Speaking for Ourselves

Countering hostile rhetoric on migration discussed at Migrant Voice network meeting

Countering hostile rhetoric on migration discussed at Migrant Voice network meeting


 Migrant Voice - Countering hostile rhetoric on migration discussed at Migrant Voice network meeting

A vibrant room of people from all over the world, including South Korea, Venezuela, Cameroon, Eritrea, Spain and the Philippines, came together on 6 June at Migrant Voice’s “Beyond the Bill” meeting.

We wanted to look at the impact of the hostile rhetoric on migration, which is reaching new heights of hostility with the political rhetoric surrounding the Refugee Ban Bill (Illegal Migration Bill). Most importantly we wanted to discuss what we can do about it to speak out for a different, more compassionate, society that treats all human beings with dignity.

After an introduction by our director Nazek Ramadan, the first speaker was Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King's College London and a Senior Fellow at UK in a Changing Europe. With over two decades’ experience working in the sector, he was clear that “progress isn’t linear”: even if times are difficult now, it doesn’t mean we are not moving in the right direction. Opinion polls have shown more pro-immigration attitudes over the last seven or eight years. Media coverage on migration was less negative for a period, but “now that [negative] rhetoric is reappearing we’ll see to what extent that is driving public opinion.” .

Rosie Carter, Director of Policy and Engagement, Hope not Hate, spoke next. She gave an overview of her charity’s recent research on far-right activity against migrants, which shows that the government’s rhetoric directly affects far-right activity, as this spikes around key government announcements. When organising community responses around this, “clear messaging and confident local leadership are key”, said Rosie.

Speaker Lara Parizotto, co-director of Migrant Democracy Project and councillor for Hounslow, emphasised the effect of hostile narrative on migrants’ political participation and their willingness to vote. While an estimated million migrant residents don’t have the right to vote in local elections, something which Migrant Democracy Project is campaigning to change, many of those who do don’t use it. “People are scared to register to vote, even if they can, because they feel like they’re just a guest. But they’re paying their taxes, working, supporting public services – I tell them to take their rightful place, this is their home. But this is the mentality though that’s been normalised. It’s what people have been told, to be grateful for whatever they get.”

Flora Mutuku, migrant, immigration and human rights lawyer and Migrant Voice member, spoke next about the current, increasingly hostile environment and its language. "There is a climate of fear that's been created, that's making migrants uncomfortable - even second generation people.” The recent Anti-Refugee Bill (Illegal Migration Bill) reframes some of the routes people take as illegal, for example if they come here to claim asylum without paperwork. But there are domestic, regional and international laws that allow that movement. “I feel I’ve seen immigration laws become more restrictive, not less and the environment a lot more hostile,” Flora said, adding that this type of authoritarian language dehumanises people.

The last speaker was Rogelio Braga, Co-Chairperson of Status Now Network. They described the pervasiveness of the hostile environment and its language, which is now used even by many who oppose its policies due to the externalisation of borders and border control. “We are taught this is normal, it’s ok but we are being made active participants in this language now of the hostile environment.”

Using counter-language, such as asking for “status now” for all undocumented migrants, can be an opportunity to redistribute power, Rogelio said.

Nazek then opened the discussion to the floor. Contributions from activists, experts, organisers and migrants followed: working locally within communities, making our voice heard loud, telling the missing stories of ‘mundane’ every-day experiences of migrants, and standing in solidarity with all migrants were among the actions suggested.

The meeting opened up chances to collaborate among participants – individuals and organisations – and we are looking forward to exploring what possibilities there are. We left the event stronger, more united, and ready to keep working for change.

Get in touch

Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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