Jason Bergen: When Rhetoric becomes Policy

GMT 13:12 Wednesday ,27 March 2013

 Migrant Voice - Jason Bergen: When Rhetoric becomes Policy

Jason Bergen
The last fortnight has seen a ramping up, or race to the bottom, of political rhetoric on immigration from all of the main political parties. Much of it seems neither based on reality nor evidence but a reaction to immigrants as a problem or worse a threat. In the absence of fact it seems to me this reaction is one of politics of the worst kind of ‘othering,’ scape-goating and pitting communities against each other in the name of austerity. This is on top of regressive immigrant policies over the past decade and especially past two years. Unfortunately this has a human face and will have a human cost. As a migrant I have lived in the UK for nearly 15 years as a post-grad student and working in policy and communications mainly with migrants. As a Canadian (Grandma was a British War-Bride so my visa was relatively easy) I have heard for years of Canada’s ‘model’ immigration policy and how many of its progressive elements are being ‘adopted’ in my adopted country. Unfortunately this has usually been an adaptation too far - often ignoring context and always under-resourced. Today I am sad to say that neither my home country nor my new home’s policies could be deemed progressive as both become increasingly harsh unless you are one of the few ‘deserving’ – ‘brightest and best’! In the UK over the last decade we have seen the impact of rhetoric leading to policies resulting in families torn asunder, the destitution of refused asylum seekers, increasing questionable detention and deportation, and today another reincarnation of the immigration ‘service’. Mistakes have been made and should be acknowledged but it is time for politicians to act with principle and evidence recognising the lives they impact and not just reacting to problematic polls, the next election and ‘unelected threats’. Thank God for the Bishop and economists who have presented principle and fact! Activists and migrants themselves are also responding but we are more than ‘case studies’. We are participating, contributing and living our lives as people in the UK just as five million Brits do abroad. I suspect the situation will get worse before it gets better. Rhetoric will instruct policy and peoples lives will continue to be impacted badly especially in difficult economic times. It is sad when those in power misuse that power, when they follow rather than lead. However, we can fight back, and must, together with others to ‘speak truth to power’.  We have a long way to go, join us.  

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