Since Amber Rudd was forced to resign as Home Secretary over immigration targets, Theresa May has come under pressure to resign. Good!
As Home Secretary, Theresa May invented the term and the policies associated with “a hostile environment for migrants” — targets for deportations, lack of access to public services and legal advice, indefinite detention. These policies led to the gross mistreatment of the “Windrush generation”.
The scandal, showed up Tory racism, demagogy and dishonesty. The sooner they go the better.
The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, may be the son of Pakistani migrants but he is also a millionaire, with the politics of privilege. He will talk warmly about getting citizenship for Windrush migrants and indeed, under the spotlight, it will be hard for him to renege on recent promises. But at the same time he will act to fulfil the Tory promise to slash net migration and will keep the fact if not the slogan of the “hostile environment” for migrants.
Corbyn’s decision to raise the Windrush issue in Parliamentary Questions and Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s clear stance against tough immigration controls have shifted the tone of Labour for the better.
But Labour is also vulnerable on this issue. Labour is only committed to “humanising” the immigration regime, is for “fair” immigration rules. But what does that mean?
Fairer rules are still restrictions. A Labour government will wind up making choices between “more deserving” and “less deserving” migrants? But are Syrian refugees who are have been bodily injured in war, more-or-less deserving than those who have “only” lost their livelihood? In our grossly unequal and violent world, all migrants are deserving of equal treatment. Besides, Labour’s commitments are vague. They have not even said they will end the restriction of migrants’ access to public services.
Underlying Labour’s political weakness is a lack of commitment to stopping Brexit. Brexit is the single largest threat to the security and livelihoods of migrants and to the three million EU citizens who live and work in the UK.
At best Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit undermines the clarity of its overall narrative on migration. At worst it is a disastrous failure to see the connection between raising borders between the UK and Europe and creating or at least maintaining difficult conditions for people fleeing persecution and poverty from all over the world.
A critical job for Labour if it is to effectively fight, and to replace the Tories at any point in the next years is to fully confront the Tory immigration policy, to work to lower borders, not raise them, to go beyond scrapping the worst aspects of the “hostile environment”, and to stop Brexit.