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Crucibles of ignorance

Sunday, April 29, 2018

In Britain, a cold wind has swept up families ripping parents away from their children, husbands from wives, and brothers from sisters.

It picked up people who had eked out a living and survived institutionalised racism and whatever other challenges that were thrown at them and now it has ravaged their dignity at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

The rushing wind swept them to islands they had left as children, without lifelines. These are people of the “Windrush” generation in the UK for over six decades, who have paid their dues and are now terrorised by an immigration policy that was designed to have the exact effect.

It is part of a worldwide trend of anti-immigration populism that is the antithesis of civility, justice, and compassion.

Another brand named ICE—the acronym for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement targets illegal aliens who are “criminals, fugitives or recent arrivals.” Fair enough, but we see and hear directly from people who were taken as children to the US, who had no criminal records, and tried to become regularised. They were deported leaving their families behind.

One need not mention how the Dominican Republic residents of Haitian descent had suffered when the Dominican Republic Government stripped over 200,000 of them of their nationality.

Over to Israel, where thousands of African refugees, reportedly, can breathe a sigh of relief—more than likely a reprieve, for they should watch out for the second coming to get them out of the land of “God’s chosen people.”

Throughout Europe, the trumpet blares against immigration ushering in the calls for sovereignty and the preservation of national cultures.

There are several drivers of anti-immigration populism and policies: culture, economic, and political factors loom large. Every country is entitled to determine its destiny and decide who it wants as residents and citizens.

Religious fundamentalism, wars, sectarian violence and natural disasters have caused millions of refugees and asylum seekers to flee to Western countries. The growth of migrant populations, cultural fears including the religion of some of these populations, and global terrorism have caused a resurgence of xenophobia, a rise of fascist groups, and shifts in voter patterns toward conservative nationalism—protectionism.

According to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, “more than half (55 per cent) of the increase of the UK population between 1991 and 2016 was due to the direct contribution of net migration…

In the principal projection, the cumulative net inflow of post-2016 migrants accounts for over half (61 per cent) of total population growth until 2041. A further 16 per cent of projected population growth is attributable to the additional contribution of new migrants to natural change (ie births and deaths).”

Diversity is on the march everywhere. In the US, according to the 2017 population survey, US Census Bureau, “immigrants and their US-born children number approximately 86.4 million people or 27 per cent of the overall population with growth rates of the non-white populations averaging about 2.0 per cent yearly and the white population about 0.5 per cent. By 2044, more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group, and by 2060, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population is projected to be foreign-born.”

Given such statistics, possible shifts in voter patterns—political power—would drive immigration policies. Undoubtedly, policymakers recognise immigration as a valuable resource, but it is linked with the preservation of culture, economic, and national security challenges.

It is often argued that migrant populations are burdens on social security trust funds, which in some countries, eg UK and USA, could be depleted within three decades. Young and productive immigrants may very well be the answer to that problem, especially where there are ageing populations.

There are no easy answers when trying to balance these critical issues and commitments to the humane treatment and protection of people at times of displacement. Still, there may be less pain on all sides when there is respect for human dignity.

Fear, racism, and suspicion—crucibles of ignorance—manipulated by politicians to advance their agendas are significant factors driving inhumane anti-immigration policies, for nothing could justify the cruel treatment of the Windrush generation.


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