Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Home truths

Editorial: Home truths

Nazek Ramadan

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Home truths

The Home Office, ministers and civil service are now fighting over whether the Windrush scandal could have been avoided, was a one-off error, or was inevitable with warnings issued but left unheeded. But the government must realise that this is not about one group. 

The pioneering Caribbean men and women who accepted an invitation to help rebuild our still war-stricken country have been shockingly treated. 

But the appalling treatment of many migrants has been evident for several years. They, too, have been locked up, wrongly deported, denied healthcare and, in some cases, physically and verbally abused. 

The root cause of this inhumane and unjust treatment of the Windrush Britons and of migrants in recent years is a rash populist promise to reduce migrant numbers by hundreds of thousands and the policy of creating a “really hostile environment”. This policy was put in place to gain votes by pandering to what was perceived as a rising tide of anti-immigrant feeling. 

People who don't look or sound White British are the main victims, but the sinister consequences of the policy are now affecting the whole of society.

The strategy has meant, for example, that migrants (and many Britons deemed to “look foreign”) face questioning about their status whenever they try to rent a property, access the health service or open a bank account (a recent report said one in 10 requests to open a bank account are wrongly refused on the basis of faulty immigration checks). 

The hostility manifests itself in many ways: split families; detained children; the co-option of landlords, doctors, teachers and employers as migration snoopers; government rejection of legal rights on a variety of fronts despite knowing that claims will be upheld on appeal and requiring many to leave the country before they can appeal from abroad.

The policy has fostered xenophobia and injustice, racism and hate crime. It is a shame on a nation that prides itself on fair play. And like most policies that initially target foreigners, there’s a likelihood of blowback. For example, a British person earning under £18,600 a year (more if there are children) cannot bring in a foreign spouse. That means about 40 per cent of British people would be denied the right to a normal married life if their spouse came from outside Europe.

Now that the government has thankfully bowed to the outrage and pressure generated by its callous mistreatment of Caribbean Britons, and admitted that the Home Office is not fit for purpose, it must drop its hateful policy of hostility and shift its entire approach to immigration. They must not get away with an apology to one particular group. That does not go far enough.

The “hostile environment” policy has not only failed, it has proved to be harmful for society. It must be scrapped.

We should stop outsourcing immigration controls to the public. 

We need an overhaul of all immigration policies alongside an overall change of attitude from viewing migration as a problem and as a short-sighted vote-catching tactic towards an approach that treats people humanely and appreciates the long-term national benefits of migration. 


More on this topic:

Windrush scandal shows what happens when anti-immigrant hysteria takes over
Windrush : What is the hostile environment immigration policy
It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants