We Must Treat Immigrants As Our Friends And Not Just Humans.

Racism and xenophobia have infected British politics. The sight of politicians stoking up fear against immigrants no longer seems to shock us; quite frankly, it’s come to be expected. In the same way that hate crime increased in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, so too has hate-filled bigotry infected British politics. It is now considered appropriate for Theresa May to claim EU migrants have “jumped the queue”; charging them £65 for settled status after Brexit. It is now customary for Sajid Javid to deny asylum seekers refuge in the UK. The sight of Tommy Robinson (now an advisor for UKIP) spewing hate on our TV screens has become routine. Anti-immigration rhetoric has become normalised; the Far Right has desensitised us from their bigotry. Their brand of bitter, racist, ugly populism has invaded British politics.

By pandering to the Far Right, the Tories have failed to acknowledge the fact that immigration has been a force for good in this country. Their hard work has greatly contributed to the British economy; on average, contributing £78000 to the Exchequer. EU nationals make up 63000 of all NHS staff, 5000 of all teachers and 92000 of all care workers in our desperately underfunded social care system. Half a million are also employed in low-skilled work across the UK. In all cases, immigrants give more than they take. While the Right may claim that they undercut wages and overstretch our public services (even suggesting they deny the opportunity for young Brits to train as doctors), in reality, they spend money, pay taxes and tend to use the NHS less than most Britons.

However, the fact is many of these types of justifications of the value immigration miss the point entirely. Immigrants are all too often described in economic terms; as robots that work in the country, pay taxes and contribute to our economy. What is less often emphasised is their role as friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates. By reducing their value solely to their economic output, we ignore the vast contributions made by immigrants in transforming Britain into a multicultural, diverse society. Growing up in East London, I was exposed to a vast array of different cultures and learnt so much from my continental peers whether it be how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Polish, or observing Jumu’ah on a Friday with my Muslim friends. They taught me what it meant to be British: tolerant, inclusive and accepting.

Immigration broadens the mind, much in the same way as travelling does; it is no coincidence that nearly all major cities in the UK with higher levels of immigration chose to back Remain in the EU referendum.

The de-humanisation of immigrants in this country has been shameful; seeing them scapegoated for the crimes of the rich has been heart-breaking. Immigration has not fuelled populism, austerity has. The backlash the political classes are now experiencing in response to austerity politics has been redirected towards immigrants; rather than the politicians who underfund our public services, cause stagnating wages and unemployment. The right-wing press has conned us into blaming immigrants for the plight of the working classes. By directing anger at immigrants and brainwashing society into fighting against the enemy within, the politicians are let off the hook.

Why have the ruling classes done this? The answer is simple: to protect their privileged status by segregating the working class; leaving them unable to organise coordinated opposition to this rigged economic system. The white working class and immigrants have much more in common than many Britons would care to admit. Immigrants and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to experience poverty as white groups. Both groups have suffered heavily under austerity. At a time of immense social upheaval and protest (Brexit), the ruling class has employed divide and conquer tactics to subdue the lower classes. Anti-immigration rhetoric has thus been allowed to run riot in our mainstream media.

The effects of this scape-goating have been hard to stomach. Hate crime has increased by 17% since the Brexit vote. The viral video of a Syrian refugee getting bullied in a school in Huddersfield is part of a much wider problem. What shocked me most about this video was the fact that not one child stepped in to defend the poor boy, showing the extent to which years of anti-immigration rhetoric had de-humanised him in the eyes of his peers.

The damning by-products of Boris Johnson’s burka comments and Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster have been made clear. The mainstream media were rightfully shocked and appalled at the depravity of these comments, however, the fact remains that they were given air-time and national coverage. All this does is normalise hatred, treating it as acceptable political jargon: if the politicians are doing it, why can’t everyone? Historians of the future will be damning in their judgements of these politicians and the role they played in transforming Britain from a safe place for migrants to one in which they face hostility.

There has been a political failure to champion immigration as a force for good in this country. As Sir Oliver Letwin rightfully claimed the main parties had “made a terrible mistake” in failing to argue, with commitment and resolve, “that properly controlled migration enriches the country in every sense”. It is the job of progressive politicians on the left to champion the case for immigration. Although this would likely prove electorally unpopular in the current climate, it is vital if we are to alter people’s perceptions and prejudices.

It may seem patronising to champion the contribution of immigrants to this country, but the truth is, many people simply have not experienced these benefits. Those of us that have grown up with immigrants have a duty to educate. Those who have limited experience of immigration are more susceptible to the lies and deception of the right-wing press. By failing to stand up to bigotry, we legitimise it. If we fail to do so, who is going to stand up and defend the rights of immigrants? Clearly, it won’t be our morally corrupt politicians.

