In European Parliament, my committee responsibilities comprise of all things human rights and migration. It is incredibly rewarding to work on issues that ring so close to home. It is often also intensely heart-rending. From borders to detention centres, ports to police stations, I have seen flagrant, illegal violations of both international law, and people’s human rights and basic dignity.
As a black, Muslim refugee, my experiences steer me towards fighting injustice on behalf of others, underlined by my belief above all else that immigrants make Britain great.
But some from immigrant backgrounds who occupy influential positions in the corridors of power are intent on heartlessly slamming the door shut in the faces of their fellow human beings, denying them opportunities, rendering many of them dispossessed and discarding them to endless cycles of destitution.
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The Conservative Party has shamelessly boasted of its frankly abhorrent intention to introduce an “Australian-style points-based system” for immigration. This is a future where people are granted entry according to the “value” they bring to our country. Not much luck then if you’re poor, or if you are a member of a minoritised, underprivileged community.
Let’s be clear, whether Boris Johnson said “colour” or “talent” in one of his many incoherent rambles, I believe the Tory party’s “good migrant” versus “bad migrant” blueprint for immigration is, in itself, racist. Numerous attempts to sanitise their plans through plastering Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, James Cleverly, Rishi Sunak or any other Conservative of Colour on our television screens does nothing to alter this reality.
Back from the 2017 scandal involving unsanctioned private meetings with Israeli officials under the leadership of the now-indicted Netanyahu, Patel promised to end the free movement of people once and for all. She vowed that “this daughter of immigrants needs no lectures from the North London metropolitan liberal elite.
The home secretary is one of a handful of high-profile Tories who seem to think their immigrant backgrounds are a flawless justification for pushing sinister policies that marginalise migrants.
They are self-serving black and brown faces in high places, happy to pander to the far-right through Trumpian laws and anti-immigration rhetoric. Just as they did during their banking and hedge-fund careers, they serve the special interests of the ruling class who offer them a seat at the table, and not the interests of the vilified communities to which they belong.
But this straight-talking, working-class, Somali Yorkshireman isn’t buying the act. The Australian immigration system is racist, and horrifyingly barbaric. Its offshore detention centres are cages in which their border enforcement officials imprison refugees and asylum seekers.
The deeply disturbing situation there is deemed a human rights emergency by Amnesty International. It is nothing to aspire towards; indeed it is a dehumanising system symptomatic of ecofascist, end-stage disaster-capitalism which humanity must unite in denouncing together.
If this is what lies ahead for us in the UK, then there is much to dread for immigrant communities, and those who believe in a fairer, more equal and collaborative society.
The Tories’ planned future of an entrenched social hierarchy established through irreversible, rampant inequality cannot be better encapsulated than through Rishi Sunak celebrating our non-existent meritocracy while standing in for the prime minister during the ITV election debate on 1 December – “I’m living, breathing proof that this is a welcoming, meritocratic and tolerant society,” he said.
He went on to speak of a future where a handful of immigrants are tolerated based on their financial worth and their willingness to gratefully use their talents according to the wishes and desires of their establishment overlords.
Talk of migrants needing to have reached a certain level to be able to justify their presence in our country by Johnson, Nigel Farage and their ilk has already fuelled the destructive and divisive fires of racism in society, as bravely articulated by Gary Neville following reports of racism at last weekend’s Manchester derby.
The notion of meritocracy is a con. Our unrepresentative, structurally racist institutions are cold, hard proof of the duplicitous veneer for a rigged system that rewards existing power and privilege and punishes difference and disadvantage.
If meritocracy bolsters the best – or allows certain “cornflakes to get to the top” as Johnson argued back in 2013 – then almost all our best must be entitled, white, rich, Etonian members of the ruling class. That is nonsense – plain and simple.
As an immigrant elected Member of European Parliament, I am where I am not because of meritocracy, but thanks to luck and the support of those of us who believe in a compassionate alternative to what the Tories stand for.
There are millions just like me who were not afforded opportunity through no fault of their own. They exist in every constituency and every community. Today, let’s transform our country in such a way that future generations are not held back by the same, or more cutthroat, discriminatory forces.
Daughters, sons, aunts, neighbours, friends of immigrants, and immigrants yourselves – people like me who are elected to represent you must say it loud and clear: our diversity, our openness and our solidarity is what makes Britain truly great. So take your pride and outrage to the ballot box, and let’s come together to kick the Conservative Party out of power.