Avoiding an Immigration Debate

Monday, 10th August 2009 at 8:00 UTC 5 comments

Anyone who read my last blog posted learnt of my use of Bloglines to martial potential stories for inclusion in my blog. Right now there’s a bunch of stories, ranging in location from Scotland to Greece, that cover a topic I rarely, if ever, manage to set about typing up my ideas on: Immigration.

Apparently Scotland is considering offering extra points to immigrants prepared to go and live there. This doesn’t surprise me, and it makes a lot of sense for a country that, in the main, has far fewer immigrants that the rest of the British Isles. True, Glasgow is pretty multiracial, and Scotland has its non-English speaking communities in a more indigenous sense, though very few.

Once again I’m reminded that Scotland seems much more left-wing in general. That’s not to say it follows some kind of “Celtic Socialism”, but it is a far cry from the world of English political culture where things seem to be sliding more and more to the right. To learn that there’s one small corner of Britain prepared to make foreigners welcome is a very reassuring thing indeed.

But that’s not what’s happening elsewhere. In Greece, Italy and France, hundred of police offers are being thrown at the “task” of keeping people out of Europe. In Greece, riot police have flattened a refugee camp. In France, they’ve been harassing the residents of “the Jungle”, the strip of land on which many are forced to attempt to survive as they seek a new life in Britain. And in Italy, the Prime Minister has given permission to vigil ante squads to deal with the problem, leading to government sanctioned violent race crimes.

Its not just a worrying trend, though, its a very depressing one; literally depressing, as in “why do I even bother getting out of bed if people are going to act in such an evil way towards each other”. I get the fact that I’m often a little quick to post people under “good” and “evil”, but I make no apology for using that language in this case. Especially not when the Italian government sought a show trial not very long ago where they jailed fishermen for giving normal maritime assistance to a group of asylum seekers who’s boat was going down. The message: treat these people like humans and we’ll jail you. I despair.

Aside from individual cases, there doesn’t seem to have been a single significant victory in recent months. When I campaign on climate change, I can see the government making half-hearted efforts to sound green, and it shows I, and those around me, are having an effect. With immigration, a humanitarian response just gets you laughed at (or so it feels) as most people don’t really get why the “Right” are wrong on this, and its not that straightforward to explain apart from the straightforward “treat people with respect/put yourself in their shoes” argument.

I might be given to speaking up on just about any issue under the sun, but with immigration, the facts seem so utterly depressing its proven rather hard to get something out “on paper” for everyone to see. Its not that I don’t care, its that I don’t know where to start, quite how to verbalise my feelings and moreover, the whole thing seems rather hopeless. Perhaps someone else can get this issue moving, in which case, I’ll be more than happy to carry it forwards, but till then, its tiring just thinking about it..

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Entry filed under: Activism, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Nationalism, News, Politics, Scotland.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lois  |  Monday, 10th August 2009 at 12:32 UTC

    Interesting what you say about Scotland being more left-wing. Other than the obvious devolutionary impact, do you think it might have anything to do with closer ties to Scandinavia in the north than southern England?

    Other than that, I agree that this subject is incredibly depressing. You’d have thought by now that people would realise that people are people, wherever they come from, and that just allowing people to drown/ get beaten up/ have their ‘homes’ flattened is no more acceptable on Europe’s borders than it would be if it happened to ordinary citizens.

    Reply
    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 10th August 2009 at 15:24 UTC

      That’s an interesting observation. I think there’s definitely some merit to applying a bit of historical analysis here; the English (and yes, that includes me) are terrible at conflating the experiences of Britain and Scotland, forgetting the almost unrecognisably different heritage Scotland has.

      Reply
      • 3. Philip Gardner  |  Monday, 10th August 2009 at 16:14 UTC

        (You mean England and Scotland, of course, not Britain and Scotland!) I think “almost unrecognisably different heritage” goes a bit too far, but I agree that we English all too often fail to recognise the differences, which are substantial. The Scottish legal system being fundamentally different is a major factor in this.

      • 4. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 10th August 2009 at 16:32 UTC

        As it happens, I kind of meant Britain, in the sense that the relevant bit of the history of Britain tends to be taught in schools as “we had some problems with the Scots, then King James got them under control, and now we share a common history, which happens to be ours”. Looking back on my days in secondary school history lessons, it was always implicitly “British History” that we were being taught. The fact 3 other nations, not to mention the Cornish, might disagree, was quite a long way outside of the syllabus.

        But yes, pre-17th Century, its English and Scottish, that is true, even if schools don’t communicate it properly.

  • 5. Mary  |  Thursday, 13th August 2009 at 7:34 UTC

    Okay this is a bit of a long shot (and probably a bit odd – Graham I remember you from the days of York Against the War but not sure if you’ll remember me) but…I am part of an asylum support group in York (quite a large (comparitively!) but hidden Turkish Kurdish community in York). We run a weekly drop in used by about 40 families though many more we can’t accommodate yet. Anyhow, over the past few years we have run quite a number of anti-deportation campaigns, most of which have involved families and detetention centres at some stage. For our last campaign we managed, who knows how, to get a lot of publicity (local radio, newspapers running petitions, article in Big Issue) so, with some other people we have made links with doing this and some of the families we work with we are setting up a campaign to end child immigration detention (there are other campaigns but strangely quiet and top down) while we have this interest. Do you think, once we know what we ae doing, that there would be people in Bradford who would be interested in being involved?! Any thoughts….

    Reply

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