There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. The future of British politics is looking bright for immigrants. 32% of MYPs in the UK Youth Parliament are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. In time, British society will be governed by people who reflect our multicultural society. People who will stand up to bigotry in all its forms and reverse the worrying trends we see infecting British politics today. People who have grown up with immigrants, from a vast array of countries, who will treat them not just as humans but as friends.

 

The Rise Of Far-Right Terrorism

 

The invasion of right-wing rhetoric, catalysed by the Brexit debate and permeated by the current Conservative Government, has led to the festering of extreme right-wing views and has led more people down the path of radicalisation.

The past few weeks have presented a damning insight into the world of the radical right in the UK. 6 members of the neo-Nazi terrorist group ‘National Action’ were found guilty and charged for a host of offences under the 2010 Terrorism Act. Outside their home, the two main ringleaders of the group, Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas, were seemingly normal and unassuming. Mr Thomas worked as a security guard and Mrs Patatas worked part-time as a wedding photographer who also worked in retail. The confines of their home, where they were raising a young child, showed a twisted caricature, walls adorned with swastikas and rooms filled with ceremonial blades, with many engraved with Nazi iconography and a wardrobe containing Ku-Klux Klan uniforms. The couple were sentenced alongside a cybersecurity worker, and a van driver, all of whom formed the Midlands ‘cell’ of National Action. The West Midlands Police called the group a ‘dangerous, well-structured organisation’. This is the new face of terrorism, the face of right-wing terrorism.

Despite National Action’s listing as a banned organisation, its influence on the vulnerable to radicalisation is still being assessed and realised. The group was made by two University Politics Students who were heavily involved in the Online “Alt-Right” scene and created the group with a direct focus on the ‘core-supporters’ of the British National Party- beliefs based directly on Neo-Nazism and racial hatred.

In response to last month’s charges, the Secretary of State Sajid Javid remarked that the UK Government is ‘Committed’ to tackling the threat posed by right-wing extremism, by halting terrorist activity and through the Prevent Program, which was originally created in the early 2000s to combat Islamic Terrorism in response to the 9/11 attacks. Prevent aims at rehabilitating those at risk of terrorism by intervening and providing support from social institutions and community-led projects. However, this fundamentally fails in effectively combating the various ideological factors and apparatuses that lead to right-wing terrorism.

The ideological and political climate that leads to greater instances of right-wing terrorism is straightforward to grasp. The earliest reports of modern Right-Wing terrorism in Britain rose directly out of the popularity found in the British National Party, where at one time it held over 50 seats of power in the UK government. One of the most famous right-wing terrorists of this era, David Copeland, planted a series of nail-bombs in 1999 aimed at Bangladeshi and gay communities in London. In his own words: “My aim was political. It was to cause a race war in this country. There’d be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people will go out and vote BNP”. After BNP’s fall back into obscurity in 2008 and 2009, reports of Right-Wing terrorist incidents also fell out of the spotlight.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Home Office once again warned of significant activity among far-right groups, where a spokesperson mentioned there was ‘persuasive evidence’ that there was potential danger resulting from the far-right activity. The following year, the United Kingdom Independence Party gained 12% of the country’s election votes, a record for the anti-immigration party. 2013 also saw the Home Office, under Theresa May, switch towards the heavy anti-immigration stance it has today, with the release of her controversial ‘Go home’ billboards aimed at illegal immigrants, a scheme that angered politicians and the public on both sides of parliament, and famously reported to have only contributed to 11 successful deportations, with even criticism being filed at Theresa May from the United Kingdom Independence Party, and which prompted Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary at the time, to accuse May of using ‘The language of the National Front’.

The tragic murder of the progressive MP Jo Cox by Thomas Mair for her views on the European Union and her pro-immigration stance in 2015 quickly catapulted right-wing extremism back into media reports and on the desks of policymakers in the UK. Thomas Mair, who claimed to have gained the inspiration for the attack from David Copeland’s terrorist acts a decade and a half prior, also had several links to both the British National Party, and the English Defence League, whose leader at the time now advises the inner-circle of UKIP on criminal justice, an ironic position.

In a confession almost directly mimicking Copeland’s in 1999, Mair called Jo Cox ‘A traitor to white people’. While Mair’s views may seem extreme, his pathway into radicalisation was clear. He believed that all mainstream media outlets were ‘corrupted’ by the liberal left, and this is what led to the problems faced by society, causing him to reject all forms of mainstream media, and to collect his perceptions on world issues through radical underground media sites, that routinely exaggerate or downright lie about their content.

