A resurfaced clip shows how little the Tory MP understood about refugees
Jonathan Gullis has garnered a reputation as one of the Tory MPs making the most ardently anti-migrant arguments. In January, he was widely condemned for his comments in the House of Commons about child refugees.
Now a resurfaced video has shown that his migrant bashing can’t come from a place of ignorance. That’s because he’s been schooled by migration experts before. In an evidence session at the Bill Committee on the Nationality & Borders Bill in September 2021, Zoe Gardner – then a policy advisor for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants – responded to Gullis questioning whether some refugees were genuine.
Gullis asked her: “If these people in Calais are legitimate refugees, why are they not claiming asylum in France, Italy, Spain or Greece. Why do they need to come to the United Kingdom?”
Gardner responded by setting out how that the vast majority of refugees stay in the country neighbouring the one they have left. She said: “As I’m sure you’ll be aware, because I think the previous witness did say this – the vast majority of people who seek asylum worldwide, firstly 86% of refugees and displaced people worldwide remain in the country neighbouring the one they have fled. So 86% of people remain in developing countries.”
She continued by explaining why some refugees specifically choose to claim asylum in the UK. Gardner said: “France received three times as many applications as we did last year. Most people stop as soon as they feel safe. But the people who are making their way to England, and who specifically wish to come to the UK do so because they have ties to this country, because they either have served with our military as in the case of people from Afghanistan, or have family members as with the Syrian client that I mentioned that JCWI is representing, or speak the language because of our colonial history and have other ties of kinship and history here.”
And finally, she laid out clearly why the geographical location of the UK isn’t an excuse for failing to meet the country’s obligations on refugees. She said: “So there are people who have legitimate ties to the UK and there is no good reason why they should particularly have their claims assessed in France if they do not wish to. It doesn’t really work for us to say to the French that given that we’re geographically located slightly to the west of you, none of these refugees are our responsibility, and they’re all on you, because France can say the same thing. And then Italy can say the same thing. And then the entire international refugee protection system will crumble.”
You can watch the full exchange here:
Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward
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