British Tories’ message to asylum seekers: ‘F*ck off back to France!’
A view of the Bibby Stockholm floating detention center at Portland Port in Dorset, built to house fewer than 250 people but which will now house up to 500. | via Morning Star

LONDON—The British government was branded “morally reprehensible” Tuesday for standing by Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson after he told asylum-seekers who don’t like the Bibby Stockholm barge to “fuck off back to France.”

The Bibby Stockholm is a floating detention center anchored at Portland Port in Dorset, England. It was built to house fewer than 250 people but is now set to be packed with 500.

Anderson, who is a Member of Parliament for Ashfield, made the comments after just 15 migrants entered the floating accommodation off the Dorset coast on Monday, with 20 said to have not boarded as planned due to legal challenges.

Despite widespread criticism over his language, he was backed by Tory Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and later suggested people who arrive in Britain after crossing the English Channel were not “genuine asylum-seekers.”

Hope Not Hate director of campaigns Georgie Laming said Anderson is “right at the heart of his party. They’ve defended his words and it’s morally reprehensible.

“Hope Not Hate has recorded a huge increase in far-right anti-migrant activity. When will the government recognize their language matters?”

Nick Lowles, the group’s CEO, added: “This isn’t some fringe politician saying something completely out of step with his party.

“This is the deputy leader of the Conservative Party and his words have been defended by government ministers. Absolutely repulsive.”

Stand up to Racism co-convener Sabby Dhalu said the group was “disgusted” that Chalk defended Anderson’s “reprehensible” comments, adding: “This is racism reminiscent of the National Front and must be condemned in the strongest terms.”

The National Front is a neo-Nazi group that traces its heritage to the British Union of Fascists of 1930.

“It is part of a campaign to stoke up racism to scapegoat, divide, and distract from the government’s deliberate policy of making people worse off,” Dhalu said.

Freedom from Torture associate director of advocacy Natasha Tsangarides added: “Time and time again, we’re seeing government ministers amping up the cruelty of their anti-refugee rhetoric to distract from their own catastrophic mismanagement of both the asylum system and of this country.”

She said the “dehumanizing and inflammatory language…is putting people seeking sanctuary in this country at real risk.”

Steve Smith, CEO of refugee charity Care4Calais, added: “These comments are not surprising from someone who seems to take pride in attacking anyone who has not landed in as privileged a position as he has happened to find himself in.

“As he is deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson’s latest outburst seems fairly consistent with the views of a government that’s chosen to serve Rwanda removal notices to Afghan veterans who served alongside our U.K. troops.”

So-called “Rwanda removal notices” refer to a Conservative government policy targeting all asylum seekers arriving by “irregular means” and forcibly shipping them to Rwanda.

A Momentum spokesman told the Morning Star: “Lee Anderson’s comments reflect the Tories’ inhumane policies that attack the human rights and dignity of asylum-seekers.

“The labor movement stands firm against all xenophobic and racist policies, and the Labour Party leadership must commit to reversing this barbaric policy.”

While the opposition Labour Party did not comment on the remarks, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Tories were “stoking up more division and hate,” while former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who now sits as an independent MP, said the comments were “a new low, even for the Tories.”

The government has announced the detention barge, which was initially designed to house about 200 people, now somehow has a 500-person capacity.

Anderson is no stranger to controversy and was nicknamed “30p Lee” after controversially saying last year that foodbanks were for people who “can’t cook” and “can’t budget” and that you can make a meal for 30 pence ($0.34).

Defending his latest comments, Chalk told LBC: “Lee Anderson expresses the righteous indignation of the British people. Yes, he does it in salty terms, that’s his style, but his indignation is well placed.”

The latest Home Office figures meanwhile showed the number of people in the U.K. waiting for a decision on their asylum application stood at nearly 173,000 in March, the equivalent of around 345 Bibby Stockholm barges.

This was up 57% from 109,735 at the end of March 2022 and is the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

Morning Star

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Berny Torre
Berny Torre

News reporter for Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.