Monthly Archives: September 2013

Well, played Romania. Well played.

In January this year, the idea was floated to advertise in Romania and Bulgaria about how awful Britain  is to dissuade would-be immigrants. An approach not unlike the infamous Go Home Van. (by the way, who is dreaming up these mad schemes?) Anyway, one Romanian counter-campaign has just won an advertising award for its tongue-in-cheek adverts with the strapline “We may not like Britain, but you’ll love Romania.” Funny, but it also shows how offensive pretty much everyone else in the world finds this xenophobic rhetoric.

Well played, Romania. Well played.

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BBC Focus on Africa discussion about Fashion and Diversity

I spoke to BBC Focus on Africa programme about diversity on the runways. Please check out my article in the previous post and have a listen to the interview here.


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Racism on the Runways #LFW

Also by me. Please consider supporting the Media Diversity Campaign.

Media Diversified

by Kiri Kankhwende

Burberry Prorsum, Antionio Berardi, Osman – these are just a few of the designers showcasing their creations atLondon Fashion Weektoday but who will also find their names on another, less flattering list– of designers who consistently use one or no models of colour in their runway shows.

The London list of designers joins ones for Paris, New York and Milan compiled byBalance Diversity, a campaign for greater diversity on the runway spearheaded by Bethann Hardison, the former model agency owner, and supported by former supermodels Iman and Naomi Campbell, who told Channel 4 News: “I’m saying the act of not choosing models of colour is racist.”

A letter sent to the British Fashion Council and their international counterparts said: “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use of one or no models of…

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Language Matters: Doubling Down on Anti-immigrant Rhetoric

By me for Media Diversity UK. Follow the #AllwhiteTV campaign!

Media Diversified

by Kiri Kankhwende

The government’s contentiousGo Home” vanis off the streets for now, but Immigration Minister Mark Harper still saw fit to double down on his support for the initiative in aparliamentary debateon Wednesday after Pete Wishart SNP asked him to guarantee that “he will not bring these xenophobic “go home” hate vans to Scotland” – along with a request to “remove the unwanted, disgraceful“go home” materialsfrom the UKBA office in Glasgow.”

Citingfavourable public opinion,Mr Harper stated that “Asking people who have no right to be in the UK—who are here unlawfully, taking the mickey out of everyone else—to go home, as they should do, rather than forcing the taxpayer to spend up to £15,000 on arresting, detaining and enforcing their removal, is a very sensible thing to do, and I am not going to apologise for it.”

r-RACIST-VAN-large570The government’s…

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Uncovering nuance

I was packing my bags to come home to Malawi on holiday when news of Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll on immigration came out. Headlines: 6 in 10 people thought that immigration produced more disadvantages than advantages for the UK.

“Whatever people’s view of immigration itself, few think any recent government has had any real grasp of it, or that any of the parties does today. Most do not feel there is any strategy for dealing with the number of migrants, for their successful integration into British society, or for managing the effects on housing, infrastructure, jobs, the NHS, schools, or the benefits system.”

I sighed and got on my plane, thinking that we are getting the public reaction that Lynton Crosby’s false advertising on immigration has paid for. But now, looking back at the information, I see a lot to grasp hold of.

Besides public mistrust of politicians, the poll also revealed that most people hold complex views about migration, depending on what questions they are asked. The clusters at the extreme ends of the spectrum – staunchly pro or against immigration at all costs – are in the minority. It’s worth reading the analysis by  Sunder Katwala of British Future and his feedback from an event he spoke at addressing the research. The research also echoes the findings of Action Against Racism and Xenophobia, who polled public responses to the Home Office’s “Go Home” campaign and found that most people found it “unacceptable.” I find the results encouraging; the majority of people are capable of looking at individual issues and are open to discussion – but the public mistrust of statistics is a worry and a situation all too often exploited by those who seek to decry any figures they don’t like by simply declaring them “disputed”, even if they come from the neutral Migration Observatory at Oxford University, for example.