Just last month, the BBC uncovered a group of white-supremacists using the popular gaming chat software Discord. The group modelled off a far larger militant white-supremacist group in the United-States called Atomwaffen. The ‘Sonnenkreig Division’ uncovered by the BBC also highlights the grassroots nature of right-wing terrorism, further aided by the rise in new forms of social media, especially in the growth of ‘private’ social networks- and software that can mask traces of internet activity. These new social networks provide sheltered communities that bring users direct contact with other radicalised individuals, allowing extreme views to be propagated easily.

The future doesn’t look bright. Theresa May’s pilot scheme in 2013 now sings in synchronicity with radicalised enclaves of the British public as fascist values are now idolised and migrants are now met with patrol frigates after their perilous journey to safety, instead of the helping hand and decent treatment they deserve. With the left of politics still seemingly in disarray from the gains of conservatism and the new right on both sides of the Atlantic in Western Society. More and more disenfranchised members of the public will become enveloped in the contradictions and simplicity of right-wing rhetoric, leading them further into the underworld of extreme politics and the intolerance of white-nationalism, that festers in almost all western countries now. While most far right-wing organisations barely amass more than 100 members, as the 2017 Las Vegas Shootings and the Manchester Arena Bombings in the same year have shown, it only takes one extremist to cost many innocent lives.

 

UK Government Blocks SNP Paying Settled Status Fees For Public Sector Workers

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of SNP has stated that the UK Government will not allow Holyrood ministers to pay the £65 settlement status fees for European citizens who are working in Scotland’s public services.

The First Minister said at the Health and Social Care Scotland conference in Glasgow that the UK Conservative Government will not allow third-party payments, which forces EU citizens to pay the fee upfront. This comes as a surprise as the First Minister has already promised her government would cover the cost for EU public-sector and NHS workers living in Scotland.

Circa 13,000 EU nationals currently work in the health and social care sector in Scotland. However, reports have indicated that there is already a drop in job applications for the health sector.

The Home Office spokesman stated: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need”.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

This hostile environment created by Theresa May herself and her party have put many European citizens living in the UK in fear. It almost seems as if the current Government wants to purposely put barriers in place which consequently forces Europeans to leave the UK. We are already seeing a number of Europeans leave the UK and it is no surprise as new policies do not seem welcoming. Nurses, Doctors and other NHS staffs should be valued and protected at all times. It is simply unfair for Europeans who have lived in the UK for a long time to have to pay a fee to prove their right to be in this country. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, it has to shift their focus on uniting the United Kingdom and not segregate the British nation further with hostile policies.

Home Office Report Reaffirms Britain’s Deluded Immigration Obsession

Britain’s puzzling attitude towards immigration has another contribution to its history with the Migration Advisory Committee publishing a report on the impact of Brexit on the UK labour market which calls for no special immigration rights for EU citizens after Brexit. The report, which was commissioned by the Home Office in August 2017, does suggest that it should be made easier for high skilled workers to move to the UK, but calls for an end to freedom of movement, in a call for a Canada-esque system.

This report published by an independent committee, coincidentally falls into line with the proposals hinted at by Theresa May that she does not want preferential treatment for EU citizens than non-EU citizens. This is despite the fact that the MAC also concluded that European migrants contribute £2,300 more to the economy than the average adult. As well as this, the report states that on average there is “no evidence that EEA migration has reduced employment opportunities” for people born in the UK, nor is there evidence that suggests EEA migration has reduced wages for UK born workers, which will be much to the dismay of the migrant bashing right. Migrants are also to have found to pay more than they take out and have a positive impact on productivity. The report concludes that generally, the impact of immigration has been largely negligible, with the only real impact over the past fifteen years being a slight increase in population.

In what is seen as bad news for universities, the Committee had already stated last week that it will advise that international students should not be removed from future immigration targets to fall in line with the Conservatives plans to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands. This is mainly due to the technical difficulties in putting such a plan in place. Their interim report in March also said that business leaders were “fearful” of future immigration proposals and that employers found EU workers more “eager” and “reliable.” However, due to the repercussions of the 2016 Referendum, net immigration figures are at their lowest level since 2012, with a 33% decrease in EU nationals coming to the UK to look for work.

The fact that immigration holds such a centralised debating point is no doubt down to the platforms given to the likes of Nigel Farage, who it appears is freely available to discuss immigration on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. This is even though he has failed on seven occasions to be elected as a member of Parliament and is not a leader of any political party. The unchecked and unaccountable xenophobia and racism that targets immigrants coming into the country has paved the way for political disasters such as Brexit. Those on the right have long used immigration as an excuse to vent their ignorance, and often long to hark back to some imagined past where Britain was glorious.

