UK government backs Conservative Party deputy chair on 'go back to France' remarks
'If they don't like conditions they housed in here then they should go back to France, or better not come at all in first place,' says British MP, referring to asylum seekers
By Burak Bir
LONDON (AA) – The British government on Tuesday backed the controversial remarks of the ruling Conservative Party’s deputy chairman on asylum seekers.
In an interview with Daily Express, Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield since 2019, said: "If they don't like barges then they should f*** off back to France."
"These people come across the Channel in small boats ... if they don't like the conditions they are housed in here then they should go back to France, or better not come at all in the first place," he added.
His remarks came after it was understood that some 20 asylum seekers were granted a last-minute reprieve from boarding the Bibby Stockholm accommodation vessel on Monday.
When asked about the deputy chair’s remarks, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said that while Anderson’s language was "salty," his "indignation is well placed" and the remarks were "not bigotry at all."
"He expresses himself in his characteristically robust terms but there is a lot of sense, in my respectful view, in what Lee says," he told LBC radio.
Later, Downing Street, the office of the British prime minister, said that Chalk was speaking on the behalf of the government in backing Anderson.
On Monday, some asylum seekers, believed to be less than 20, were moved to the vessel as part of a plan that aims to house up to 500 men on the three-story floating barge while they await the results of their asylum applications.
Although he was backed by the Downing Street, Anderson's incendiary remark met criticism by opposition and charities.
"It is profoundly shocking," Care4Calais, a volunteer-run charity, said in a statement, stressing that "it is also profoundly disturbing" that no one is surprised after those remarks.
"It is also disturbing that Anderson, like so many ministers, peddles the idea that refugees can somehow just go back to where they came from. They can't; that is the nature of being a refugee," it said on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats criticized Chalk's backing Anderson, saying this is "another sign of how weak this government has become."
"Language matters. This lot have been in government for 13 years. After their abject failure all that's left is stoking up more division and hate. We deserve so much better," London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who is currently an independent MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, is among the critics.
"A new low even for the Tories," said Abbott, who is both the first Black woman elected to parliament and the longest-serving Black MP.
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