Tag Archives: family

Prince Harry, Meghan, and the Immigration rules

I wrote this for the Independent. Right now, I’m at 26,000 shares and at least 500 Twitter interactions. I’m not usually able to do a hot take, so this was an exhilarating experience (and clearly my most successful article ever in terms of engagement)

I haven’t read the comments.


Update: as of 1 January 2017, 61k shares. Whoa.

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A city of contrasts

In the space of two days, I was reminded of how London is a city of contrasts.

At the weekend, I went to a house party to celebrate the christening of a little girl with mixed Trinidadian and Indian heritage. Her dad’s best friends (Filipino, Jamaican and Indian) were there, as were extended family from Guyana, Ireland, Chester and India. It was a Catholic christening although her mother’s faith is Hindu.

It was a beautiful melting pot that showed London, and Britain¬†at their best. I stood there and thought, politicians don’t know anything. All up and down the country, people are just getting on with life and loving. Of course, there are challenges, but the lived experience of the 21st century is much more complex, surprising and lovely than the newspapers would suggest.

On Tuesday, a friend of mine was subject to a verbal xenophobic attack. A tall, blonde, blue-eyed Finn, she was mistaken for a Pole after someone overhead her speaking in Finnish and was subsequently attacked. It’s not the first story I’ve heard from a friend. It seems that now especially, simply being perceived as foreign is enough. White, black, English speaking or not – to be noticeably different is intolerable for some.

So, this is where we are, London.

And now we wait to see if the Tories racially-charged campaign did the trick.


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Family Values

Two articles this past week that really moved me:

One. Family Misfortunes by Jamal Osman.

“Being an immigrant is like being the youngest child. You might be the weakest member in your newly adopted family, but you are often blamed for anything that goes wrong.”

OK, he may labour the analogy a little, but at one point he said something so simple and true:

“Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy living and working in the UK. Britain is now my home. But I get hurt and upset by the attitude of many here towards me and other immigrants.”

That’s it, in a nutshell.

Two. Slandering Britain’s Roma isn’t Courageous. It’s Racist by Gary Younge. As usual, not a wasted word, just blistering truth. Younge reminds me a lot of Ta’Nehisi Coates – here taking on the latest Zimmerman news.

After David Blunkett and Nick Clegg saw fit to stoke anti-Roma fears, while Jack Straw lamented Labour’s mistake (the only alleged mistake they ever seem sorry for) in letting in EU migrants from new accession countries, Nigel Farage applauded their bravery. As Younge points out:

“There is nothing courageous about slandering a group of impoverished, marginalised people. They’re too poor to sue and too isolated to effectively resist. There can be no comeback because they have no power, so where’s the courage? But there is everything racist about denigrating a group of people as though their shared ethnicity means shared values and implying collective responsibility for the actions of individuals in their community.”

Politicians speak from a bully pulpit. That’s their right, but too often they use their platform to spout alarming rhetoric, lies and dodgy statistics (or misinterpreted statistics). So much of what is being done in the name of the immigration crackdown is allegedly targeted at the undocumented, or those perceived to be less desirable. We’re encouraged to think in terms of the “settled” immigrant community and “others.” But the truth is, what affects the most vulnerable of us should be a matter of concern for all of us.

At a public meeting I went to a few months ago, a British Asian local councillor told a story about his son who came home one day complaining about the “crowds” of illegal immigrants in London. He welcomed the Go Home campaign, he said and he didn’t much care how they went about it. (there are allegations of racial profiling, since you ask). His father replied: ¬†“And what do you think the authorities see when they look at you? You are part of that crowd!”

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An Assumption of Criminality

“To me, it feels as if there is a presumption of criminality that I find offensive” – Richard Fabb

I was reading Richard Fabb’s article on Comment is Free about how the new spousal visa rules are effectively breaking up his family – and many others – when that phrase jumped out at me. It resonated. It sums up how it feels to rub up against the immigration system, whether as a tourist, a working migrant, a spouse or a student.

I was talking to my mum about my squeamishness at having to ask my friends to stand as guarantors for me for my application for citizenship. (to be fair, I hate asking for favours at the best of times. This just feels like the mother of all favours.) She laughed:

“Of course, it feels humiliating and embarrassing. That’s how they want you to feel. Don’t take it personally.”

It’s not just the UK. In this globalised world we live in, people are on the move, legally and illegally, on boats and planes and on foot. I’m not arguing for open borders, but when you start out with an assumption that everyone is a criminal, you continue to frame immigration (and emigration) as a problem from the outset, rather than a reality to be pragmatically managed. It also overlooks all the good that immigrants can and do bring, and the fact that yes, there is fraud, but you also can’t help falling in love with someone with the “wrong” passport or from a different country from you, a different race to you. It happens. Tearing apart families to target the few is just plain wrong but we keep doing this.

It’s the criminals, stupid. Target them, not us.

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