uk-elections:-british-bangladeshi-labour-members-outraged-over-starmer’s-deportation-comments

UK elections: British Bangladeshi Labour members outraged over Starmer’s deportation comments

The party has labelled an online video of Starmer as ‘misinformation’, but shadow cabinet minister Jon Ashworth made similar comments on Monday

Imran Mulla

Labour leader Keir Starmer has sparked outrage by claiming that the government is not deporting Bangladeshi migrants (AFP)
Labour leader Keir Starmer has sparked outrage by claiming that the government is not deporting Bangladeshi migrants (AFP)

Outrage has erupted within the UK’s Labour Party, particularly among British Bangladeshi members, after party leader Keir Starmer claimed that the UK is not deporting Bangladeshi arrivals, among others.

Councillor Sabina Akhtar, deputy leader of Tower Hamlets Labour in East London, resigned on Wednesday evening.

In a public statement, she said: “I cannot be proud of this party anymore when the leader of the party singles out my community and insults my Bangladeshi identity.”

East London is home to a significant British Bangladeshi community. In Tower Hamlets, 35 percent of the total borough population is of Bangladeshi origin. 

The leader of Tower Hamlets Labour, Sirajul Islam, said: “I reject the comments made over the last two days regarding Bangladeshis in the UK.”


“Our residents are incredibly concerned about these comments, as are hundreds of our members and activists who are currently campaigning hard to deliver a Labour government,” he added.

Apsana Begum, the Labour incumbent for Poplar and Limehouse (also in East London), released a statement on Wednesday afternoon criticising Starmer.

“As the daughter of Bangladeshi migrants,” she said, “I am so proud of the East End’s diversity and that our communities include migrants from all around the world. 

“Let me be very clear: I will never stand by and let migrant communities be scapegoated.”

By contrast, Rushanara Ali, the Labour incumbent in East London’s Bethnal Green and Stepney, said she had been in “close contact” with Starmer’s team but did not criticise the leader’s comments.

Labour says video is ‘misinformation’

On Wednesday night, a Labour spokesperson said the video circulating on social media was “misinformation” and “edited to make it look as though Keir is suggesting repatriation of British Bangladeshis”.

“In fact, Keir is referring to Labour’s long-established policy of returning those who don’t have the legal right to be in the UK to safe countries.”


The spokesperson insisted Starmer “proudly supports the Bangladeshi community, who make an enormous contribution to our country”.

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Middle East Eye reviewed the original footage of Starmer’s comments, which were made in an interview with The Sun on Monday.

He said that “at the moment, people coming from countries like Bangladesh are not being removed because they’re not being processed”.

Starmer promised that a Labour government would establish a border security command with counterterrorism powers to “stop people coming here in the first place”.

“I’ll make sure we’ve got planes going off – not to Rwanda because that’s an expensive gimmick. They will go back to the countries where people come from. That’s what used to happen.”

His comments were later backed by shadow cabinet minister Jon Ashworth, who complained that “people coming here from the Indian subcontinent do not get returned”. 

He told the BBC that a Labour government would send asylum seekers “from countries like Bangladesh or wherever” back to their countries of origin. 

Ashworth, who has been an MP since 2011 in Leicester, Britain’s most multicultural city, said: “People coming here from the Indian subcontinent do not get returned. They get put up in hotels and they can stay in these hotels for the rest of their lives. That’s the Tory policy.”

The Conservative government’s policy is that the use of hotels for asylum seekers is a short-term measure to accommodate people who would otherwise be destitute.

While there is no evidence asylum seekers can stay in hotels at taxpayers’ expense for “the rest of their lives”, many have been staying in hotels for over a year due to a backlog of asylum applications. 

MEE contacted the Labour Party for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

British Bangladeshi Labour members outraged over Starmer’s deportation comments

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