Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tory Immigration Narrative Caught Pandering to Racism Again

Credit to the Guardian for exposing the plight of the ‘Windrush’ generation, whose parents brought them from British Caribbean countries to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s, and who have had their lives ruined by the Home Office’s administrative cruelty. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was forced to apologise to Parliament and the people effected for her department’s ‘appalling’ actions. 

Some of these people may have already been deported, although they were in the UK perfectly legally, but were unable to provide the documentary proof required by the Home Office. Others still in the UK have been put into detention centres for illegal immigrants. Most came as children with parents encouraged to migrate to Britain after the second world war, to drive our buses and work on the railways, rebuilding the country.

This latest stance on immigration from the government goes back to 2013 when the Prime Minister, Theresa May was Home Secretary and announced a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants, and sent vans around areas with high ethnic populations, saying basically ‘go home.’

It was a response to the failure of the Tory government to make good their pledge to cut immigration to the ‘tens of thousands,’ when it carried on in the hundreds of thousands. It was to spin that they were doing something about immigration, because it was deemed to be electorally popular, perhaps correctly.

The law now requires employers and private landlords to check the immigration status of employees and tenants, and these people, even those still here are in a kind of limbo, where they are not allowed to claim benefits, work, get medical treatment or rent a home. Bank accounts are also often frozen. 

This in turn leads to Ministers informing senior civil servants of the government’s wishes, and the officials then try to put them into practice. The ‘hostile environment’ intention could only be interpreted in one way, to make immigrants, or those who they deemed to be immigrants, illegal in the first assessment. The burden of proof being put on the individual, when surely some official records existed, like school registers? It is much easier for government to trace these things than it is for individuals.

So, I don’t think Amber Rudd can blame this on her department’s officials entirely, when the lead signals were coming from her government on this.

This week’s news was on the back of a U-Turn by the Prime Minister, on meeting Caribbean leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in London. May turned down the request for a meeting about the fate of the Windrush generation, but has since said she will meet with these leaders.

The ‘hostile environment’ also feeds into the Brexit narrative, with Rudd suggesting after the Brexit vote that employers should publish lists of immigrant workers they employ. This was quickly dropped though as businesses objected and some likened it to wearing yellow stars. But again it was driven by the government’s desire to look tough on immigration.

The way the government has handled the issue of the status of EU nationals post Brexit, also feeds the anti-immigrant narrative. The British wanted to exclude new comers to the UK from the EU, during the transitional period once we leave the EU. The UK had to concede this as it was a EU red line for the deal. 

No guarantees have be given either on whether EU nationals will be allowed to stay in the UK, as the British government is always keen to proclaim ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ with our future arrangements with the EU. The implication being that if we don’t end up with a deal of our liking, these individuals may well be deported. No wonder EU nationals are nervous. 

And the government even treats British citizens like this too, forcing them to leave the country if they do not earn the £18,600 per year required to bring their non-EU wife or husband to live with them.

It is fifty years on from Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘rivers of blood speech’ about the dangers of diluting the British white race with dark skinned immigrants, which proved to be wrong as history panned out. It is clear though there is still an undercurrent of racism in this country, which unscrupulous politicians can tap into with populist rhetoric about immigration. The government should be ashamed of themselves, rather than trying to blame civil servants for this debacle.

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