MRN's new Director, Fizza Qureshi, welcomes the New Year and the major challenges it brings. The picture may look bleak, but that's no reason for pessimism. It's a spur to building alliances and campaigning harder for a rights-based approach to migration.
It is a great honour and privilege to be taking the helm of MRN, following in the footsteps of Don Flynn and working with an incredibly passionate team. Although I wish it were during better times and not with the current focus on immigration being the hot political potato again.
This climate reminded me of a song I recently heard, The Temptations "Ball of Confusion":
Obligation to our nation
Ball of confusion
Oh, yeah, that's what the world is today"
The world is in a ball of confusion; fake news, a post-fact world, along with knee-jerk reactions and emotions whilst those fleeing horrendous circumstances are being ignored, unless it feeds into a greater agenda. So, how can we overcome the aggravation, humiliation, segregation and start to make sense of things?
Over the coming year below are some of the key issues that we at MRN will be focusing on.
Will Brexit mean Brexit?
Top of the agenda this year will be Brexit with the initial hurdle being the decision of the courts and then the triggering of Article 50. Although, this will partly depend on the number of cases taken against the government's unilateral decision-making process. While the UK organises its separation and divorce from the EU, there will be little reassurance to the 3 million EU citizens waiting anxiously on what deals will be made to secure their position in the UK.
It would serve the UK government well, if it begins to understand the ridiculous nature of leaving so many people in limbo, and forcing them to undertake the prolonged, and sometimes unsuccessful residency application. While some EU citizens wait patiently for a decision on their rights, some will continue to be subjected to administrative removal, a piece of legislation we need to campaign hard against. MRN and others will be waiting with baited breath for the decision of the judicial review.
Brexit will coincide with the discussion of devolved powers across the UK. Mayoral elections for Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Midlands and others will be beginning this process. While immigration will not be under their powers, it will be an issue that is brought to the fore during the campaigns, as they court the voters. But some are already recognising the importance and necessity of migration, for cities and towns to flourish and prosper. What we must ensure is that they recognise the migrant contribution beyond economics, and support migration as a fact of life
MRN will re-energise its efforts in the regions, and will be launching a new project working across migrant and non-migrant communities in four areas of the UK to help develop local issues into cohesive and sustainable campaigns.
Never-ending Hostile Environment
With attention diverted towards Brexit, campaigners will need to keep their eyes on the immigration policies in place. The hostile environment, so cunningly created, is and will pervade, forcing everyday folk to unknowingly become Border Force officials.
What can we do to reverse the tide of these acts on our communities? One way would be to monitor how these acts and their application discriminate against migrant and BME communities, and react when they begin to creep into other arenas. Schools and colleges recently, became the latest front to tackle irregular immigration, but campaigns such as Schools ABC, have shown that collective pressure, can compel the government to backtrack.
MRN will continue to support such campaigns, whilst monitoring the impact of these policies, and the politics of division they sow. We will be monitoring racist and xenophobic hate crime through a new reporting tool, iStreetWatch. We hope that you will join us in sharing this tool, so it reaches those who will benefit from it.
The refugee crisis brought diverse allies to the fore, with hundreds of ordinary people, who saw the death and despair of individuals abroad, and ended up supporting them wherever they landed, or were politically and/or literally abandoned. With few resolutions to the crisis, it is important these allies are also shown how the UK asylum and refugee policies are no better, creating hardship and difficulties for those that cross their folds.
Brexit and the latest Immigration Acts brought one positive – new and different stakeholders into the foray – whether it was intended or not. Recently, the tech and creative industries have expressed concerns about the implications of restricting freedom of movement, the lack of assurances for their EU colleagues, and the points based system that awaits them.
In early January, MRN, acting as the Secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, will launch an inquiry to seek views from these sectors, small and medium-sized enterprises, and the public sector on the effects of Brexit.
Where do we start?
The above issues may seem mammoth, but we can begin through our support for the One Day Without Us action on 20 February. MRN, as a supporting organisation, will be on the streets that day showing our support and solidarity, and we encourage you to do the same in whichever way you feel able. This can take the form of a simple selfie on the day, to an organised local event showing unity between migrants and non-migrants.
Beyond this, we need to consistently and confidently push the UK government towards a rights based approach by challenging restrictive immigration policies publicly through visible campaigns, and through the courts using the law against them. Let us also not fall into the usual traps of the ''good' and 'unworthy' migrants being segmented into worthy and unworthy migrants. If we focus on a rights based approach, then we need to stand up for the rights of all migrants regardless of how they got here. MRN will be looking forward to working with you on all these issues, and much more besides.
In solidarity, we wish you a peaceful, prosperous New Year, underpinned by a renewed commitment to human rights, and a determination to stand up for them. I look forward to hearing from you and campaigning alongside you on these issues that have an impact on all our lives – it is up to us to stop the hate.
Happy campaigning in 2017!