Asylum shopping is a strange phrase. When you’re out at Aldi, could you pick up some bananas, some peppers and that nice lemon dessert thing. Oh, and can you get some asylum. You know, just a bit of asylum. You’ll know it when you see it.
We’re in a period of language confusion. Words and phrases and portmanteau confections are casually thrown around to give a sense of a new reality. You either get it or don’t get it. If you don’t, well, that’s kind of your fault and it means you’re ‘other’, you’re not of the clear-sighted few.
These creations normally have the opposite effect. They mask and remould, they set up sides.
Asylum shopping was one of the reasons used to justify Priti Patel’s new asylum seeker bill. The idea is that would-be refugees, fleeing for their lives, are shopping around for the best new home for themselves. Like they’re on a jolly international version of Location, Location, Location. And rather than stop at the first safe nation they encounter, they’re carrying on in an unstoppable wave to Britain. The bill aims to stop this, to find them and send them back to a “designated place”. The shocking idea of establishing one of these on Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic isn’t going away.
There’s a raft of other legislative plans too, including provision to “deter” people from making the treacherous attempt on small boats across the Channel by using “reasonable force”.
In Patel’s Maslow’s hammer world, she’s a thumping great hammer of truth, and the asylum system is simply a whole host of pesky nails.