Immigration & Xenophobia

Brexit is now imminent yet despite all the debate and argument over the past few years those who voted to leave are still accused of being, in the main, xenophobic Little Englanders who have doomed our country to decades in the economic wilderness.

So here is a post with a few thoughts about the whole subject of xenophobia.

My father served in the Royal Artillery during World War II.  He was posted to North East India and Burma. As well as rubbing shoulders with men and women from diverse backgrounds in the British Army he would sometimes sit and sketch the local Burmese tribespeople.

On return to the UK he found work in Wales, got married, and started renovating a ruined farmhouse.  He had no money so he and his wife set about building a home and family with what few resources they had.

North Wales estuary

He told me once that it took about 15 years for him to become accepted as an Englishman within the tight-knit North Wales community.  His gentle, unassuming manner and the fact that he created jobs for local men in his small landscaping business might have been factors in speeding up the process.

In the mid 1960s my parents befriended a Ugandan family who had moved to Wales.  Why this family had left Uganda to live in North Wales is unknown, though they were native Ugandans.  This was several years before the then president Idi Amin expelled all the South East Asians from the country in 1972 – a blatant act of racism if ever there was one, and yet many believe racism is a poison that exists exclusively in the minds of white people.

21st Century Britain

Fast forward fifty years or more to the present day and Britain is a country that has dismantled and handed back its Empire and colonies, established a Commonwealth that has helped former colonies to grow and prosper, and welcomed in millions if immigrants from all over the world to create a society that includes many diverse cultures.

Multicultural Britain

It’s a fact of life and history that many wrongs and injustices were committed in past centuries, and while some may argue that sovereign nations carry a collective karma for its past wrongs, Britain has faced up to its past.  History is there for all to read in history books. Any injustices that have come to light since, like the Windrush scandal, are not ignored and are rightly addressed.

For decades, Britain has sent billions in foreign aid to developing countries and hundreds of millions more has been sent by British taxpayers in the form of donations from their taxed income.  Much work has been done and today Britain is more tolerant and welcoming than it has ever been.  

The Slave Trade – The Whole Story

Slavery is arguably the worst of all crimes against humanity, since the suffering is endless.  It is prolonged torture during which all hope is crushed.

When people talk about the Slave Trade they usually mean the Atlantic Slave Trade as opposed to the Arab Slave Trade or any other.  It’s rarely mentioned but vital for historical accuracy that people are reminded that the Arab Slave Trade continued long after Abolition.

It’s also a fact that native tribes in various countries on the African continent captured people  from neighbouring tribes and sold them as slaves to the European and Arab traders.

The Atlantic Slave Trade

For example, for 200 years the kings of modern day Benin in West African captured men, women, and children from rival tribes and sold them to Portuguese, French and British merchants who shipped them to plantations in Brazil, Haiti, and the United States.

The legacy of this, the internal divisions between the tribes, exists to this day.  These tribal rivalries sometimes flair up into violence that is bewildering to those who know nothing of its origins.

African historians who have pointed out these facts have been shunned and castigated by those who wish to paint a very black and white picture of the Africans always being innocent.   It spoils the victimhood narrative and the case for reparations if people are reminded that the ancestors of modern Africans were complicit in this evil practice.

Nevertheless, in recent decades the President of Benin and modern day Ghanians have acknowledged and apologised for their ancestors’ role in the Slave Trade.

Immigration and Political Correctness

Most people agree that immigration has many advantages and is on balance a very good thing.  The debate is not whether or not there should be any immigration but rather how much of a good thing is sufficient each year, taking into account social cohesion and economic need.

However, even the phrase ‘controlled immigration’ is enough to raise the hackles of those who simply cannot bring themselves to have a mature and grown-up discussion about this subject, imagining that all attempts to do so are rooted in xenophobia. This sensitivity to the subject may at first seem simply annoying but ingrained political correctness has real and damaging consequences.

As more revelations come to light about the obscene treatment of young white girls in social care by gangs of predominantly Pakistani men in several towns in England during the 2000s, it’s clear now from the results of a recent enquiry that the police and the social services turned a blind eye to the suffering of these young girls due to so called cultural sensitivities and worries that it might be seen as racist to investigate the obvious.

Suppressing debate because one thinks that it’s too sensitive a subject leads to more racism and xenophobia, and ultimately more human suffering.  It is to the eternal shame of those in positions of power, those with a duty of care, deliberately ignored the suffering simply because they were worried about race relations.

Immigration into Europe

These gangs have been operating in over 20 towns and cities in the UK.  People, including Pakistanis themselves, who are aware of the misogyny in Pakistani culture can explain why this is an appalling example of what happens when immigration goes wrong.

The suppression of reports into the sexual assaults and rapes of German and Swedish women by migrant men during 2016-2018 not only denied justice to the women and girls but also lead to an increase in resentment of the immigrant community as a whole, which was exploited by the far right parties.

Immigration and Crime

Within every 100,000 people there are a small proportion that are likely to commit crimes.  Of course, there’s a spectrum of crimes from shoplifiting and pickpocketing to rape and murder, but whatever the crime it takes resources to investigate and prosecute offenders.

So, whether the 100,000 people are from Cornwall, Canada, Congo, or Croatia, a small percentage of them are likely to commit crimes.

