INVASION!! Says Home Secretary Suella Braverman. After the shock of hearing her say this, it should not be a surprise, writes David Landau. The first immigration legislation in this country was the Aliens Act 1905. The Invasion of the Aliens. That has been the theme music of immigration controls for well over a hundred years. Braverman, who dreams of people (oh yes, migrants are people – maybe not in her dreams) flying off to Rwanda. But she comes from a long line of Home Secretaries with this world view, Tories and Labour: Blunkett, Clarke, Johnson, May, and Patel, nasty pieces all.
It would not be quite accurate to say that this government has launched an offensive against migrants. The offensive is on-going, relentless. It never stops. It has an economic dimension – creating layers of people who have to keep their heads down for fear of deportation so are ripe for exploitation, or who have limited rights compared to other workers. The opposite of the myth that freedom of movement will undercut wages and conditions.
But it is an emotional and ideological offensive designed to divide the working class. As things fall apart, especially community, some will find an identity by gathering around the flags of race and nationality rather than workers’ solidarity across these lines and against the real enemy. Some people argue that because the mainstream politicians are so bigoted and racist, the far right and fascist groups have been outflanked and are no longer a danger. In the short term that may be true. But the government has prepared the ground for the fascists or Farage-type groupings when they fail to deliver on their promises.
But this brings us to the other half of the story. It is the story of that solidarity, of that resistance and defiance. In the last few years and right now, there has been a rise in opposition to the anti-immigrant offensive. We have seen the rise of anti-raids groups who on a number of occasions have stopped deportations, taking to the streets to defend their neighbours from the immigration officers and the police.
We have seen the turn of trades unions to not only express solidarity but in the case of the PCS, actual defiance of immigration controls. Historically, trades unions have supported calls for strong immigration controls. Not any more. More and more people are refusing to act as surrogate immigration officers and call upon their unions to protect them. So when the Government try to impose charging in the health service, doctors and nurses refuse this and so at the recent SOS NHS national conference People Not Passports were invited to speak and the these ideas had support from everyone including union representatives. We have seen a tremendous campaign for Simba in Sheffield who was at first refused life-saving treatment and when he finally got that was faced with a 120K bill! The bill was dropped and he was granted refugee status.
This has been going on in other areas of work and institutions like education where teachers are expected to monitor the immigration status of children.
Union leaders like Mick Lynch speak up in solidarity with migrant workers raising the slogan NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!
When refugees and migrants are drowning in the sea the RNLI don’t think twice about rescuing them, only to be attacked by the Home Secretary and the right-wing newspapers. But these brave men and women won’t be stopped
Groups of people meet the migrants on the beach, providing food and immediate shelter. Demonstrations at detention centres and overcrowded barracks lead to them being closed.
The migrants themselves are of course at the forefront of the resistance. Despite the risks of detention and deportations they are amongst the most militant of workers, the backbone of the new unions that have emerged in the last few years, taking on the employers who are taking advantage of their vulnerability created by immigration controls. Their slogan – Under Attack, What do we do? Stand Up Fight Back. This is very much a repeat of the history of Jewish trade unions in the early 1900s.
And those planes Braverman dreamt off have not flown yet. This is partly the result of the hard work of those ‘lefty lawyers’ the government hate so much but also by the campaigns on the streets, in letters, petitions, through twitter storms and so forth which have forced all the air companies not to take migrants and refugees to Rwanda.
This is a hard battle but the awareness and the determination to stop immigration controls is growing. DEFIANCE NOT COMPLIANCE!
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