Why we need a movement to counter xenophobia

A rising level of anti-immigrant rhetoric will make life difficult for many

Share

Misinformation, outright lies, and twisted statistics – these have been the characteristics of Britain’s immigration debate in recent years, distorting understandable fears about overstretched public services.

Since the coalition government adopted its immigration cap, voices of reason on the issue have struggled to be heard, so I was really pleased to be speaking last night in support of a new campaign, The Movement Against Xenophobia, coordinated by the Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants.

The opposition, what we might call the “Pro-Xenophobia” camp, falls into two groups. The first is the rightwing media, determined to focus on immigration and foreigners as a cause of Britain’s problems. The second is the government, and far too many other politicians, who seem determined to legitimate the claims of Ukip by adopting policies that they think will appeal to likely Ukip voters.

You might even think these two groups were trying to divert attention from the real causes of our economic problems – the banks that caused the financial crash, the companies that continue to collect high profits while paying low wages to staff in insecure jobs, the failure of rich and multinational companies to pay their taxes.

As we heard last night, the government is trying to rush through parliament a new Immigration Bill, which John McDonnell described as “the most racist piece of legislation we’ve seen in 40 years”.

The measures the government is choosing will have widespread negative effects on legal immigrants and British citizens, as well as those whose status is less clear. There’s already evidence of racism in the letting of housing. Yet now, private landlords will be required to ensure that “illegal immigrants” are not given access to their properties. How many will just exclude anyone they think might be an immigrant?

Then there’s the pressure on doctors’ surgeries to check the immigration status of patients. Where does the patient in need of treatment go who’s legal but doesn’t have the papers?  Where are the NHS resources to deal with the paperwork?

One speaker last night asked what actions the Movement Against Xenophobia should take. One intention was clear last night – there will be an action at parliament next Tuesday when the Bill is scheduled for its second reading.

I suggested two further steps in the continuing campaign. One is to systematically debunk the many misrepresentations of those encouraging the demonization of immigrants. It won’t be hard.

Take this unexceptional example: This week's Sunday Telegraph led with an article: “True scale of European immigration: An EU study has found 600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain”.

Investigate and you’ll discover that the “unemployed” are those classified as “non [economically] active”, which includes pensioners, non-employed spouses and partners, university students and children aged over 15.  The actual unemployed figure is 10 per cent of the Telegraph’s claim.

The second long-term step I suggested was to make sure we talked about immigrants as people – individuals with individual human lives and concerns. We need to tell their stories.

There are the refugees trapped with “failed asylum claims”, who live homeless and destitute for years, before an appeal finally finds that Britain is indeed obliged to recognise their right to refuge. There are the at least 18,000 Britons (on the government’s own figures), who can’t live with their spouse or partner in their own country, due to rules that a high court judge described as “onerous” and “unjustified". And there are the grandparents who, due to the introduction of £3,000 visa bonds, will never be able to spend time with their grandchildren.

Yet overall, the biggest impact of this toxic slew of misinformation will be on individuals going about their daily lives – most of them individuals here entirely legally, as immigrants, as citizens. Finding a home, getting medical treatment, or finding a job – all will be harder for anyone who is, or might be, an immigrant.

We need to challenge government policy, challenge anti-immigrant rhetoric and misleading statistics. And that’s what the Movement Against Xenophobia will be doing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Warehouse Assistant

£14807 - £15470 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manufacturer and supplier ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Security Consultant (CREST/CHECK/OSCP)

£45000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Security Consu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The era of graduates from the university conveyor belt is over

Hamish McRae
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks