by Lesley Grahame, Green Party Norwich South candidate.
People who ‘get on their bikes’, as Conservative politicians advise, do so for many reasons — some life-threatening, some ‘merely’ economic. All but the wealthiest of them are among vulnerable groups that can become scapegoats when governments need to divert attention from their failures. Migrants should not be blamed for a country’s woes as they are people simply seeking a better life and do not deserve to be demonised.
However the anti-migrant rhetoric rarely addresses the colonial, environmental, and economic causes of migration. These include conflict, and also the aftermath of human rights abuses and absolute poverty. Britain claims a proud tradition of providing refuge in such cases. If human rights don’t apply to everyone, they don’t apply to anyone, and I’d challenge anyone to pledge never to leave the UK if we were sunk by say, rising sea levels or a fascist regime. However at times of major migration, there are always those who want to keep the stranger out.
However at times of major migration, there are always those who want to keep the stranger out.
Certain newspapers who opposed the settlement of Kindertransport are now stirring the same fears and divisions. Then, migration was caused by an ‘enemy’. Now amongst others, a large cause of migration in the Middle East is the ramifications of an illegal war started by George Bush and Tony Blair in 2003.
At other times the UK has famously sought migrant workers to fill low paying jobs. The problem here is employers paying low wages, not the people earning them. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and enforcing it, would reduce the abuse of migrants as cheap labour and the undercutting of wage levels for workers in towns and cities across the country.
Immigration is a diverse talking point to say the least. Green MP Caroline Lucas says: “I love migrants because they add so much to the richness of our culture, and they enable us to find out so much about other people’s lives, and yep, it’s about celebrating our diversity.” This is something that really resonates with me.
The Green Party’s highest priority is the creation of a just and ecological world order in which environmental devastation is repaired and needs can be met without recourse to migration. This is a fantastic end-goal to hold up as an ideal and will require much long-term co-operative work to achieve. How we get there though is the question at hand as the world remains a very unequal place. A first step on this journey would be not to discriminate against migrants based upon grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation. This includes any preference given to those with great personal resources or desirable skills. The Green Party also has concerns about the ‘fortress Europe’ idea that permeates the Schengen Convention and the restricting of movement of non-EU nationals with the EU zone.
The Green Party also has concerns about the ‘fortress Europe’ idea that permeates the Schengen Convention and the restricting of movement of non-EU nationals with the EU zone.
I believe that prospective migrants should not be held in detention for migration-related reasons, other than in the most exceptional circumstances. For example, if a prospective migrant poses a serious danger to public safety. It is important to treat people with dignity throughout the migration process and limiting their freedom when they are pursuing emancipation in some way is counter-intuitive.
Migration needs to be devoid of the current tabloid stigma and dealt with in a way that champions evidence rather than emotion. Britain is a wonderful place to live due in one part to the acceptance and welcoming found by an array of migrants who have travelled to the country over the years. These principles are something I champion as a Jewish Quaker and I want to help the Green Party continue its work on sensible immigration policies that improve people’s lives and better our society as an elected MP for Norwich South.
Lesley Grahame is currently a Green Party councillor for Thorpe Hamlet Ward on Norwich City Council. She was first elected in 2009, and re-elected in 2014. Lesley currently works as a Community Nurse and is a member of Unison and has for many years been involved in peace and social justice campaigns. Lesley is standing for the constituency of Norwich South.