By Rida Vaquas
A lot of us who have been eagerly anticipating Amber Rudd’s resignation are now justifiably joyous that it has come to pass. However, it’s vital that we don’t fall into the trap of exceptionalising anti-migrant politics to be the fault of one Home Secretary. It is a necessary consequence of decades of anti-migrant legislation, most recently the Immigration Act 2014, but some of which was pushed through by Labour governments themselves. We need to take this opportunity to expose the brutality that the ‘hostile environment’ necessitates.
The Windrush scandal, in which British citizens have been denied access to healthcare, education and have been deported, is not an aberration of current migration policy, it is the logical extension. The policy of the hostile environment is racialised, it affects those who appear to be migrants, regardless of their immigration status. The hostile requirement requires, at every turn, for people to prove their right to exist here. This has the sharpest impact on those unable to provide the documentary evidence, who are most likely to be working class. To put this into context, applying for a Biometric Residence Permit costs £1330, a fee which is retained even if the application is refused.
Every institution is transformed into a border guard under current immigration policy. Your employer, your landlord, your hospital and school all now wield the power to deny you basic services. This is the stark reality of borders: they are not merely external boundaries, but are enforced within our society at every level. Maintaining borders requires depriving human beings of their rights to education, healthcare, and housing, and these borders create twilight existences where these rights can be withdrawn at any moment. This is so much less than any of us deserve.
We have an opportunity here to capture the narrative on immigration, to dismantle the false dichotomies between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ migrants. We can’t let it go to waste. Let’s fight for the repeal of the Immigration Act 2014 and change the environment for all migrants.
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