Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Dehumanise, deport, repeat

Editorial: Dehumanise, deport, repeat


 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Dehumanise, deport, repeat

Just a few weeks on from promising to create a just immigration system, the Home Office seems to have become obsessed with deporting people. Whether it’s Jamaicans who have served a prison sentence and are now facing their second, crushing punishmentasylum seekers whose claims have been refused; or someone who finds themselves without a bed for the night – the Government seems determined to get rid of them as fast as possible, sometimes even skipping over their own due process to do so

We urge the Home Office to scrap the policy, implemented at the start of December, that allows for any migrant found sleeping rough to be deported; to end the double punishment that sees people who have served their time exiled to a life away from their family in a country that is not their home; and to ensure that due process is followed with every asylum claim, including sufficient and timely access to legal support. 

We also call on all those whose complicity is required for unjust deportations to take place, to take a stand. We’re pleased that Haringey Council is refusing to collaborate with the Home Office to deport rough sleepersand that Virgin Airlines said in 2018 that they would no longer work with the Home Office on “involuntary deportations”. But now every UK council and every airline must follow their lead. 

What’s particularly concerning about the Home Office’s behaviour is that just a few weeks ago, the department pledged to create a more “just” immigration system, to “embrace the human impact of its work” and to train all its staff to see the “face behind the case”. In the face of these deportations, this pledge rings hollow. Indeed, these deportations are only politically possible because the Home Office refuses to publicly acknowledge the human impact and disguises the “face behind the case” with dehumanising language that casts those deemed deportation-worthy as violent criminals and threats to UK security and society.

The Home Office repeatedly described the 50 people scheduled to be deported to Jamaica on 2 December as “foreign criminals”, as “murderers” and “rapists”, with no mention of the fact that they have all served their sentences in a UK prison already and that many were convicted for drug offences, for example, not violent crimes. Desperate families crossing the Channel to seek safety are dismissed in Home Office statements as “illegal migrants” and even “people smugglers”, if they were unlucky enough to be the one steering the boat. 

Many media outlets follow suit, using similar language that dehumanises, generates fear and disguises the human beings involved. Where journalists instead choose to give a platform to those human beings, it quickly becomes impossible to view them as a mass, threatening Other – and therefore to justify their mass deportation.

In this article, for example, we hear from Zartosht about how he was “disappeared” after writing poetry the Iranian authorities didn’t approve of, and held in prison for four years. We learn that he was stabbed in a migrant camp in Greece and later forced aboard a dinghy at gun point. Recalling the moment they were taken aboard a UK Border Force boat, Zartosht said: “Everybody was crying with joy that they were safe and that somebody had picked them up.”

Here, we hear from Owen, a Jamaican-born migrant who couldn’t afford to pay his rent after losing his job and ended up sleeping rough earlier this year. “I started sleeping in my van,” he says. “Then from the van, I slept in a park and then a couple of nights under a bridge.” If the new policy around rough sleepers had been in place at that time, “the government would have tried to kick me out,” Owen reflects.

And in this article, we hear from Arthur, who was on the 2 December deportation flight but won a last-minute reprieve: “That relief I feel, I’m telling you, was unbelievable. It was like someone choking you and then letting go so you can get that breath that you dreamt of breathing.” 

It’s only possible to implement inhumane policies when the people you’re punishing aren’t seen as human. Ultimately, we need to see new rhetoric from the Home Office that publicly acknowledges the human impact of their work, and fair, humane policies to match. Until that happens, we need councils, airlines and all of civil society to resist unfair deportations however it can, and journalists to show us the faces and the voices that the Government tries to hide.


TOP IMAGE: Borderline, by tsuna 72, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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