Is it not time to end the US and UK's murderous anti-migration policies?
If ever there was a time for both the United States and the United Kingdom to seriously rethink their border policies, that moment is surely now. We are at a critical juncture in world history, at which lives depend, like never before, on the ability of some of the world's most vulnerable people to be able to safely claim asylum; a legal right, guaranteed and enshrined under international law.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom often speak in grandiose terms on the world stage of international law, democracy and fairness.
Yet, when examining the current border policies of both nations, it is increasingly clear both Britain and the United States merely pay lip service to the notion of humane and fair border policies, while both these countries succumb to an increasingly pernicious form of nationalism rearing its head.
"We are at a critical juncture in world history, at which lives depend, like never before, on the ability of some of the world's most vulnerable people to be able to safely claim asylum"
Let us take a look at the United States. Most people would concede that under former President Donald Trump, several harsh policies were introduced targeting migrants, particularly the controversial Title 42 Public Health Order, which enables US border officials to turn away human beings who may very well have legitimate claims for asylum under the justification of the danger Covid-19 poses to the country.
Although the legality and logic of Title 42 have been thoroughly dismantled by countless legal experts, numerous times, it remains enforced under US President Joe Biden, despite pledges by his administration to remove such policies.
Moreover, this year, we saw the harrowing impact of Title 42's use, culminating in disturbing images of Black Haitians being rounded up by border force agents riding horses with whips, treating the migrants like cattle, most of whom, were subsequently deported back to Haiti.
All sorts of claims have emerged in the aftermath of the mass deportation of those who amassed at the US's southern Del Rio border, including the allegation that documents were forged to push through the deportations, and that some migrants were deported to places which they did not begin their journey from. Thousands have since been expelled from the border, including women and children.
More pointedly, more Haitians were deported in the first few months of Biden's presidency than Trump managed for the whole of 2020.
Further compounding these injustices is the fact that the messaging behind such policies is often delivered by politicians of immigrant backgrounds. It makes for a bitter pill to swallow.
For example, Kamala Harris, the US vice president who was in Guatemala in the summer during her first overseas trip since taking office, and tasked with taking control of the so-called 'migrant crisis', famously declared to potential migrants: "Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders. If you come to our border, you will be turned back."
Similarly, the United Kingdom has continued a crackdown on migration which many argue is less to do with fairly controlling the UK's border, and more to do with pandering to an increasingly hostile sentiment towards immigration that has swept the country.
British MPs recently voted for the Nationality and Borders Bill, which could well see migrants heading to the UK through the English Channel turned away at sea. It sounds like a horror movie, but it will likely become reality.
Those making their way from France to the UK via the route, which is the busiest shipping channel in the world, are often fleeing serious persecution, war and poverty back home. Undoubtedly, the UK has played a role in some of the very wars which are causing migrants to flee their homelands in the first place. This should mean that the UK has an additional responsibility to help migrants, not repel them.
Furthermore, if the bill does eventually become law, the government will have the power to revoke UK citizenship, without warning under the broadest of and most general of justifications, while essentially ensuring that the ability to appeal such a decision is next to impossible.
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The implications of this could affect millions, mostly people from an ethnic minority. A petition to halt the plans has amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures amid widespread public outcry.
It is worth remembering as well, that the parents of Home Secretary Priti Patel were themselves immigrants to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Under the current rules, they might not have been able to do so.
Thousands of migrants have died attempting to make the perilous journey to the UK. In parallel, thousands die attempting to reach the US border in the hope of claiming asylum. We will never know the real numbers. We will never know their human stories.
"Despite these points, the fact that both nations are slamming the door even tighter on potential asylum seekers is nothing short of a travesty in 2021"
Policies in both countries are creating these disasters, and will certainly not deter migrants from attempting to seek asylum. They will only make the process more dangerous and create more opportunities for people traffickers to exploit. Both the United Kingdom and the United States were built and are still run by the contributions of immigrant labour; both have histories steeped in the exploitation of colonialism.
Despite these points, the fact that both nations are slamming the door even tighter on potential asylum seekers is nothing short of a travesty in 2021. While this remains the reality, neither country has any right to lecture the world on human rights.
Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.
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