If the latest Immigration Bill is leaving you with a sense of déjà vu- do not worry- you are not alone. This is all in the government’s plan for chaos and confusion.
Just a year ago, in 2020 we had another ‘new immigration bill’ in front of the Parliament – that one ended the free movement in the wake of our withdrawal from the EU.
The 2020 Immigration bill, was a copy-and-paste of the bill that stalled under Theresa May’s minority government in 2018. It fell when Parliament was prorogued in September 2019.
One pandemic and several lockdowns later, in March 2021, Home Secretary Priti Patel, launched a public consultation on the new New Immigration Plan.
No one knows what happened to the consultation or why was it conducted at all, unless it is some weird Trump-style power trip to show the advocates and other people who still believe in democracy and due process, how little they matter and with how much contempt they are regarded by the government and the Hostile Environment Secretary.
The latest in a long line of new, new, Immigration Bills, is true to the hostile, racist, and xenophobic tradition of its predecessors. It is a piece of propaganda that is completely divorced from reality and its primary purpose, as was the case with the sham consultation, is to speak to right-wing audiences and push a set of political messages about ‘being tough’ of immigration.
Everything in the way of this oppressive messaging such as the rule of law, human rights, peoples’ lives, reality – is either ignored or sacrificed as collateral damage.
The Nationality and Borders Bill had its first reading on the 6th of July 2021 and the second reading is due on the 19th. There are no surprises in this draft, it is a reflection of the nastiness and hostility we saw in the consultation document.
There is nothing in this Bill that can be reasoned with in a way we are used to in civilised parliamentary advocacy in democracy. It is all about the criminalisation of people seeking protection based on their mode of entry. It is about more hostility in how they are received – mostly detained and deported, if not held in barrack-style detention centres. It is about further criminalisation of vulnerable people, and demonisation of lawyers, judiciary, and charities not only opposing these draconian proposals but merely doing their job – maintaining the rule of law.
As we have seen with the Windrush Scandal, and with EU Settlement Scheme, there is no room for optimism or hope that this government will accept responsibility or learn anything from their mistakes.
This means that advocates, campaigners, supporters, and organisers must prepare for, and in many cases continue a radical solidarity with those who will be subjected to more hostility, exclusion, incarceration, racism, and destitution.
In the coming months, we must of course speak out against these oppressive and hostile policies, but we also must be realistic about the current constellation of powers – with the current majority, this government is not going to listen to civil society or human rights advocates. But they will not get away with it.
That is why we organise – from the grass-roots up.
Solidarity means turning up and standing with people in barracks, in detention, in reporting centres, in dispersed accommodation, and creating a community of welcome around them.
We must not be trapped in the ‘good/bad refugee/migrant’ propaganda. Instead, we must articulate clearly what we are fighting for. We need to tell a different story – our story – of a better country with a fair immigration system based on principles of dignity, justice and welcome – just like the one migrants and refugees and their allies conceived over the past three years under the banner Solidarity Knows No Borders
We must not only write to our Members of Parliament but visit them in their surgeries and ask them to oppose the hostility, racism, and xenophobia and stand up for dignity, justice, welcome and democracy. Now is the time to build long lasting relationships beyond a one off letter or a signed petition.
Three things you can do now:
- Write to your MP before the second reading of the Bill on the 19th July. Speak from the heart and share your concerns about this hostile bill and your demands for a better system. Use this as a chance to organise and build relationships with your MPs and allies.
- Sign and share the Fair Immigration Charter – use your social media channels or talk to your friends – spread the word about unity, solidarity and better vision for the future.
- Get involved, join actions and organise – check out upcoming Abolish Reporting actions on 15 July. Stay in touch and organise locally and nationally, and join our regular monthly organising meetings.
Zrinka Bralo and Migrants Organise team