Just over 30 years ago my family and I arrived in England as refugees. We fled war torn Cambodia, trekking through the jungle with my elderly grandmother who had to be carried, dodging bullets as we reached the border to live in a refugee camp in Thailand. We were there for almost three years before finally being able to come to England. If we had stayed where we were, there’s no doubt we would have died.
This is the situation Syrian refugees find themselves in as they try to escape their war ravaged country as US President Donald Trump has placed an indefinite ‘travel ban’ on their entry to the US.
Refugees from other nations are not permitted to enter the US for the next 120 days. After this date, they can only enter the country if they are on the list of counties the US has okayed. All other immigrants or visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen are unable to enter the US for the next 90 days.
The only exception to this rule is if a refugee is a “religious minority” who is being persecuted in their homeland. Essentially, Christian refugees are ok, but Muslims can think again about trying to enter the US.
The Trump administration is framing the executive order as a security measure, titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals”, but it is worth bearing in mind that no one from the seven countries on the banned list has been responsible for a terror attack on American soil. This ban is not rational, it is racist.
Last night an invite began to circulate on my Facebook feed for an Emergency Demo against Trump’s #MuslimBan and UK complicity. Marches are scheduled to take place in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Manchester. Some of my white friends have clicked interested, but few have confirmed that they will join me on the march. For all of their moaning in the pub and political rants online, they are slow to actually stand up against Trump.
The response from our own government has been equally as reticent. Prime Minister Theresa May failed to condemn the policy, while other world leaders were quick to censure. Her reserve a clear message that the UK is willing to forgo any moral purpose for the sake of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Later a spokesperson confirmed that Downing Street does, “not agree with this kind of approach”. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that it was, “divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of the nationality”. Still, Trump is due to visit the UK, despite a petition to stop his state visit reaching 1m signatures. So why are my friends not willing to stand up and show that they stand on the right side of history unlike our government?
Evil happens when good people to do nothing. Don’t be a good person that does nothing. White friends, lending your voice to this is one of the most important things you can do. Just because it doesn’t directly affect you doesn’t make it OK. Refugees are your doctors, taxi drivers, colleagues and friends and you have to stick up for them.
It’s not enough just to "not be racist" anymore, because the racists are winning. They are in power and they are emboldened. Protesting Trump’s polices in the UK might not make him reverse his executive order overnight, but it will make our elected representatives see that we won’t stand for it. Sign the petitions, go to the marches, write to your MP, donate to charities that provide support to refugees.
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