Mark Rodger’s recognition that refugees and other migrants have made an enormous contribution to the economic, cultural and social life of this country is a refreshing antidote to the post-Brexit upsurge in bigotry, violence and xenophobia that has blighted our nation in recent months.
Many of the businesses founded by Ugandan Asian refugees are now household names, employing thousands of British workers. Winston Churchill said of the Polish refugees who fled to Britain during the Second World War and fought alongside British troops that ‘Her Majesty’s government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops who have served them so valiantly and for all those who have fought under our command’ and their contribution to rebuilding their adopted country should never be underestimated.
Other refugee and migrant groups have also made significant contributions to the United Kingdom in such diverse fields as science and medicine (we wouldn’t have a functioning NHS without migrant doctors, nurses and support workers), music and sport (how many medals does Nigel Farage realistically think Britain would have won at the Rio Olympics without the contributions of Mo Farah and his fellow refugee, migrant and ethnic minority athletes).
However, I fear that Mr Rodger is naïve if he expects a Conservative government led by Theresa May to willingly increase the number of refugees allowed into this country. Theresa May’s administration has lurched further to the right than any British government in recent memory.
It should therefore come as no surprise that, despite her complete lack of success, our new Prime Minister was generally regarded as being the most anti-immigration Home Secretary for decades.
Not only was she criticised for sending Boarder Agency vans throughout London with the message ‘go home or face arrest’ on the side (an expensive and ineffective exercise that persuaded only 11 illegal immigrants to return home).
She was also accused of discriminating against British Citizens seeking to be reunited with their non-EU spouses and children by inflating their minimum earning requirements (which didn’t apply to EU citizens wanting to bring in their a non-EU spouses and children into the country).
However, Ms May’s actions as Home Secretary seemed merely a prelude to her decision as Prime Minister not to guarantee the right of permanent residency to EU citizens lawfully settled in the UK prior to the referendum. Even the most vociferous pro-Brexit politicians said there should be no question of deporting legally settled EU citizens and Ms May must be fully aware that there is an automatic legal right of permanent residency for any EU citizen who has lived here for five years and a moral obligation for those who came in good faith before the referendum.
I am aware that politicians are not always averse to bypassing the law and causing unnecessary suffering and anxiety for political advantage, but is our Prime Minister really prepared to forcibly deport over two million people, separating British born husbands from French born wives, tearing British born children from the arms of their German mothers, defying international law and turn Britain into a pariah state?
If she is not, please end this uncertainty now and make a clear statement that anyone who was legally settled in the UK before the referendum will be allowed to stay before more damage is done to reputation of a country that was once seen by the world as a beacon of justice and common decency.
De Cham Avenue
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