Rishi Sunak's 'stop the boats' legislation isn't like 1930s Germany, it's quintessentially British

Rishi Sunak unveiled the UK Government’s latest plan to stop migrant crossings this week, prompting a furious backlash.

Whether it’s opposition parties, the EU, lawyers, or charities, it was universally condemned not just for its perceived cruelty, but its questionable legal standing.

It was also lambasted by people who talk about football, with Gary Lineker sparking a discourse crisis by comparing the language to that used “by Germany in the 30s”.

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Rather than engaging with the legislation’s substance, everyone collectively went mad, demanding a former footballer be sacked for having an opinion entirely unrelated to his job.

Downing Street condemned his comments, so did the Home Secretary, and a host of other Tory MPs with nothing less pressing to be doing.

There have been suggestions it is offensive to Jews, that it diminishes the Holocaust, or undermines valid criticism of the Government’s policy.

I’m sure there are arguments for all of the above, but you’ve read them elsewhere and they all seem to miss a fundamental point.

Legislating to stop refugees coming in while insisting you’re welcoming isn’t an approach utilised by Germany, but instead one pioneered throughout Britain’s history.

Britain has actively legislated to limit numbers, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing.

First consider the Aliens Act of 1905, a direct response to the number of Jews fleeing Russia. This introduced immigration controls and registration for the first time, and saw those who "appeared unable to support themselves" or "likely to become a charge upon the rates" labelled "undesirable" and not let in.

It is estimated ten times as many Jewish refugees were refused entry into the UK as were admitted by 1939. Initiatives like the Kindertransport, a scheme to rescue children, was started by an individual in Nicholas Winton, rather than the Government. Even then, the rescuers had to fund-raise and pay £50 a child to guarantee they would not remain in the UK after the war.

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The issue also saw divisive rhetoric and clashes in the Commons, with independent MP Eleanor Rathbone writing a pamphlet “entitled Rescue the Perishing”, accusing the government of not doing enough to help refugees. Tory MP Colonel Ward responded saying that to admit too many would encourage antisemitism and say they’d cause a housing shortage. Britain is full, we can’t take them. Sound familiar?

We are repeatedly told the UK is a loving and welcoming country, while it refuses to take in people we left to die in Afghanistan.

Even in recent history, refugees have been othered and numbers exaggerated to generate support for policy. Ministers lied about Turkey joining the EU to scaremonger about them coming to Britain, while newspapers published columns calling migrants vermin and cockroaches.

Legislation to limit people fleeing coming to Britain, regardless of their circumstance is not like 1930s Germany, it’s what this country has been for most of its history.

A safe refuge taking all the credit, wilfully ignoring how hard it made getting here in the first place.