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Windrush

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Laura Pidcock Laura Pidcock Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour) 6:30 pm, 2nd May 2018

I want to start by mentioning the patronising way in which Anna Soubry—who is no longer in her place—spoke to me earlier about countering the far right in her youth. Countering the far right should not be something that people can consign to their youth; they should make a lifelong commitment to challenging and countering those deplorable racist views. It is quite a privilege for someone to be able to leave it behind in their youth.

There have been many brilliant and moving speeches here today about the Windrush generation. I want to address the question of the “hostile environment” more broadly. It is clear to anyone who has had any engagement with the Home Office that our immigration system is broken. It is a shambles and, in its present form, it has been constructed on a premise that is solely negative and suspicious of our fellow human beings. There has been a culture on the right and the far right and in the printed press that places immigrants and immigration at the heart of society’s ills. That is both futile and inaccurate. I represent a constituency that has one of the lowest levels of immigration in the country yet, you know what, we still have hospitals that are underfunded, schools that are under immense pressure and a woefully inadequate transport system. None of those ills was caused by migration.

Returning to the question of our broken immigration system, I want briefly to outline some of the things that I think are wrong. People engaging with the immigration system have to wait far too long for a response. Deadlines for processing applications are not being met. The fees are extortionate, and there is little or no help or immigration advice. It is a complicated process. Passports, birth certificates and other important documents are lost. None of this has been created in a vacuum. The asylum process is degrading, frustrating and punishing, and many vulnerable, brave people are treated without respect.

The system is built on a presumption that everyone who wants to come to this country is a cheat and a liar who must be found out, and that their intention must be to defraud the system and to steal. Charges, borders, barriers, searches, detention centres, medical inspections, dawn raids, “go home” vans, charter flight removals and “hostile environments” therefore seem necessary, but that is a flawed assumption based on a superiority complex. You might think, from the way some people talk in the press, that we have open borders, and we hear the perpetuation of the unfounded myth that migrants receive preferential treatment. Everything that has been said in this debate shows that that is absolutely untrue. Was I surprised to hear about the treatment of the Windrush generation? Absolutely not. It is not a shock at all. British citizens are regularly treated with contempt by this Government; it is nothing new. But now the mask has fallen, and we need some truth and honesty, starting with the publication of every single document relating to this fiasco, so that people can see and understand the scale of the problem.

We should not be shoved down the path of the good migrant versus bad migrant narrative. That language is wholly unnecessary, and it leads to two difficult endpoints, in which only the richest and most privileged people have freedom of movement, and the others who come here are often those who come in servitude to those people. What kind of society have we created, when those are the only two options? Where is the humanity in our immigration system? We must find it, develop it, nurture it and place it at the centre of whatever is built next. Pathologising human movement as though it were an affliction is not a route to a healthy society or a peaceful world. We can do so much better than this.