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THE OVERVIEW: Illegal Migration Bill highlights the tradition of xenophobia in the Tory party with echoes of racial incitement from global history

March 29, 2023 – 2:07 pm |

“Not a pretty picture: A Tory legacy of divide and rule” The Illegal Migration Bill highlights a party that has a history of xenophobic policies.

The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill has caused a lot of concern with protests and open letters condemning its harshness, even exposing …

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THE OVERVIEW: Illegal Migration Bill highlights the tradition of xenophobia in the Tory party with echoes of racial incitement from global history

Submitted by on March 29, 2023 – 2:07 pmNo Comment
"Not a pretty picture: A Tory legacy of divide and rule" The Illegal Migration Bill highlights a party that has a history of xenophobic policies.
“Not a pretty picture: A Tory legacy of divide and rule” The Illegal Migration Bill highlights a party that has a history of xenophobic policies.

The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill has caused a lot of concern with protests and open letters condemning its harshness, even exposing division within the Tory Party itself. If the Bill is to become a law, in its current state, it contravenes European and international human rights laws. Yet this policy is part of a tradition of xenophobia in Tory party politics that goes far back appealing to those in the country who are swayed by a national conservative mindset.

More than 60 NGOs, MPs and academics have written to Prime Minster Rishi Sunak asking him to withdraw the Bill that the government is using to deport people who enter the country on small boats that cross the English Channel.

Signatories that include Anti-Slavery International, After Exploitation and Liberty say it would stop people fleeing danger and the right to claim asylum if they enter the UK irregularly.

Last week The Stand Up to Racism and Resist Racism day of action saw 12,000 march in London, 3,000 in Glasgow and 600 in Cardiff march against the migration Bill.

The host of speakers at the rally ranged from human rights organisations, campaigners and unions to MPs.

The UK government managed to defuse a rebellion from backbenchers wanting to toughen up new rules for removing migrants as the fighting within the Tory party, regarding amendments to the Bill, could have split the party in two.

In a letter to Conservative MPs on 7 March, Braverman wrote about uncertainties regarding the Bill’s place within European and international human rights laws.

The Home Secretary stated that “there is a 50 per cent chance” that it would not be compatible with the Human Rights Act of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), that came into force in the UK in 2000. However, she was “confident” that it “is compatible with international law.”

In an interview with POLITICO the European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson after speaking with Braverman said “I think that this is violating international law.”

And on the day of the Bill’s announcement the UNHCR released a statement that said: “The effect of the Bill (in this form) would be to deny protection to many asylum-seekers in need of safety and protection, and even deny them the opportunity to put forward their case. This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and would undermine a longstanding, humanitarian tradition of which the British people are rightly proud.”

With all the uncertainties the Home Secretary felt regarding human rights in the Bill there was one issue that she was very certain about.

In her 10 minutes speech laying out her plan to “stop the small boats”there were eight mentions of British patriotism regarding the “will” “laws” “decisions” “cost” “taxpayer” “fair play” and then ending with “The law-abiding patriotic majority have said: Enough is enough.”

Yet, public opinion on the small boat issue points more to fear mongering by the Tory party than an urgent worry for the British public.

 Recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in a report entitled Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain: 8 – 19 February 2023 speaks volumes. In a list of 14 concerns to the British public the top issues where they feel “enough is enough” is directed at the economic downturn in the country and the disaster of twelve years of Tory rule.

Top of the list is the cost of living crisis at a whopping 91 per cent, next is the NHS at 85 per cent, in third place the economy at 74 per cent and fourth is climate change and the environment at 58 per cent.

In fact, by contrast to these high figures’ immigration is all the way down the list at 40 per cent just underneath the EU exit at 41 per cent.

The proposed call to arms in “stopping the boats” is based on figures of an escalation in asylum claims. According to Electronic Immigration Network (EIN) 2022 saw figures reach the highest level since 2002 with nearly 75,000 asylum claims made by main applicants, which including dependants, comes to almost 90,000 people.

However, EIN states that these figures need to be looked at in context with the UK ranking far below nations of similar sizes in Europe: “Despite the increase in claims in the UK last year [2022] the Home Office highlighted that the UK still receives fewer asylum seekers than a number of comparable European countries, including France: In the year ending September 2022, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (296,555) in the EU+, followed by France (179,705) and Spain (128,015).”

Adding to this, data from the House of Commons (HoC) Library shows that compared to the 27 EU countries, the UK ranks 16th for the number of asylum claims granted in 2021 after accounting for the sizes of these countries’ populations.

The spectral threat 

Like a spectre Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, Brexit and Reform UK parties, reappears out of the shadows crying foul whenever the Tory Party is not delivering what he believes is the correct strategy on both the areas of Brexit and immigration, with a threat to run again as leader of one of the many incarnations of his political party.

The menacing threat of Faragism is taken very seriously by the Tory party, especially due to the effect of the outcome of the 2019 election when Boris Johnson won against the Labour candidate Jeremy Corbyn.

During this election Farage decided as leader, of what was then known as the Brexit Party, that he would not contest the Tory vote. Instead, he would stand down candidates in the 317 seats which had returned a Tory MP in the prior election.

