So it appears that the Tories might be about to blow the immigration dog-whistle again. If true, an article I read today over on Liberal Conspiracy regarding a day of action in France called ‘a day without immigrants’ has special poignancy. The campaign encouraged:
anyone who is an immigrant, of immigrant origin, or who feels solidarity with immigrants and wanted to contest their treatment to take these three simple measures [to stay at home, protest and spend nothing] for just one day.
I would love to see something similar happen in the UK. During recent teaching practice, I was lucky enough to meet a number of people from other countries. I realised that, while there is nothing universal about people’s reasons for being here – an au pair on a short visit from Eastern Europe to practise her English before returning to university has little obvious in common with someone unable to return home – they often have a shared experience in how they have been treated since they arrived.
Sadly, for our image of ourselves as a nation committed to upholding standards of justice and fair-play, these notions don’t seem to be universally extended to immigrants. Instead we detain them in terrible conditions, ensure that this frosty welcome is also extended to children and then have the gall to attack them for living a cushy life (search the Mail website, I haven’t the heart to link to them). It is little surprise that some are driven to desperate measures.
So maybe the Tory call to arms over the issue is a good thing. If they want to fight on this ground for yet another time, I say let them. After all, coalitions of determined, caring people have been beating anti-immigration campaigns with fascist overtones on the streets of Britain since the 1930s. There is a case to be made here as in France, of the benefits that recent and historic immigrants have made to our society – maybe a day without immigrants is the best way of showing that. And if you believe, as I do, that immigration can be of benefit, make sure you are au fait with all the issues and ready to join in with the scrap.