home Secretary’s ‘Safe Country’ approach to migrants from France (or anywhere else) is based on a beguiling misconception: that a general evaluation of a country is enough to reach a cast iron conclusion that applies in all cases and to all individuals.

The UK is a generally safe country. But there are still people in the UK who suffer at the hands of those in authority. Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by Police Officer Wayne Cousins. Children in care homes in Rochdale were raped by the local politician, Cyril Smith (variously a councillor, local Mayor, then MP) who used his power and position to stop the police investigation of his abuse. And thousands of raped children are told by Labour MP Naz Shah that they should 'shut their mouths for the sake of diversity', so they might reasonably find the UK an unsafe place for them, and seek refuge in a country where politically-protected rapists are not free to keep attacking them.

France is generally a safe country, but its government (French secret service agents) murdered Fernando Perira, a Greenpeace activist, and sank the Rainbow Warrior boat he was on in the harbour of Auckland, New Zealand, because they did not want him to protest against French nuclear testing. This was not a killing during an actual protect, or a confrontation, but a case of the government of France choosing to kill a civilian while he was having a beer, chatting to his friends, thousands of miles from France, and from France’s nuclear test sites. And in Algeria the French Military carried out torture on an industrial scale, as recently as the 1960s: some of those torture victims may still be alive, and (for example on seeing the political advancement of their torturers) feel that France is not a safe place for them.

The USA is generally a safe country, but its police forces are increasingly paramilitary, and it is not unknown for individual officers to use the deadly power conferred by their positions when pursuing a vendetta against someone. Sometimes such vendettas are motivated by political antipathy. And, as Ecuador acknowledged, the US government’s pursuit of Julian Assange is a political attack on a journalist for publishing inconvenient truths.

Canada was a generally safe country, but then Justin Trudeau responded to peaceful non-violent protests by freezing the bank accounts of protesters, so they could not feed their children. He also banned vaccine refuseniks from leaving the country. All of a sudden kind, ‘safe’, Canada became a place where political persecution of government opponents caused many to want to leave.

I appreciate that it is frustrating for the UK Home Secretary to see the arrival of tens of thousands of people who are not at risk in France. But each of them is an individual, and each should be entitled to have their case decided based on the facts of their own lives. We would not accept the courts ruling that ‘most men who deny rape are lying, so we will just find this man guilty without spending time to try the case’. And, if someone is claiming asylum in the U.K., we should extend to them the rights to due process that have been cherished since 1215 (actually before, because Magna Carta was forced on King John because he departed from earlier norms)

At J Dunlop & Co, we do not handle asylum cases.

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