News came last night that UK Amber Rudd has stepped down from her role as Home Secretary. Rudd’s resignation follows public outrage at revelations that elders from the “Windrush generation” of Caribbeans who were invited to the UK to fill post-war labour shortages, have been the target of deportations. These deportations were formulated as part of a wider “hostile environment” government strategy that has been increasingly enforced via a regime of immigration checks, raids on shops and businesses, a violent immigration detention estate, and systematic removals and deportations.
Sajid Javid’s appointment this morning is no great hurrah for the diversity conversation in the country. Javid’s “deep concern” about the Windrush scandal is confusing, considering the harmful anti-immigrant rhetoric he has been spouting for the past few years. In December 2016 he said migrant communities needed to integrate, and backed proposals that migrants should swear an oath of allegiance to British values. In 2017 he called for an open debate on the “racial motivation” behind child grooming, and just last month he talked of plans to expand David Camerons’ scheme to teach Muslim women to speak English because of the numbers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Britain who speak “no English or hardly any”.
“Javid’s appointment attempts to deflect accusations of racism from a government that is institutionally racist”
Furthermore, Javid’s appointment as a man of colour of Pakistani descent is implemented as a safe-shield from the Tories; it screams “look, we can’t be racist –we’ve got a British-Pakistani in post”. This is a desperate stab at damage control, and it is embarrassing. Javid’s appointment attempts to deflect accusations of racism from a government that has been proven, yet again, to be institutionally racist in creating and rolling out racist policies.
Last week at the Home Affairs Select Committee, Rudd clearly stated that “we don’t have targets for removals”. The next day, the government announced it was scrapping removal targets despite the Home Secretary clearly articulating that no such targets existed. In a damning letter published by Guardian on April 29, it became overwhelmingly clear that Rudd had lied to both the committee and the wider British public. Within the letter, which is the second leak published by the Guardian on this topic, Rudd boasted of wanting to increase the numbers of deportations of “illegal immigrants” from the UK by 10%. She also writes: “The public more widely, need to know that our immigration system has ‘teeth’, and that if people do not comply on their own we will enforce their return”. This directly contradicts all of her public statements on this issue.
“Rudd said that she “inadvertently misled” MPs and others on the topic”
Rudd’s resignation letter was accepted within hours by the Prime Minister. In her resignation, Rudd said that she “inadvertently misled” MPs and others on the topic. In a brilliant and stunning example of inadvertent satire, Michael Gove tweeted that Rudd was a “huge asset, brave, principled, thoughtful, humane, considerate and always thinking of the impact of policy on the vulnerable”. Nothing says “thinking of the impact of policy on the vulnerable” like exacerbating racist public discourse and deporting elders.
Six years ago, in 2012, Theresa May (Home Secretary from 2010-2016) said “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants“. The next year, a van drove around areas of London with high proportions of black and minority ethnic residents, with a billboard that read “Here in the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”. Commenting at the time, the Institute of Race Relations stated that “the Conservatives have played their ‘race card’ early for the 2015 election […] with the divisive slogan ‘Go home or face arrest’”. Further examples of the hostile climate include: a large incarcerated population in detention centres, deaths in detention centres and during removals (such as the death of Jimmy Mubenga); the recently overturned forced collusion of schools with UKBA in sharing immigration data collected in the school census, and a rise in hate crime. For years, we knew that this climate would make life more inhospitable for people of colour, but many policy-makers have willfully failed to join the dots.
“Theresa May said she knew about the targets for deportation, but denies that Rudd “took the fall” for her”
“We should deport first and hear appeals later” was the official line of the Conservative Government, before it was ruled illegal for violating the European Convention on Human Rights. This was the working culture at the Home Office as May served as Home Secretary; this is the culture that Rudd inherited and galvanised in 2016. Today, Theresa May said she knew about the targets for deportation, but denies that Rudd “took the fall” for her, claiming that Rudd simply resigned because she gave incorrect information.
Critical race theorist and writer A. Sivanandan famously said that black and minority ethnic people in the United Kingdom wear our passports on our skin. The government are trying to present the Windrush deportations scandal as a discussion on legal migration and illegal migration: but it’s not, it’s a discussion on the environment and processes that has lead to this happening because nobody is illegal.
May, Rudd and Javid have proven that the UK is rotten to the core with colonial intent. They have proved, yet again, that they are so far from policy-making that at a basic level recognises the humanity of communities of colour. Progressive politics will never simply be about equal representation of people of colour, or women, or even women of colour. Sajid Javid’s appointment demonstrates that you can change the face but it’s the same white supremacist system and it’s time to dismantle it.