This move, with other political factors like the Red Wall Brexit Leave voter support, resulted in the Tory Party receiving 80-seats, the biggest parliamentary majority that they had seen since 1987.

In return Farage’s raison d’etre was achieved with Johnson seeing Brexit delivered.

In November 2022 Farage once again had had enough of the Tories as this headline in the i Newspaper illustrates: “Nigel Farage to return to politics with Reform UK as Conservative row over Brexit and migrants.”

But a mere month later Farage did a U-turn where he stated that he would not run as head of Reform UK. It is also worth bearing in mind that Farage lost in all seven elections that he had stood in.

In 2021, there had already been a change of the guard within Reform UK with Richard Tice, A multi-millionaire businessman who worked in property for over 30 years and one of the founders of the Leave Means Leave campaign, heading the party. And taken straight out of the Farage political playbook Tice recently stated that he will contest every Tory seat in the 2025 UK General Elections.

But even though a new spectral entity has appeared in the place of Farage, the Tory party still feels threatened.

In a desperate plea at the end of 2022 the former Tory lead Brexit negotiator Lord Frost wrote in The Daily Telegraph that “I urge Conservatives to fight for the party and not be tempted by a Reform UK vote.” 

He continued: “Of course, specific policies this year are important too – crucially, solving the Channel boats problem and bringing down immigration […]”

According to a recent piece in the FT: “Of the voters that the Tory party are losing to Reform, the majority aren’t actually all that bothered by the party’s tax rises and support the spending commitments in the 2019 manifesto. The only part of Tice’s platform that is really attractive to Reform’s voters is its position on immigration.”

The Tories still remain petrified about losing in the next election if they don’t appeal to the hard-line xenophobic element of supporters who embrace this national conservatism and who might reduce their majority if they move to Reform UK. Perhaps that is why they have gone so hard on this migration Bill now?

The Bill could also be interpreted as a classic distraction from the important issues that the British public are determinedly more worried about such as, the already mentioned, cost of living crisis that it seems the Tories are incapable or unwilling to really tackle.

Interestingly, a recent piece in POLITICO stated that two days after the Bill was announced: “Polling shows illegal migration has become a top-four issue among [Tory] voters — but suggests far less worry about legal migration.”

Did their strategy work then and is it enough to keep Tory supporters defecting to Reform UK in the next election?

Another worry for the Tory party is the opposition Labour party far ahead in the polls. Politics.co.uk states that in the overall polling averages in the three week period up to 21 March Labour is on 46.6 per cent with the Conservatives on 28.6 per cent

If you thought that maybe the Tories attack on migrants and immigrants was a knee jerk reaction only due to them feeling that their support might be waning, you would be wrong.

Xenophobic sentiment is well and truly established within the DNA of the Tory party that is considered to be the most successful political party in the world.

 After all this is the party of the racist Enoch Powell and his notoriously xenophobic 1968 speech on immigration which was entitled Rivers of Blood.

Faragism and Toryism are more alike than either cares to admit as they continue to compete with nationalistic fervour and with who can steal the lion’s share of xenophobic sentiment in the country.

To illustrate this point more conclusively sometimes these extreme xenophobic ideas between the Tory government and Faragism overlap.

As was the case in 2016 when Farage deployed a fleet of vans to ride around central London, to back his Brexit campaign. Posters on the side of the vehicles read “Breaking point” “The EU has failed us all. “We must break free of the EU and take back control of our borders.”

The image on the poster was of a Syrian refugees, who fled war and violence in the Middle East, standing in a long line along the Slovenian border. This implied that these were illegal immigrants coming into Europe and Farage was accused of xenophobia, lying and fear mongering.

However, the vile idea of xenophobic vans seems to have originated in 2013 with Theresa May the then Home Secretary. They were dubbed “Go home” vans and were driven around six boroughs of London that had high migrant populations. The slogan on them read “In the UK illegally?” “Go home or face arrest” with a convenient “text HOME” if you wanted advice and help with travel documents.

The vans were part of Mays’ 2012 Immigration Bill which created a “hostile environment for illegal immigrants” that would deny bank accounts, driving licences and housing to foreign nationals.

This “hostile environment” also targeted the Windrush, named after the ship, generation who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1973 from the Caribbean. The scandal affected hundreds of Caribbean immigrants from this time who were actually British subjects and free to permanently live and work in the UK but were wrongly targeted by government immigration enforcement. This resulted in many elderly people barred from work and from access to government services and even in some cases being detained and deported.

The “Go home” vans advertising campaign/operation was called Vaken a Swedish word for awake is an interesting choice as Nazi Germany had an expression called “Deutschland Erwache” (Germany awake) that it used against anyone who it considered undesirable.

When May’s “Go home” vans were unveiled Nigel Farage said “I think the tone of the billboards is nasty, unpleasant, Big Brother.”

Other controversial legislation of this nature under this government has been the Rwanda plan introduced in 2022 by then Home Secretary Priti Patel. The plan made it lawful for asylum-seekers to be forcibly deported from the UK to Rwanda.

