Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Anti-migrant policy that led to Windrush debacle has been two decades in the making

The recent scandal that saw members of the Windrush generation, who came from the West Indies to serve Britain, only to be in some cases deported after years of working here has rightly caused outrage.

The concern though is that this occurrence is being viewed as an aberration.

This action is not an isolated happening but the result of an anti-migrant policy that has been running for the past couple of decades in the Home Office.

Post the 9/11 attacks in America, the then Labour government reacted with draconian measures, cutting civil liberties and effectively creating a detention without trial system. A number of foreign nationals were incarcerated in the prisons, without due course of law. The cases were dealt with under immigration law overseen by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

The House of Lords eventually ruled against detention, thereby leading onto the control order system whereby individuals were restricted as to where and when they could go. This process continued for many years, with those concerned not being made party to what they were actually accused of.

Covering a number of these cases over the years in the media, it became apparent that a whole shadow system of justice was being developed under the aegis of the Home Office. It effectively developed in the shadows, including in its ambit the detention of growing number of refugees for indefinite amounts of time.

The process was the antecedents of the “hostile environment” for migrants that has actually been named and taken on further over the past few years.

The Brexit vote, fuelled as it was by anti-migrant sentiment, spurred the policy on, allowing those in charge to bring it out of the shadow as it were into a more prominent light.

The result has been the grotesque sight of hard working people who came to Britain to contribute to the common good of these islands being subjected to loss of rights, status and return to lands where they have not lived for many years.

It is a low point for the reputation of the UK, something that will take some time to overcome. Things can only be put right with a total sea change in the way migrants are viewed – a bit of tinkering with one policy effecting the Windrush generation is not sufficient. The whole edifice that has created and fed the hostile environment policy needs to be dismantled with a more open, inclusive and welcoming attitude taken to migrants coming here.

Failure to do so will see migrants stopping coming – this is already happening in a number of instances.

Britain relies on migrant labour to keep its public services running. As the population here ages, that labour become ever more vital. Those migrants will not be coming if they are greeted with a hostile environment that treats them as little more than criminals in return for their efforts.

published in the Universe - 4/5/2018
published - Morning Star - 24/5/ 2018

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