Why Debate About Immigration Policy Can't Just Be For Elections
The Debrief: We cannot ignore how Theresa May’s government has treated the most vulnerable because it has a knock-on effect for how the rest of society is treated.
By now, you will have read about the hung parliament that Britain finds itself with because of a number of factors: an unprecedented youth turnout, a surprising swell of support for Corbyn, and a terribly run campaign by Theresa May.
There were several missteps that saw May’s ultimate failure (social care U-Turn, a refusal to engage in head-to-head debate, wheat). But, for me, it was the rhetoric that ultimately buried the PM. Throughout the campaign, she dutifully repeated her ‘Strong and Stable/British Values/No Deal Better Than Bad Deal’ lines, but in the last week she stepped it up a notch. The Prime Minister proposed measures to strengthen terror prevention and counter extremism policies in the wake of the London Bridge Terror attack, declaring ‘if human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change those laws so we can do it.’ This, it seems, was a step too far for voters.
For now, policy dissection isn’t high on the agenda as the government works out what it's doing next, but perhaps now is the best time to reinforce what we want to see as part of the conversation moving forward, whatever happens.
By conflating terror and human rights, May made it clear that for her ‘human rights’ are something that can be challenged and dismissed. This rhetoric trickles down to the detail of her immigration policy and as we move forward, we need to take a new approach to immigration in parliament.
Non-migrant voters and citizens might not see how the plight of refugee rights affects them directly but immigration policy isn’t just the feelings conjured up by tragic images of toddlers washed up on beaches or male restaurant owners losing their businesses. It is women falling through administrative loopholes in detentions centres like Yarl’s Wood, it is young women finding it difficult to rent in places like Kent because tenant vetting rights are being abused by ‘racist’ landlords, and it is women who don’t have access to healthcare because their issues are seen as not urgent.
We cannot ignore how May’s government has treated the most vulnerable because it has a knock-on effect for how the rest of society is treated. Flinging human rights laws to one side and demonising minorities makes it easier for an ethnic gender pay gap to exist which, in turn, makes it easier for landlords to claw more power, which makes it even easier for young Muslim women to fall victim to Islamophobic attacks in the street.
Holding women, many of whom have committed no crimes, in detention sends a message about how this country treats women, separating wives, mothers and daughters from their families sends a message about which family values we uphold above others and implicitly condoning an ethnic gender pay gap sends a message about that status of people from minorities in the workplace, whether or not we offer refuge to LGBT asylum seekers speaks to our values as a nation.
The election is over, but this conversation must continue. It shouldn't have taken an election to shine a light on these issues, but, now that it has, they must stay on the agenda, regardless of what happens next.
It shouldn't have taken an election to flag up these concerns but now that it has, they must stay on the agenda. Immigration concerns remaining in focus may be the best way for a complete cultural shift. The grassroots activism of groups like Movement for Justice is the reason that detention centres were even mentioned in Labour's party manifesto in the first place, and perhaps this even contributed to their political gains last night. Moving forward, we need immigration policy and human rights work together in cohesion for the sake of young women in this country. But, for now, all we can do is wait.
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