If net migration into the UK each year is in the hundreds of thousands then, all the resources and infrastructures in society must increase and grow just to maintain the status quo.  If standards are to improve then the growth should outpace population increases. 

This includes not only the housing, doctors, dentists, hospital beds, utility supplies, school places etc, but also the required police and other emergency services, as well as the staff within the criminal justice system to prosecute additional criminals successfully, and the prison places for the convicted.

Obviously some immigrants will fulfill these roles, assuming the government of the day can afford the increase in budget to pay them, but there is an inevitable delay for these positions to be filled. Besides, not all immigrants are ‘economically active’ i.e. in work and paying taxes.

These resources have not grown in proportion to population growth and the results widely known; queues, waiting times, clogged roads, overcrowded trains, lack of housing etc but also the inability of the police to catch and convict all the criminals who have become increasingly violent, either because they emboldened by lack of policing or because they’re used to settling scores with knives, machetes, or even firearms.  

As evidenced by the gang violence in Malmo, Sweden, the violence can be due to the fact that rival gangs have arrived among all the other beneficial immigrants and continue their blood feuds in urban areas of European cities.

For The Love Of Humanity

Few people take pleasure in seeing others suffer.  Most people with an ounce of humanity in their hearts would like to see an end to human suffering.  Sometimes, politics is just arguing about how to achieve this goal.

Open borders and the free movement of people within the European Economic Area may seem like noble ideas but they are responsible, indirectly or directly, for the deaths through suffocation in lorries, the drownings in the Mediterranean, the gang rapes en route, and all the other human misery inflicted on travellers from Africa or Asia to Europe.

Many see Europe, and the UK in particular, as some kind of Shangri-Las and somehow, despite their supposedly impoverished state, manage to raise thousands to pay the people traffickers to deliver them to their destinations.

These are of course, the economic migrants and not the genuine seekers of asylum and war refugees.  Many war refugees seek shelter from the storm raging in their home countries and dream of returning one day. 

Roma woman homeless

Those who come to Britain illegally inevitably disappear into the grey economy.  They are open to exploitation by their employers and landlords, many of whom share the same language and culture.  Thus the phenomena known as ‘beds in sheds’ manifested London and nearby counties. Worse still, some end up as modern day slaves with no hope of escape due to their illegal status and lack of language skills.

Without sufficient resources within the police and immigration services these people are doomed to a living hell in cannabis factories, nail bars, barbers, and other shops and factories, hidden in plain sight.

Some argue that this is all the more reason to allow the free movement of people and to remove any requirement for anyone to request permission to live in the UK or anywhere else for that matter, but if the numbers arriving in the UK now illegally are anything to go by then immigration would quickly spiral out of control causing chaos.  

People travel thousands of miles to reach Europe and then cross several safe countries to reach the UK because it has a reputation worldwide of providing easy and quick access to benefits, housing, and health care at levels far in excess of other countries in Europe.

Where Xenophobia Ends

It’s now over 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and the remaining survivors of that hell on earth are now very few. 

Despite the lessons of history and the repeated warnings of these witnesses to the worst horrors and excesses that result from the dehumanising of others there have been other instances of mass torture, rape, and slaughter since World War II. 

Gas ovens at Auschwitze

Concentration camps like the one in Omarska during Balkan War of the 1990s contained Bosnian Muslims. Torture, starvation, and gang rape were commonplace.  There are ongoing horrors inflicted on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) and the Uyghur Muslims in China.

These and many other examples show that Jews, Muslims, Roma, homosexuals, the mentally or physically disabled, people who hold the ‘wrong’ political views, intellectuals, and anyone else regarded with suspicion because they are different can end up in a death camp.

The process of dehumanisation of ‘others’ begins with suspicion and can end in a pit or the chimney of an oven.

Antisemitism has been around for over 2,000 years. It’s never been fully exstinguished and has manifested again recently in the UK’s Labour party.

There has been evidence of Islamophobia among some Tory supporters too, but the essential difference between the two parties is the Labour party not only failed to act but seemed to endorsee members with ingrained antisemtic views. This is evidenced by the way in which Labour activists endorsed antisemtic conspiracy theories and used criticism of Israel as an excuse to verbally attack all and any Jews, Israeli or not.

Where do we go from here?

Britain needs to balance the needs of the economy with social cohesion.  We need to offer support and be ever vigilant against extremist views on both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum that lead to fear and suspicion of any ethnicity or religion.  

Taking all the above into account then, I think Britain should:

  1. Continue to offer refuge and support for genuine asylum seekers and war refugees, while deporting those who file fraudulent claims.
  2. Recruit additional police officers, immigration staff, and social workers with the goal of eradicating modern day slavery in Britain.
  3. Enforce a strict, points based immigration system whereby we continue to welcome immigrants who share the ambition to add to Britain’s prosperity and abide by its laws and mores.
  4. Give Britain the breathing space to absorb those recently arrived and assimilate them into society while deporting all foreign criminals.
  5. Engage in frank and open debates with representatives of all cultures and faiths, and without the restrictions of political correctness, to address any of the tensions and friction caused by the assimilation of diverse cultures.
  6. Ensure our education system contains mandatory tuition in the history of the Holocaust and other examples of mass extermination under totalitarian regimes which used the complicity of a willing population to inflict its horrors.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Primo Levi, Holocaust survivor and acclaimed writer
Railway line into Auschwitz