In his piece, Katwala links to another British Future article I had missed, from earlier in the year, about the thorny topic of integration, an issue I’ve expressed my concerns about in a previous post. While I have concerns about some of the coded language often used in discussions about “integration” and “assimilation”, the discussion needs to be had and the British Future research was interesting with regards to forging a “new deal” on migration:

“…there is potential for a broad social as well as political consensus which articulates hat our democracy needs to insist on for integration to work, but also on where the boundaries between the demands of common citizenship and the freedoms of personal choice should lie in a liberal and democratic society.”

I’m grateful though that the article acknowledges the muddled thinking on this issue – with the onus all too often on migrants alone:

“There is strong evidence that new Britons have a strong commitment to integration, though many people may not expect that to be the case. It can be difficult for migrant voices to be heard whenever the integration debate becomes framed as a question of “them and us” – especially ‘why can’t they be like us?’ – rather than the two-way street of how we work together to make the new “us” work.  To some extent, the research suggests that Britons would like to ask new Britons to be idealised versions of the selves that we would like to be: patriotic and aware of our history; committed to their families; hard-working and finding the time to volunteer too.  Linking the question of integration of new Britons with citizenship for new adults and the norms across our society could be helpful.”

So, how do we build the new “us”?

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I still don’t know. I’ve watched and listened as two polarised camps  – both staunchly pro-intervention and those against – have thrashed it out in the media, especially following the vote in parliament on the issue.

When it comes to the vote, David Cameron’s government showed its usual ineptitude and depending on who you talk to, Miliband showed his opportunism/leadership, but politics aside, I’m left with more questions than answers.

1. Why now? Chemical weapons are so awful that there are international prohibitions against using them. And yet, the thousands who have died by bullet and regular bombs – innocent men, women and children – matter too. I realise that the “red line” is a useful political marker in the sand but in the face of the wholesale slaughter of innocents in Syria in the last two years it seems arbitrary. Nick Clegg claimed furthermore that chemical weapons have been used on 14 occasions previously. So, the 14 times are regrettable but 15 is just not on?

2.  What will targeted strikes achieve? Assad is not above placing his weaponry in civilian areas, it’s not possible to strike without claiming more lives. How likely is it that military strikes will make the situation worse?

3. How can a diplomatic solution be sought while all talk is of the certainty of military strikes? In this sense, I’m glad for the UK parliament’s hesitation. I don’t know if it’s possible to do both at the same time. It appears, for the moment, that the battle is finely balanced and a negotiated diplomatic and political solution is the only one that will make Assad stop.

4. Is this about assuaging our consciences or about saving people? It seems like the West suddenly wants to be seen to be doing something when it’s still questionable how this will help ordinary civilians or stop Assad in his murderous tracks.

5. If Responsibility to Protect is a UN mechanism, how can a few states circumvent the UN to intervene on their own initiative? This means any state could do the same and international governance, such as it is, will continue to crumble if we don’t work within the framework.

6. How do we make the UN better? The US is right on one thing – the UN consistently fails, and it’s about time Russia and China were challenged on their continued obstruction. I sympathise with why the US wants to go around the UN, but this isn’t a permanent solution. I don’t think the US can afford to be world policeman. Nor can Russia and China continue to claim a place at the big boy table and sit on their hands.

I am glad that I don’t have to make the tough decisions and while I don’t agree with many of the parliamentarians, I’m glad for their caution. This is a grave decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And for those positively hysterical that UK is abdicating it’s place on the world stage – that may be so, but the UK can’t police every nation. Why Syria and not North Korea? Where do you draw the line? We have to make the UN work better. Secondly, those from the Tory camp who have mouths full of human rights when it comes to Syria but who champion the repeal of the Human Rights Act and withdrawal from European Convention on Human Rights – that’s a hypocrisy too.

But at the end I’m still left thinking of Syrians. No matter which way you cut it, they continue to suffer. How do we fix this?


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