A refugee charity which Keir Starmer has resigned as a patron of this month has said they no longer wished for him to be associated with the charity due to his and Labour’s public stance on immigration, refugees and asylum policy.
The Sante Refugee Mental Health Access Project said Keir Starmer has “hasn’t helped one iota,” in the seven years he has been listed as a patron, and that his recent comments on immigration were “completely incompatible” with the charity’s values.
The Labour leader has been criticised in recent days after backing the government’s policy of GPS tagging asylum seekers while their claims are being processed, saying he supports that approach “in particular cases”.
The party has announced today a new policy which would see asylum claims from so-called “safe countries” fast-tracked.
‘He hasn’t done a single thing’
In a letter to the charity chair, seen by NationalWorld, Starmer said he would be resigning from his patron positions in order to concentrate on the next general election and preparing for government.
He wrote: “As we get closer to a general election and my team are stepping up our work of preparing for government, I have had to conduct a review of the formal roles that I hold in external organisations. As part of this work, I have taken the decision to resign from my patron positions”
“I have really enjoyed working with you over the years and am very proud of the work that you have done to support refugees and asylum seekers in our community.”
A source at the charity told NationalWorld they “weren’t unhappy at all,” with Starmer’s decision, adding, “in fact, we retired him a couple of years ago, but we just never told him”.
The source described the email as “a joke” and claimed the Labour leader has had no involvement with the charity in several years. They said Starmer’s comments on immigration and asylum policy were “completely incompatible” with the charity’s values.
They said: “He hasn’t helped us one iota, he hasn’t done a single thing. It’s all bluff.”
Labour toughening stance on immigration
During the Labour leadership election in 2020, Starmer signed up to 10 pledges which seemed to signal that his policies would be similar to those pursued by Jeremy Corbyn, though many on the left of the party have since criticised Starmer for failing to stick to those pledges.
One of the pledges was to “defend migrants’ rights,” and saw Starmer commit to full voting rights for EU nationals, defending free movement and “an immigration system based on compassion and dignity”
Since taking over as Labour leader, Starmer has done little to advocate for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, particularly in light of increasingly draconian policies and inflammatory language from Conservatives relating to small boat crossings from France.
Stamer has also been criticised for some of his comments about immigration more generally, particularly after he told BBC Scotland on 6 November that “I think we are recruiting too many people from overseas into, for example, the health service”.
A recent speech to the CBI by Starmer, in which he promised to “help the British economy off its immigration dependency,” prompted former Ukip leader Nigel Farage to claim that “Starmer is now repeating the UKIP 2015 manifesto… Labour Party are now to the right of the Conservatives on immigration”.
Most recently Starmer has been criticised for comments about the government’s policy of GPS tagging some migrants awaiting deportation. Asked by Sky News whether he supported the policy, Starmer said: “I think there’s a case for tagging in particular cases.
“But I’ll tell you what I would do, which I think is more likely to fix the problem and it’s two things. One, I’d put resources into the National Crime Agency so we could bust the trafficking gangs upstream, because these gangs are making huge amounts of money.
“The second thing I would do is get the asylum claims processed. Tagging is something you do whilst the claim is being processed. Of all the people who arrived by small boats in 2021, 4 per cent have had their claims processed. That is utter failure by the government.”
Zehrah Hasan, advocacy director at the Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants criticised Starmer following the interview. She said: “Like all of us, people seeking safety here deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. As a former human rights lawyer, Keir Starmer should recognise this, so it’s disappointing to see him backing the cruel and draconian use of tagging for people seeking refuge.
“We know that these tags violate people’s basic right to privacy and have devastating effects on people’s mental health. There is also no evidence base for these intrusive measures as almost no-one vanishes from the asylum system.”
A Labour spokesperson declined to comment on this story.