migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: A Home Office fit for today

Editorial: A Home Office fit for today

MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: A Home Office fit for today

A new government brings a welcome opportunity for a new approach to immigration in this country. And we certainly welcome what seems to be a shift away from migration targets that reduce people to statistics and equate success with fewer migrants.

But we’re concerned by some of the approaches suggested so far by the new Prime Minister and his Home Secretary, which are fundamentally incompatible with the realities of our modern world, and which perpetuate the anti-foreigner sentiment in which decades of UK immigration policy are rooted.

“Highly-skilled” migrants are welcome, “low-skilled” migrants not so much, was the central message of Priti Patel’s Daily Mail column at the weekend.

By reducing people to their skill level and income, and equating a person's "value" with their earning potential, we risk creating a cold and inhuman society where only the wealthy are welcome, where ordinary people, ordinary families are priced out. And to shut out so-called "low-skilled" workers is not only deeply discriminatory, but also self-defeating – we need these workers in our NHS, on our construction sites, in our service industries. These are the people who keep our society ticking over. 

And their "value" goes far beyond their labour too – migrants are our friends and neighbours, they bring new ideas and opportunities, they teach us to see the world differently. We ask this government to extend their "welcome" to migrants far beyond those with big pay cheques to include all who wish to build an honest life here. 

We're concerned too that in her first days in office, the Home Secretary has chosen to perpetuate that old and dangerous myth of the scrounging, criminal migrant. Truth is, migrants are much less likely to claim benefits in the UK than non-migrants.

We urge the Home Secretary to change course and to reform an outdated Home Office, to recognise migrants as ordinary, hard-working human beings, and to dismantle the hostile policies of the previous government that demonise migrants, punish the innocent, turn ordinary citizens into unwilling border guards and sow mistrust among communities. Only by taking such action can trust begin to be restored in a UK government that claims to value justice and the rule of law. 

But we need more than that. This country needs a Government that does not pander to the views of a xenophobic minority, but is brave enough to see migration for what it is – simply the movement of human beings in search of a better life. It’s a phenomenon that has existed since the dawn of humanity, and one that’s not likely to be thwarted by one government’s anti-foreigner policies.

And nor should it be. Not only is migration natural and normal, but it – and the people it brings – are to be celebrated.

What is more, the only consequences of such policies will be continued misery for tens of thousands of people unfairly punished for their choice (or need) to move, and a financially, socially and culturally poorer society here in the UK.                                       

We fully support many of the vital campaigns to change those policies – to end immigration detention, give all asylum seekers the right to work, abolish the income threshold that continues to separate thousands of families etc. – but we also need to recognise those policies as symptoms of a decades-old disease that paints migration as an obstacle and migrants as a threat.

Yes, this Government must make it their urgent task to dismantle the hostile environment, end detention, slash visa costs, reintroduce legal aid, bring justice for international students wrongly criminalised, the list could go on – but more importantly, this Home Secretary and this Government must root out xenophobia and transform this country’s view of migration. They must truly make this country one that works for everyone, whether you were born here or not, and build a Home Office that can deliver this vision and is in touch with today’s world.

And if they will not, we, the residents of this country, must shout even louder, fight even harder, for a country where migrants have a voice, a stake and an equal place at the table.

 

TOP IMAGE: We'll come united - Demonstration/Parade Hamburg 29.09.2018, Sign reads: 'Migration is the mother of all socieites', Rasande Tyskar, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)