A question for the UK about ‘immigration’

As April looms large in the UK as the month when non-EU migrants who have lived in the UK for more than five years and are earning less that £35,000 will face deportation, my question, to the UK Government, is this:

Can anyone please enlighten me as to why it’s ok to INVADE countries around the world; ENSLAVE people; build an entire empire that exists only to serve the central power; create a global system that OPPRESSES and dominates untold swathes of people and actively works to destroy their functioning and blossoming social, political and economic structures; wage devastating WARS for the sake of resources and ideology and then sit there and say to these fellow human beings…

“YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE”?

Asylum seekers, migrants, skilled migrants… screw your labels and let them in.

Photo credit: Konrad Lembcke via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

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Trevor Noah reminds Britain of its colonial past…

Tonight I watched this clip of South African comedian Trevor Noah’s appearance on the John Bishop show in the UK back in May. His performance focuses on the arrogance and absurdity of British colonialism. His touch is light and deep, which is much needed in Britain where these issues and this history are widely ignored.

A few highlights:

“The British immigration officer says “Sir you’ve got to understand i’m not trying to be a hardass about this but I can’t just believe you’re here to do what you say you’re going to do – you could do something else.” I was like “well you know what, fair enough, fair enough, that’s a great attitude to have. That’s the attitude I wish we’d had in South Africa when the British first arrived – it would have saved us a lot of pain.””

“It’s a fun game colonisation, it really was. It’s the most arrogant form of patriotism when you think about it, you know. It must have been cool. Like I wonder what Britain was like back then, it was so great, that you guys wanted to go and make it somewhere else. It was like ‘this is wonderful, we should do it everywhere’. That’s exactly what it was, colonisation all over the world. What’s weird to me though, is like how people act like colonisation never happened, I don’t like that. Like it’s weird when people say ‘all these bloody foreigners coming into the UK, all these bloody foreigners..’ well it’s because YOU TOLD them about the UK! You’ve gotta understand, in the world we did not care for this place at all, noone knew about Great Britain. In India they were having a good time, the British went and told the Indians about Great Britain – they were having fun with elephants and spices, they had no need to come to this country…”

“It’s colonisation done right that’s what I truly enjoy, the British did it perfectly. Yeah. Cos’ now we’re friends; we all speak the same languages, we even have a games where we participate together – the Commonwealth Games. Ironically named. There was nothing common about it. The wealth was in one place. [It’s like] ‘Right, let’s forget everything that happened and let’s play some games together’.”

“…if people’s lives are made untenable in the lands that they come from, they flock to the centre of the empire – we choose not to see that or to know that story”

In September last year, rapper, poet and journalist Akala spoke at the V&A at an event called ‘Is London too rich to be interesting?‘ He spoke on a variety of different subjects including poverty, creativity, London gentrification (racial dislocation), rich people, white middle-classes, Notting Hill Carnival and  income tax. He also spoke wisely and passionately about immigration, free market economics and the IMF.

In the UK there is a serious problem with the lack of education about Britain’s true violent, oppressive and dark history. We don’t talk about it. We also don’t look at the part our history and our continued international influence has to play in global poverty, international conflicts, environmental degradation and immigration.

People are often quick to look at the symptoms of these issues, and are equally quick to blame the victims. I’m not the first to say it, but Britain is largely unwilling to acknowledge that it (and the West) has, and continues to play a powerful and destructive role in an unequal and crippling international economic system; the underdevelopment, restriction and disempowerment of developing countries; the political and cultural marginalisation of entire nations; the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people as part of the transatlantic slave trade; the division and rule of an entire continent and several countries to serve a colonial empire; countless international conflicts and wars, often committing terrible atrocities; promoting and often enforcing the pursuance of a manipulative and disastrous ideological system based on consumption, individualism and selfishness; the the destruction of huge swathes of our planet; I could go on…

People get angry about immigration in the UK, but we build a nation on the backs of others and then call it audacious when they come calling (read more in my recent post with quotes from Frankie Boyle). So it’s refreshing and important to hear people like Akala calling this out.

You can read the transcript or watch the video below (this passage is at about 12 minutes in):

“Like I said we ignore the politics that don’t affect us. London is rich for a number of reasons, people want to come here for a number of reasons, but the reasons are often primarily political. So for example, if we take the Caribbean community, why did they leave sunny Jamaica and St Lucia and Trinidad to come here? Primarily because neocolonial economic policy had made it unviable for them to make a living where they live. That’s just not poppycock. When the IMF lends Jamaica or Trinidad or any of these other countries money, they demand that you don’t spend money on social housing, they demand that you privatise your water supply etc etc etc. So if people’s lives are made untenable in the lands that they come from, they flock to the centre of the empire – we choose not to see that or to know that story. The same protectionist policies that Britain employed when it was becoming a developed nation, these countries are prevented from employing. Does that make sense? So when we look at how a country becomes rich, free-market economists become very selective about what they choose to remember and what they choose not to remember.”

