Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:21 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment) 8:21 pm, 30th January 2017

It is an honour to follow Mark Durkan. I pay tribute to Edward Miliband and Nadhim Zahawi for securing this debate.

As we stand here this evening, we should remember that, across the country, our fellow citizens have been protesting President Trump’s decisions. It would be remiss of the Government not to take note of the strength of feeling on this issue or of the petition, which now has around 1.5 million signatures.

We heard moans and groans from some Government Members when it has been mentioned that the Executive order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when millions join together to remember the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, disabled and others killed by the barbaric Nazi regime. The Foreign Secretary said earlier that to refer to the events of the 1930s and ’40s in this context was to “trivialise” that tragic period of world history. Well, here is what the Anti-Defamation League, which was set up

“to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” said of Trump’s actions this weekend:

“More than most, our community knows what happens when the doors to freedom are shut.”

The holocaust did not begin with mass murder; it began with the demonisation of communities based on their religion and beliefs. It began with “othering” minorities, and it began with institutionalising racism in the laws of the land. To ignore those facts would be a real insult to those who strive so hard today to uphold the values of inclusion, tolerance and freedom in the face of oppression.

Imagine how it feels to be a Muslim on this day, anywhere in the world. Imagine how it feels to be a young Muslim, a Muslim child, in these days, looking at the television wondering about the President, “Is he speaking about me?” Yes, he is. It would give such people great comfort to hear so many of the wonderful speeches that we have heard from both sides of the Chamber today, and I pay tribute to Naz Shah, who is now in her seat, for her personal perspective of Islamophobia and hijabs. I am pleased to have secured an Adjournment debate this week on World Hijab Day, which should be celebrated, and on the right of women to wear or not to wear a hijab as they please, without fear or favour. In any event, women should be able to wear what they want, regardless. That is how it should be.

I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, who said that he would welcome President Trump as soon as possible and that he hopes for a change in President Trump’s stance. I appreciate those sentiments, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that we had a debate in Westminster hall when Mr Trump was a Republican candidate. At that time, many well-wishing Members on both sides of the House suggested that it would be all right and that he would change his ways: “Let’s get him to the United Kingdom, take him for a curry and take him to the mosques, and his attitude will change.” I fear that I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s sense of optimism.

The Government have an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership. Remember that we are speaking up for what is right. It is President Trump who is wrong, so what are we afraid of? What is the point in any of this if we cannot use this platform to say what we believe is the right thing to do? And standing up against what he has done is the right thing to do.

Scotland has taken in more than 1,200 Syrian refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme, and that is more than a third of the total number taken in by the whole United Kingdom. The response by Scottish national and local government and by our third sector to the refugee crisis has been exemplary. In my constituency, Syrian refugees have been involved in Burns suppers and have attended local football matches. That is what this country should be about.

We should compare the Prime Minister’s lack of immediate reaction with the reaction of Angela Merkel or Justin Trudeau, or with the strong statements by the First Minister of Scotland. As I have said, the Prime Minister has failed the important first challenge that she faced.

Over and above all of that, the Executive order does not make the US or the UK any safer; quite the opposite. To quote John Kerry’s remarks prior to the ban, when Trump announced his policy in 2015:

“It exhibits an attitude by one American who is running for the highest office of our land about a willingness to discriminate against a religion…
It says to those in Islam who are trying to exploit people and recruit foreign fighters and otherwise, it says look, look at America. Here they’ve got a guy running for president who is waging war against Islam.”

Of course, President Trump’s words have been picked up by the leader of Daesh, who quite disgustingly is referring to this as a “blessed ban”. How appalling.

That is why the Government need to answer the questions from earlier today. What are the national security implications for the UK of this Executive order? Does it make us safer or, as so many experts have stated, does it make us more likely to be at the other end of terrorists whose ideas will be bolstered by Donald Trump’s remarks?

Lastly, I am hugely concerned about the impact of the order on the work of international organisations like the UN and the work to uphold international treaties like the Geneva convention. As Chancellor Merkel said:

“The…refugee convention requires the international community to take in…refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obliged to do so. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday.”

What action have the Government taken to uphold these vital international treaties?

President Trump’s actions are inhumane, racist and immoral, and let us tell him that they are. I welcome the fact that the House is now treating the threat posed by him with seriousness, which is what it deserves, but without leadership from this Government in standing up to these despicable policies, I fear that we may have some very deep and dark times ahead of us. I hope that the Minister will attempt to change my mind.