The Government’s shameful scapegoating of immigrants

The Home Office messages subliminally warn all people of colour not to get too comfortable

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The Home Office is on a mission to intimidate Kipling’s “fluttered folk and wild” abroad and in the UK.

It is proud to be institutionally racist, very proud indeed. It has figures to show just how many bloody foreigners have been dealt with and what awaits the others. In June a new £3,000 bond was imposed on visitors from “high risk” nations in Asia and Africa; overseas students from those continents are actively discouraged from coming to our universities. Blatantly discriminatory rules have been instituted; international treaties and human rights legislation are neglected. The nation is dishonoured again by its keepers.

On Friday, on BBC News, Home Office bully boys were shown rounding up dark-skinned folk in specially targeted multiracial localities. In Southall in  west London, outraged Asian women defied them and objected volubly. Some were from Southall Black Sisters, a collective which, for years, has defended gender and minority rights. I recognised some  – grey-haired now, but still full of indignation and passion. In previous decades they demonstrated against virginity tests for Asian women, carried out to check if they were really brides-to-be. And again against the law which denied foreign-born wives legal status for years. And again when the National Front marched through Southall.

The scenes on TV reminded me of South Africa’s pass laws. I broke down and cried inconsolably. Before this latest official  persecution, Home Office vans were spotted in inner-city areas with nasty signs telling illegal migrants to go home. The messages subliminally warned all people of colour not to get too comfortable, to assume we were safe. We who came to stay jumped through hoops of fire to gain some acceptance. But now we know it can be withdrawn. Nasty vans were not sent to areas where Australians and white South Africans hang out. The  barrister  Geoffrey Robertson, his novelist wife Kathy Lette or MP Peter Hain were not made to feel uninvited and unwanted. When will our governments stop pissing on non-white migrants? Will they ever? My kids look like me – I fear for them too.

Ukip’s Nigel Farage, now presenting himself as Mr Nice Guy, has criticised these Home Office initiatives. More bizarrely still, the Tory strategist, Australian Lynton Crosby, has privately expressed his own doubts about the vans. This is the controversial political operator who, in his own country, and the UK has used immigration as an election doodlebug. I told him at a party how much I detested these campaigns and he listened, unmoved, blasé. So why the reservations now about the hardline Home Office tactics? Is it part of Crosby’s cunning plan to disable Ukip? Or have even these unreconstructed men sensed that a line has been crossed?

London has just tried to relive the glorious multiracial Olympics. Oh how our PM and his mates loved all that colour and pizzazz. And all the while his Government forces landlords, medical staff and schools to check passports and exclude those who can’t prove they belong. Immigration detention centres, run by private companies, treat inmates like vermin. Not many white faces in there. Western Europeans have always migrated and still do, as if that is their birthright. But the movement of people from elsewhere is a threat, a menace, even when millions are dispossessed by Western geopolitical games and economic interests.

In our times, we are not permitted to call racism by its name when debating immigration. That discourse is strictly regulated. Immigration is now allegedly completely decoupled from prejudices. Furthermore, it is claimed that Britons are not “allowed” to talk about immigration for fear of being branded “racist”. When did we not talk about the “problems of immigration”? Has there been a single year when known public individuals did not express “brave” views against migration or express xenophobia? Today neo-Powellite nationalists like David Goodhart are lauded as messiahs and the twinned Frank Field and Nicholas Soames regurgitate the messages of anti-immigration lobbyists with enviable access to the media. Britons who are fair and open-minded are appalled by the ceaseless hostility towards incomers. They daren’t speak out because of the overpowering pressure to follow the populist line. Trolls are out to get us too.

The Tories always use the race/immigration card. They don’t even pretend inclusion any more. Shawn Bailey, the Tory black “street” mascot in Downing Street has been dumped; Sayeeda Warsi is back in the ghetto. Meanwhile New Labour, even while encouraging immigration, did not defend it and instead assuaged small island protectionists. But the most culpable are the black and Asian MPs and peers, an unprecedented number now in power, soon to be joined by Doreen Lawrence. So far hardly any have spoken out about the Home Office travesties. Those Southall women had more guts. They could form a cross-party faction and expose the racist immigration policies. Together they would be strong enough to make an impact. But the MPs and peers sit tight, treacherously let the state repeat and exceed the iniquities of the past suffered by their own people, families, possibly themselves. I think I am going to cry again.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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