Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The UK is no country for ‘coloured’ immigrants

PUBLISHED: 00:01 26 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:09 26 April 2018

Protesters demonstrating in Whitehall against the outbreak of violence in Notting Hill Gate, June 1, 1959

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Britain has always been devious and unjust with immigrants whose lands were colonised, writes YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN

The Wikipedia definition of ‘perfidious Albion’ is ‘An Anglophobic pejorative phrase used within the context of international relations and diplomacy to refer to alleged acts of diplomatic sleights, duplicity, treachery and hence infidelity (with respect to perceived promises made to or alliances formed with other nation states) by monarchs or governments of the UK (or England) in their pursuit of self-interest’.

Spot on, except for the weasel words ‘Anglophobic’ and ‘alleged’. Romans who ruled these isles noted these duplicitous inclinations, so too other mainland Europeans, over the centuries of endless conflicts. But it is colonial nations who really know how the Brits avow fair play and play dirty.

Several serving politicians, including the slithery Michael Gove, continue that ignoble tradition. On Radio 4’s Today programme he breezily dismissed evidence of this government’s hard, inhumane, immigration policies: “Of all the countries in the EU, Britain is the country with the warmest attitude to migration from outside the EU. We’re the most immigration-friendly country in the EU.” You can imagine what kind of schoolboy Gove must have been. He dissembles as naturally as he breathes. Facts just get in the way.

The Windrush scandal has exposed other sons and daughters of Albion. Spectator editor Fraser Nelson and various right-wing journalists wondered in print how it could have happened. It happened partly because their publications have made immigrants into the enemies within. Theresa May created a ‘hostile environment’ ostensibly for illegal immigrants, but as a general menace for all those seen as outsiders. Under her watch, cruelty towards refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and even settlers has been normalised. She now stands up as the high priestess of integrity and pretends to care.

On Monday, Amber Rudd came over all virtuous too and feigned shock at the way the Caribbeans had been treated. Dennis Skinner once memorably said: “When posh boys are in trouble they sack the servants.” Posh girls blame the servants too. These were policies boasted about and pushed by May and Rudd. In a leaked letter to May, Rudd promised ruthless immigration policies and targets. The culture their agenda inspired has seen legally-settled people face the loss of their rights and status.

Add to this British hypocrisy. According to the Nursing Times, the government is currently trying to recruit Caribbean nurses because EU nurses are leaving. More shamefully still, Labour’s John Reid, Gordon Brown, Yvette Cooper, Stephen Kinnock and others joined the never-ending anti-immigrant frenzy in order to placate populists. Caribbean Britons are now offered much praise and special concessions – but all those others caught up in the pernicious system can go hang. Secret flights deport people without their cases being heard. Many suffer terribly in our out-sourced detention centres. Just four months ago, an Iraqi I know, was told by Home Office officials that the massive scars on his back were self-inflicted. He tried to kill himself and is recovering, but still terrified of that knock on the door. In 2017, of 1,844 Iraqis who applied for asylum only 388 were accepted. We devastated that country and took no responsibility.

Compare our refugee intake to some EU countries: Germany comes top with 3,945 per million of their population, Austria and Sweden are almost the same, Malta takes 1,770, Cyprus, 1,520 and the figure for the UK is 240. In Germany, immigrants are given support and sustenance, in the UK, they are made to suffer. They lose jobs, benefits, homes. Four in ten British citizens cannot bring over their foreign-born partners. Children are forced to live with one or other parent. People have been sent back to countries they left as babies. Family life is denied.

There are more American and Australian settlers here than there are Jamaicans and Kenyans respectively. They don’t get degraded, detained, deported or otherwise unduly tormented.

Britain has always been devious and unjust with us immigrants whose lands and forbears were colonised. When the Windrush landed, 11 Labour MPs wrote a letter to Clement Attlee, warning that they would “impair the harmony, strength and cohesion of our people… and cause discord”.

These migrants had fought for the country and were English in all but skin colour. This was 20 years before Enoch Powell’s incendiary speech. Churchill tried to strip non-white immigrants of their inherited British nationality while getting them over to rebuild the country. In 1958, black people were attacked in London and elsewhere by white nationalists and then blamed for the ‘discord’.

In 1972, when we exiled Ugandan Asians arrived in Britain, various politicians raised loud objections. So on and on.

After Brexit, Albion will become even more perfidious The Iraqi refugee is going back: “Better they kill me there than I live here where they think I am worse than a dog.” Gove, May, Rudd, you have achieved what you wanted. The UK is no country for ‘coloured’ incomers.

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