MacAskill: Immigration is a growing challenge, but we must stand with refugees and ignore Braverman

Last week when Suella Braverman was making a disgraceful speech to an American right-wing thinktank, I was attending the Premiere of Ken Loach’s latest movie “The Old Oak. Both focused on immigration and touched upon multiculturalism. The contrast though between the two was marked.

Suella Braverman’s the latest iteration of tough talking Tory Home Secretaries. Theresa May seemed the nadir only to be supplanted by Priti Patel. And just when you thought the bar couldn’t go any lower along comes Braverman. Not for her just a “hostile environment” for immigrants, but the ending of internationally agreed standards.

We’re told multiculturalism has failed, but if that ‘s the case what does it say about the UK where the great offices of state PM, Foreign and Home Secretary posts are all filled by the offspring of immigrants. As Tony Blair pulled up the ladder for those seeking free education, she now seeks to do similar with immigration, along with peddling unjustified myths and even stocking resentment and fears.

Immigration is of course the issue of our time, and its challenges are only going to worsen. But as refugees flee war in Nagorno-Karabakh and environmental disasters befall other lands, asylum and room for refugees mustn’t be forgotten. It’s about humanity.

Of course, neither Braverman nor the UK are alone in their appalling views and actions. It’s not just Trump and the USA building a wall. Many who rightly berate Braverman often pine for the EU. But whilst free movement would apply to them with renewed EU membership it wouldn’t change fortress Europe for those feeling war and disaster. What’s happening in the Mediterranean is far worse than what’s occurring in the Channel, and the death toll testifies to that.

Ursula Von Der Leyen may neither as crass nor seem to revel in the notoriety like her UK counterpart, but her policies are as bad, if not worse. Outsourcing enforcement to despotic regimes in Libya, Tunisia or elsewhere doesn’t stop the responsibility resting with the European Commission. Nor wash the blood from their hands as thousands suffer in those lands or are pushed back to difficult fates, if not death. Nothing of course is as bad as Britain’s best buddies, Saudi Arabia, where it seems refugees seeking to enter from war torn Yemen have been brutally gunned down.

Which is why the movie is apposite. In a moving introduction to the movie, its Scottish writer and Loach’s ofttimes film partner Paul Laverty mentioned St Augustine’s comments on hope, for these are difficult and dark times for refugees. The Great Saint mentioned that hope had two daughters, anger and courage.

The movie shows the challenges in poor communities as refugees are placed there, never in wealthy suburbs. Those with little can resent others being provided with things, even when the latter have nothing. But as Paul said, “We should look up, not down.” It’s not second-hand clothes or bedding for refugees that’s the issue when there are calls to abolish inheritance tax simply further enriching the already wealthy.

It's why there should be angry at the plight of these poor and desperate people. Equally, courage is required to speak out against hatred and those who stoke it. As in the movie we need to stand with and for these people. We are one race, the human race.


(This article was first published in the Scotsman on 05/10/23)

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