However, it was in fact during what the right will see as Britain’s golden period, the “Age of Empire”, that Britain had absolutely no rules on immigration. Throughout the majority of the nineteenth century the executive had no statutory power to prevent people from coming and staying in Britain, and from 1823 Britain did not expel or prohibit a single refugee. For most Britons this was a source of considerable national pride.  Naturally members of the then Liberal Party were prominent in the defence of the immigrants, but the view of Britain as a refuge and haven for the oppressed and persecuted stretched beyond this and was a widely-held political and cultural tradition.

Comparatively, both eras were periods when liberalism had to ride waves of nationalist and conservative populism and these similarities stretch to the rhetoric used amongst commentators and politicians. A combination of challenges to Victorian stability and sense of social harmony caused a feeling of insecurity and self-doubt across the country. Many felt that Britain was under threat, and that immigration freedoms were leading to her becoming the ‘dumping ground of Europe’. In such periods of heightening patriotic fervour, pride to Empire, and xenophobia, insecurity and negative stereotypes prospered. Overall, Victorian self-confidence had begun to wane during the late nineteenth century, and the press and politicians searched for a scape-goat, of which they found many. This was espoused through the cheap newspapers on sale across the country, most notably the Daily Mail which was established in 1896.

To survive this nationalist populism, a ‘new Liberalism’ emerged which increasingly came to believe the state was necessary to promote freedom and protect liberal values and institutions. took on an approach of reform through further state intervention, and eventually passed a very diluted and ineffective immigration bill in 1905.Contemporary liberalism on the other hand is faltering massively and does not appear to have the platform or voices to rebuke the right that is so urgently needed. This void is not currently being filled by the mainstream media, making the job of the growing band of independent news sites ever more important.

High court rule against Gender Neutral Category on British Passports

The High court has ruled against Elan-Cane who appealed to the court to have a gender-neutral category on British Passports. This step has been taken in only a handful of countries across the world, including Germany, Australia, Malta, India and Pakistan.  

‘Gender’ is the central component of Elan-Cane’s argument. An acceptance of gender identities outside of the binary is growing, as have movements which have allowed them to be passed into law. Formal equality is central to all contemporary liberal movements, and thus it makes sense for gender non-conformity to be embraced the same way homosexuality and women’s rights have been in the past.

Opposition to the notion of gender neutrality often comes down to either bigotry or a lack of information about gender non-conformity. For many, this identity cannot be real as it does not fit into their prescribed narrative of people being easily defined.  Human nature has always depended on categories; cognitive schemas translate to societal labels and boxes, thus it is natural to try and create binaries, with gender being a prime example. The gender-specific binary is based upon the idea that human sex is a binary, i.e. you are either male or female, you either have a penis or a vagina. This link is abundantly clear in arguments against transgender people and has been supported by the ONS’ decision to rule out a possible separation of sex and gender in the next census.

However, the sex-specific binary does not necessarily exist the way that human nature, and therefore human society, desires it to. Whilst the majority of the population are born with either a phallus and testis or a uterus and ovaries, 1.7% of the population have a combination or absence of both forms of sexual organs. In this instance, if even the sex binary which people in society are categorised proves to be arbitrary, the argument against the inclusion of gender neutrality in legislation and legal documentation is weakened.

The official argument of the High Court and Home Office is that the policy regarding gender recognition is ‘administratively coherent’ and ensures national security. With the nation’s security and the ease of administrators being considered, it would make sense that accurately presenting someone’s sex or gender on a passport would ensure both of the concerns of the Home Office are addressed. Confusion around sex, gender, and appearance cannot only cause distress for the holder of the passport but without the existence of a gender-neutral option will cause problems in the processes that are argued to be ‘administratively coherent’. Whilst it is a very traumatic and distressing thing for people who do not conform to the gender binary to do, they are able to put their biological sex into the binary choices provided. Those who are intersex and do not belong on the binary for biological sex are forced to give inaccurate information.

By refusing to provide a gender-neutral category on British passports, the High Court and Home Office have undermined a key function of a passport; accurate identification.  Elan-Cane said that they were not seeking special treatment by pursuing this case, but were instead simply attempting to be treated like human beings. No person should be put in a position where this basic right is up for debate in a courtroom, but that is what the establishment and their institutions have achieved through their obsession with sexual and gender binaries.

Despite this, the media attention caused by this case has made more people aware of the identities that exist outside of binaries and the constant discrimination which they face. With more attention resulting in more pressure on the government, real changes can be made to improve the lives of those who face discrimination as a result of ignorance.