“The special policies exist, that’s what I’m saying to you. When Britain was a developing country, it employed tariffs to protect it’s trade. Today, developing countries are prevented from employing tariffs to protect their trade…”

What do you think? H/T to Chris P for highlighting this on Facebook.

Frankie Boyle: “Britain’s criminally stupid attitudes to race and immigration are beyond parody”

Frankie Boyle writes for the Guardian newspaper: “The anti-immigration election rhetoric is perverse – we fear the arrival of people that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them..”

This article has been around for almost a month now, but I’ve only just got round to reading it, and I’m glad I did. I’ve extracted a few of my favourite paragraphs from the Guardian article, but fully recommend reading the whole thing here.

“Even our charity is essentially patronising. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Give him a fishing rod and he can feed himself. Alternatively, don’t poison the fishing waters, abduct his great-grandparents into slavery, then turn up 400 years later on your gap year talking a lot of shite about fish.

In a further nod to satire, Comic Relief this year focused on Malawi and Uganda. I didn’t see any acknowledgement that Britain had been the colonial power in those countries. “Thanks for the gold, lads, thanks for the diamonds. We had a whip-round and got you a fishing rod.”

A lot of racism comes from projection. White Americans have a stereotype of black people being criminals purely because they can’t acknowledge that it was actually white people that stole them from Africa in the first place. Today, you have the spectacle of black men being gunned down by cops who, by way of mitigation, release footage to show that the victims were running away. This is what happens when you don’t understand or even acknowledge history. You end up in a situation where, when slavery is the elephant in the room in your relationship with African Americans, you think it’s OK to say that you killed one of them because he was trying to escape.

Britain is in a similar place with colonialism. We have streets named after slave owners. We profited from a vile crime and feel no shame. We fear the arrival of immigrants that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them. For much of the rest of the world we must be the focus of bitter amusement, characters in a satire we don’t understand. It is British people that don’t learn languages, or British history. Britain is the true scrounger, the true criminal.”

Recommended read: Mediterranean migrants: No one makes this journey just to pick up benefits

I’ve just read this article in The Guardian by Gary Younge about immigration in the UK, following the tragic deaths of hundreds of people travelling to Europe from Libya in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. 

He says: “Those who insist the west can’t take in the world’s misery must acknowledge how much of that misery we’re responsible for.”

I really recommend reading it:

“…Around 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The global 99% did not come about by accident. It’s the result of centuries of colonisation, decades of imperialism and the current corruption that has allowed a handful of people, in different ways at different times, to steal natural resources and pilfer public goods. As Winston Churchill once said of Britain: “This small island [is] dependent for our daily bread on our trade and imperial connections. Cut this away and at least a third of our population must vanish speedily from the face of the earth.”

In more recent times these inequalities have been reinforced by a global trade system that operates according to the golden rule – that those who have the gold make the rules. Put bluntly, Europe is rich (even if those riches aren’t evenly divided) in no small part because other nations are poor.

On top of that, a large number of these people are displaced by wars. The top three nations from which maritime refugees to the EU come are Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The country where they are most likely to start their journey is Libya, which is now effectively a failed state. In other words, many are running for their lives through countries we have bombed. Those in the west who insist we cannot take in “the world’s misery” must, at the very least, acknowledge how much of that misery we are responsible for…”

Read the full article here.

Ebola – a lunchtime outburst

I have been meaning to write about Ebola for a while and have slowly been collecting stories and bits of information to help me write a considered and well-thought-out argument (which I still hope to get round to writing). But stumbling upon this story of the reaction of a health centre in Milton Keynes where I grew up on my lunch break today brought it all to a head. So before I overthink it, I’m going to post up my immediate thoughts on this ‘international crisis’ and share with you the comment I posted on the article on the MK News website.

But first (just quickly). Ebola. It’s certainly a topic you can’t ignore – it’s EVERYWHERE; there’s even a song about it (I’m not kidding – you can listen to it here). And in typical Western fashion, as soon as one of ‘us’ gets it (god forbid a disease that actually transcends Africa’s continental borders), you can bet your bottom dollar that media sensationalism, mass hysteria and reactive segregation (read: ‘othering’ and the discrimination again those who may have the disease leading to the justification of stricter immigration policies or simply banning flights from EVERY African country) will ensue and Ebola Survival Kits will soon be flying off the shelves.

