“Canal Office – Fazeley Street, Digbeth – In a hostile Environment, Respectability will not save you” by ell brown is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In the run up to Christmas many families in the UK will be relieved to hear that they can meet up with two other households for the festivities. The announcement of these lax restrictions in the days surrounding Christmas brought a mixed bag of responses online, with many pointing out the double standards of the government in relation to the introduction of stricter regulations just before the start of Eid. The comparison between the respect of Islamic and Christian holidays could have been described as Islamophobia, but the recent actions of the Home Office highlight that the government’s prejudice spreads beyond religion into full racism.
For anyone unaware, these ‘recent actions’ are in fact a mass deportation of people who have spent their entire adult lives living in the UK. The Home Office have arranged the deportation of 50 of these people to Jamaica, a country which many of the individuals have no real tie to. The repercussions to both these individuals and their families is unthinkable given the current state of the world. The last thing that any family needs right now is having a father, son or brother taken away.
Additional contempt for immigrants is demonstrated by choosing to deport these people, many of whom have families that will now be torn apart, just before Christmas. Priti Patel has displayed one of the most malicious acts of her already controversial tenure as Home Secretary. The real maliciousness comes from the obvious knowledge that what the Home Office is doing is wrong. How sincere could the apologies handed out by Sajid Javid, the previous Home Secretary, to those affected by the Windrush scandal really be? I think that we all know the answer and the truth is that no thinly veiled apology or new appointment can hide the clear hostile treatment of immigrants.
The widespread condemnation that followed the Windrush scandal should have set a new precedent going forward. We should not be seeing the same actions being repeated time and time again by a government seemingly hell bent on ruining the lives of immigrants. In a normally functioning, logical world we would not be seeing the case of the Jamaica 50 only a few years after the news surrounding Windrush surfaced. This repeat of such an ugly part of recent British history underlines the lack of progress and the negative attitude of the current UK government.
In their actions, the Home Office is ignoring past mistakes, as well critique and condemnation from human rights organisations. The ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants set out by Theresa May back in 2012 has truly lived up to its name by ruining the lives of families across the UK. Studies have been carried out on families affected by deportation and forced separation, finding negative psychological impacts on not just families but entire communities.
Instead of attempting to heal the open wound left on the black British community, the government is doubling down and acting in clear contempt of these communities yet again. In the online discussion some have pointed out that those being deported have committed crimes and therefore deserve the punishment. To anyone holding this view; you have to look at the bigger picture here. The background of the issue is very complex, with many of the Commonwealth migrants coming to the UK without papers or against their will. No one is saying that anyone who has committed a crime in this situation should be let off. By all means if crimes have been committed then justice must be pursued. The issues arise when the government does not seek justice but aims to damage and tear apart communities. This is where the context of the ‘hostile environment’ comes in. Putting their cards on the table and handling the issue as a conflict rather than a human problem, the Tories made their intentions very clear.
After the 2012 declaration of the ‘hostile environment’ discourse on immigration was ramped up, processes for appealing and fighting deportation were made overly complicated and the government funded ‘Go Home’ vans that drove around to strike fear into immigrants. How this was ever allowed to happen seems ridiculous, yet so does so much of the political mess in the UK in recent years. Publicly stating that they wish to make the lives of immigrants harder is just another scandal that hasn’t managed to shift public opinion and remove the Conservatives from power.
Instead, institutions such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission will continue condemning the actions of the morally corrupt government, and they will continue to ignore. No person should be sent to a country that they may have only lived in as a child, with no roots and no ties. Being dumped in a foreign country after spending your adult years building a life and family in a country that no longer wants you should not be seen as a normal occurrence. What is happening is seriously bad, if you don’t speak out against it then the government will repeat their actions and continue to tear apart families and attack migrant communities. Ending the hostile environment is an essential step towards living in a truly fair country.
Please sign the petition to #stoptheplane before 50 people are wrongfully deported to Jamaica on December 2nd.
Words by Ewan Blacklaw