The Rwanda plan is being utilised by Braverman as part of her Illegal Migration Bill.

Dissenting voices

The controversial Bill had football host Gary Lineker boldly stand up to the government by originally stating on Twitter, “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”

Another Twitter user replied to Lineker by saying that the comments “were out of order” and that it is “easy to pontificate when it doesn’t affect you.”

Lineker responded: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

Lineker is the top paid presenter at the BBC of the popular football TV show Match of the Day. He was suspended due to the corporation having impartiality guidelines for its staff in what they are permitted to say on social media.

In solidarity with the decision to suspend Lineker from his presenting duties both his co-stars Allan Shearer and Ian Wright pulled out from hosting the show.

This move of defiance and the uproar and support that poured out for Linker were probably the deciding factors, but whatever the reason in a lightning turn of events the BBC reinstated him as presenter of Match of the Day.

With even Sunak jumping on the bandwagon stating how glad he was that the situation with Lineker was resolved.

An outraged Braverman responded to Lineker’s tweet by saying in an BBC Radio 4 interview that: “I think from a personal point of view to hear that characterisation is offensive because as you said [the presenter] my husband is Jewish. My children are therefore directly descendent from people who were murdered in gas chambers during the Holocaust and my husband’s family feels very keenly the impact of the holocaust.”

As a Jewish person myself, I completely disagree with her evaluation of Lineker’s Tweet. If anything, Lineker’s words are a sobering account of what led to the Holocaust, unjust and inhumane language written down in laws that targeted people who the German state felt were not worthy of any rights just like this UK Illegal Migrant Bill.

Looking at Lineker’s tweet the 1930s language aspect is quite relevant to one of the strongly contested aspects of the Bill when migrants are held in detention.

The Bill states: “In relation to detention during the relevant period, the decision is final and is not liable to be questioned or set aside in any court.”

According to Richard D. Heideman in his report, Legalizing Hate: The Significance of the Nuremberg Laws and The Post-War Nuremberg Trials he states that under the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany in the 1930s: “Persons were arrested by the SS for political reasons and detained in prisons and concentration camps; and the judges were without power to intervene in any way.”

And as a Jewish person I am not alone, with condemnation towards the Bill coming from the Board of Deputies of British Jews who said: “Today’s British Jewish community is descended from refugees and/or migrants. We have significant concerns at the potential for newly proposed migration legislation to breach both the Refugee Convention and the Human Rights Act.”

As well as criticism towards the Bill coming from someone who would really know about what this sort of language of the 1930s led to, a Holocaust survivor.

In a recent piece written in The Mirror, 83-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, Joan Salter, wrote about the controversial Bill stating that Lineker was right in how he described the legislation.

Salter said: “But for the courage of the policeman who tipped off my mother, and her daring trek over the mountains into Spain with me as a baby on her back, I would not be here today. I commend Gary Lineker for speaking up.”

Salter was forced to flee Belgium in 1943 but was one of the lucky ones to be reunited with her parents again in Britain. With many of her family perishing in the Holocaust.

This piece was a follow up for Salter who originally confronted Braverman in person when she was visiting her constituency of Fareham in January. Telling the Home Secretary, the words that she had used the previous year against refugees like “swarms” and “invasion” reminded her of the language “used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.”

Braverman staunchly replied “I won’t apologise for the language that I have used to demonstrate the scale of the problem.”

I wonder why Braverman, as a strong supporter of Jewish rights and whose “husband’s family feels very keenly the impact of the Holocaust”, does not feel that she needs to apologise to a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust about clearly inciting hate speech against other human beings?

And why she does not find it “offensive” that the government is being held hostage on immigration by a xenophobic political party, Reform UK, that was started by Nigel Farage whose school friend claimed he used to sing the neo-Nazi song called “Gas them all” and with a young Farage being fond of his initials of his name being the same as the  British neo-Nazi party National Front?

Or why she equally does not find it “offensive”, as a self-proclaimed Philosemite, that far-right leaders in Europe have praised her Illegal Migration Bill?

Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party stated “Bravo” on social media and referring to her plans about denying asylum to illegal immigrants and sending them to what she refers to as a “safe country” Rwanda, the party posted on Facebook “When will we finally have it?”

The French far-right commentator, Éric Zemmour, who came fourth in the race to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2022, said on Twitter: “Congratulations to the British prime minister who, unlike Macron’s government, has chosen to protect his people against submersion by migrants.”

Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party, which is one of the junior coalition partners in Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, retweeted the line from the Bill “if you arrive illegally in the UK, you can’t claim asylum” describing the migration policy as “harsh, but fair.”

If there is one thing that all Jews can agree on, regardless if we are secular or orthodox, it is that emboldened white supremacists with a support base is a bad sign of things to come and it is something that we need to always be vigilant about.

So, when we as a united Jewish race say “Never again” we do not use these words lightly and what we mean is that anything that incites this type of hatred again is dangerous because we understand what it can lead to.

Suella Braverman’s Bill and the Tory parties’ actions in the past and present on these inhumane policies, that instigate a culture of condemnation, points to them clearly ignoring this fundamental point and refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

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