Hijacking the Immigration Debate: Windrush

A similar deliberate confusion between racism and xenophobia appears to have happened with the Windrush Scandal. Here, the endemic hostility towards foreigners, and thus immigrants, in certain sections of the British population, was turned into official government policy and legislation by Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary in 2012. This was a naked attempt to win over right-wing voters and it meant that, among many other implications, hundreds of people from Commonwealth countries, who had spent their whole lives in Britain, suddenly had to find documentation to prove they had the right to remain here. 

The burden of proof was placed on the individuals, who were required to find at least one document for every year they had spent in the country! This was despite the fact they had been invited by the then British Governments, to ease a shortage of workers, and that the Home Office and Immigration services had destroyed much of its own records. (Theresa May also required employers, banks, landlords and the NHS to follow these enquiries up, to do the Home Office’s dirty work, in other words, presumably as a cost saving measure.)

Of course, this was an impossible task for many people. Ironically, the longer they had spent in Britain, contributing to the economic, community and cultural life of the country, the more difficult it became to prove “the right to remain.” Without this proof, they began to lose access to healthcare, housing, bank accounts, driving licenses and so on. Some were sent to detention centres for immigrants. Some were deported to countries they had left as small children, had no memory of, and no close contacts in. (The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ website has a fantastic page on this, entitled “Windrush Scandal Explained”: jcwi.org.uk) 

This is outrageous. It astonishes me how anyone in this country can still vote conservative. However, activists insist on calling this scenario “racist.” Even the JCWI says, “There was widespread shock and outrage that so many Black Britons had had their lives devastated.” (Would there have been less shock and outrage, then, if they had been Asian? or European? Presumably not.)

The specification of skin colour, here, is unhelpful and unnecessary. The legislation that underpins the persecution doesn’t seem to specify, by race, who is to be targeted. It is generally xenophobic, not racist. 

Anti-racism campaigners are trying to muscle in on a separate injustice, to feed off the energy of its outrage, to maintain their own importance and centrality to the debate, I assume. It’s another form of colonialism, or, at least, an activist coup. 

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