The entire left must stand united in its condemnation of the Windrush scandal, and demand the immediate resignation of Amber Rudd.
With every passing day, more and more is revealed about this Tory government’s cruel treatment of the Windrush generation. In typical Tory fashion, both Theresa May and Amber Rudd have attempted to deny or feign ignorance of the details of their policies – until evidence of their knowledge forces them to admit it.
When the news first broke that Windrush generation immigrants and their children - who have lived here for decades, were being deported, and that in addition, because of lack of documentation, were also being denied employment, housing and even healthcare, both May and Rudd denied that there was any deliberate policy being enacted. But that lie soon began to unravel.
It was soon revealed that the Home Office under Theresa May in 2010 destroyed arrival documentation of Windrush immigrants; that in trying to apply for documentation people were told they had to produce four pieces of evidence of their residency in the UK for every year they had been here; that in 2014 Theresa May as Home Secretary pushed through the Immigration Act with the clear intention of creating a “hostile environment” for immigrants; that at the time Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott clearly raised concerns that exactly what has transpired would happen and voted against the Act; and now that the Home Office had national and regional “removal” targets which Amber Rudd denied any knowledge of just yesterday.
The truth is that campaigners have been raising this issue for years.
The government has spent millions on charter flights to facilitate deportations of immigrants and on detention centres like Yarlswood. When Theresa May sent vans around telling immigrants to “go home”, when the NHS and schools were instructed to start checking and recording the immigration status and documents of patients and students, when Amber Rudd proposed at the Tory Party Conference in 2016, that businesses would have to publish a register of staff employed that were immigrants, the intention was very clearly to make immigrants unwelcome in Britain.
These policies are all part and parcel of the government’s wider policy to reduce net migration and the attached false rhetoric that immigrants are a burden on the economy. Since 2010 the government have been pushing the narrative that immigrants are to blame for public services being overstretched, for benefit fraud that meant “welfare reform” was necessary, and for the suppression of wages.
This is nothing new. The reality is that the environment the Tories have created, and the policies they are enforcing made it inevitable that elderly immigrants from the Windrush generation became “soft targets” that could be preyed on and deported so that the government could be seen as reducing immigration. But we should remember that although the Windrush generation have become 'national treasures' in the cultural imagination of most Britons, which is partly why these revelations have caused outrage, these policies apply to all non-EU immigrants. Immigrants, international students and asylum seekers, now have to meet unreasonable and extremely dificult requirements in order to come to the UK or maintain their status, and are threatened with detention and deportation for the smallest of infringements.
The Home Office has also engaged in nefarious tactics to target immigrants. In July 2016, the Home Office teamed up with Byron Hamburgers to set up an immigration trap for its workers by inviting them to a fake training meeting where Border agents were waiting for them.
The language used by David Cameron and Theresa May to justify ending search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea and letting refugees drown, as well as building a wall in Calais to stop the “swarm” of migrants entering the UK, have all helped to foster xenophobia and racism in Britain. This has also bolstered the far-right and increased hate crimes against ethnic minorities and Muslims.
The counter-terrorism and surveillance apparatus of the state also plays a big role in this scandal. The powers given to the police and border agents to stop and search, detain and interrogate people without evidence or “reasonable suspicion” under counter-terrorism legislation, the requirement of public sector workers and civil servants to report people under Prevent and the government’s enhanced powers to infringe people’s privacy as part of the Investigatory Powers Act (aka the Snoopers Charter) have all contributed to the scapgoating of ethnic minorities and immigrants. The Islamophobic and racist rhetoric that comes with it has also provided the cover for an environment where immigrants are constantly treated with suspicion.
While Amber Rudd might not have been the original architect of the policies, Theresa May introduced them during her time as Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has certainly carried them on and extended their reach. Not unlike Priti Patel, Rudd has lied with each new revelation about the scandal. And just like Priti Patel, Amber Rudd has to go.
There are no two ways about it, the entire left should be echoing Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott’s call for Amber Rudd to resign. The anti-racist and anti-austerity movements have to mobilise behind the demands that she must resign or be sacked and that the Immgration Act be scrapped with immediate effect. This is the next step in bringing down Theresa May’s racist and shambolic government, and we must take it now.
Stand Up to Racism have called, March for Windrush - Justice for Commonwealth Citizens
12pm - Saturday 5 May - Downing Street - London.
Details can be found on Facebook.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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