Here is the original article as can be found on the MK News website (props to them for actually doing some research and stating that Ebola isn’t airborne):

EBOLA: What do you think to this sign outside Milton Keynes Walk-in Centre?

A sign has been put up outside the Walk-in Centre at Milton Keynes Hospital that tells people who have visited West Africa to wait outside and ring the bell for further advice.

The move comes after Farah Fassihi, from Kingsmead, returned from Nigeria feeling unwell and was ordered to wait outside the Walk-in Centre (Urgent Care Service) in case she had Ebola.

The sign reads: ” STOP: Have you visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia? Please ring the bell to your left and await further advice.”

MKWeb have looked at the myths surrounding Ebola and you can’t catch it from sitting next to someone in a waiting room as the virus is not air born, you can only catch it from sharing bodily fluids, but what do you think?

Here is what people said on our Facebook page, share your views below:

Corinna Schell commented: “I can understand that the patient was upset but honestly think the centre reacted appropriate. First of all they asked the right questions and they need to be cautious… We have heard how easy it can be transmitted even nurses in full protective gear …See More I can understand that the patient was upset but honestly think the centre reacted appropriate. First of all they asked the right questions and they need to be cautious… We have heard how easy it can be transmitted even nurses in full protective gear caught it…Not sure why they did not go and waited in the car and talked via phone. Similar to the swine flu the advice is to call first and then be asked to go to the appropriate area that then can set up everything for the patient. I wonder how easy the blood test is and how long the results take. Imagine she would have indeed had Ebola how many patients within a&e were at risk.”

Mike Jones said: “The headline could of easily of read ‘suspected Ebola patient was told to wait in waiting room full of patients including children!! ‘ They did right under the circumstances it they don’t have any isolation areas set. Crazy? No”

Lou Tom Saltyy said: “So they should be!! They should then be isolated, sorry but I don’t want all the little kids catching this!!

Stephanie Runawaywiththespoon commented: “I would stay at home and call first.”

Kat Randall said: “The walk-in-centre done the right thing in my book as there is chicken poxs going around and there could have been loads of kids in there safety for the kids is more important than getting cold I think ?”

Kerrie Hopkins added: “But if that was a child with expected Ebola but they wouldn’t of been made to stand outside for that long it’s just wrong they should of said sorry we can’t help u please go to A&E who can help as they are set up for it. Not leave someone stood there for so long not knowing what’s happening.”

Claire Armstrong added: “There is no hope.”

And this was my own Facebook comment on the article and the Walk-in Centre’s actions, written for the people of Milton Keynes:

I think that their (over) reaction was sensational and ridiculous, and most likely a symptom of the hysteria generated and perpetuated by the national media. Nigeria has handled the outbreak wonderfully and is actually only a few days short of being declared Ebola free (42 days without a case) – even the FT has reported this: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/4769ca32-52c4-11e4-a236-00144feab7de.html#axzz3G9JqRpCl. I fully realise that Ebola is a horrible disease and has already ruined many lies, but our Western tendency to fear the ‘other’, to pick and choose which international crises we care about (i.e anything for which there is the smallest possibility that it could affect us/white people) and to completely ignore the facts (i.e more people will die of influenza in the US than Ebola) has got to stop.

People need to calm down, pause, look at themselves and start thinking about other people. Instead of this mad panic that ‘Ebola’s going to get us’, we should stand in solidarity with those for whom it truly is a problem. Instead of reacting without thinking and immediately segregating ourselves from those who may or may not have the disease (a la the Walk-in Centre), we should show respect and admiration for the way Nigerians have come together to contain the disease and have shown us all how it should be done, we should practice empathy and compassion for those who are suffering with Ebola or truly ARE at risk of contracting it and who live without a provision like the NHS and stop making this all about ‘us’ as we tend to do.

I understand that people are scared, but it’s a fear that we create ourselves and can be reframed. We are all human after all and have the freedom to choose how we react. It’s time to stop reacting and start proacting!

I will write a more considered post on Ebola soon, but felt inspired to write this now, so I have. As usual I would welcome your thoughts, comments, criticisms, support etc. And as usual I will remind you that I am not an expert, will get things wrong and am fully open minded so am ready to change my opinion – so please share yours. If you’d like to write your own post on this issue or something similar, please do get in touch!