It’s difficult to believe nearly three months have passed since I was elected to represent Streatham, the constituency I was born and raised in. It’s been a personal honour to represent my home and take on the role of Shadow Immigration Secretary.
Of course, both jobs have not been without their difficulties. We are better for the diverse society we live in but there are always those seeking to create hatred and division. After last month’s terror attack it was heartening to witness the bonds of solidarity that exist in our community along with our powerful refusal to be ruled by fear.
But five more years of Tory rule is devastating for communities like ours. Whether it’s deporting people who’ve been here since childhood, splitting up families, giving more money to the shady private companies running its hostile environment, or denying Windrush victims a just compensation settlement, this Government has been busy causing further pain and suffering.
Beyond the obvious and overwhelming human cost of these policies, recent immigration proposals are impractical and would only cause deeper damage to our public services. Since the Tory leadership hustings, Boris Johnson has been trailing around neglected industrial towns arguing that people should “speak in English”. But implementing these “standards” means adopting the kind of testing protocol which once led to native-English speaking Australian nurses being blocked from working in the NHS.
Research has repeatedly shown migrants are a net benefit to the economy, so the Tories’ new immigration system can only be an attempt to displace public attention away from the real economic issues facing working people in this country: stagnant wages, soaring living costs, and declining public services.
Since the General Election, the Home Office has lurched from crisis to crisis. It’s clear the logic that led to the Windrush Scandal still holds sway. The worst detention centres remain open, people who have lived most of their lives in the UK are still being deported, EU citizens are being treated abysmally and all the while, the Government continues to deny Windrush victims a just compensation settlement.
We must never forget the sacrifice of a generation of Windrush workers who rebuilt this country after the war, or how they and others like them have been mistreated under successive governments. Equally, we must never stop fighting for a fairer world and a migration system that puts values, not numbers at its heart.
This article first appeared as a column in the South London Press on Friday 6th March 2020.