THE news that the government is once more to deport several dozen people to Jamaica raises in a particularly sharp way the myths and misunderstandings, untruths and injustices which increasingly surround the subject of migration since it was imbued with such toxicity by the bourgeois Brexit brigade.
For raucous reactionaries — draped in the Union flag which a good part of the world regards as the butcher’s apron and which for uncounted millions signifies the empire over which the sun never set and the blood never dried — immigration is an issue which goes to the heart of their particular sense of identity.
Migration of peoples is built into the very DNA of empire. The drive for plunder and profit took millions of Britons — in this category we include Scots, Welsh and the subject Irish — to colonise a substantial part of the globe.
Some went as deportees, some as indentured labourers and some as willing colonisers or servants of the crown.
But all went as the human accompaniment to capital export. And by the logic of empire there was no impediment to subject peoples pitching up to these islands.
The movement of labour is always linked to the movement of capital. That is why we have British people of Somali and Yemeni extraction wherever coal was shipped to fuel the Royal Navy, why our NHS, our buses and Tube trains, hospitals and service industries are staffed by people of colour, why scarcely a road is built without Irish or Sikh labour. The list is as extensive as the empire was wide.
That is how the Bombay Parsee businessman Dadabhai Naoroji finished up as a university college professor and an MP in the 19th-century Parliament.
It is how Shapurji Saklatvala, another Parsee, was elected a Labour MP and then re-elected as a communist for Battersea.
Empire nostalgics need to understand that an imperial heritage means our nations are indissolubly linked to the now-liberated subject nations over which her majesty (of German immigrant stock) once exercised dominion, but which now are subject only to the dictates of capital.
The human dimension of this issue is that we have living side by side in these islands millions of people whose families are made up of some who were born here, some who migrated here and are in possession of the documents that demonstrate the “legitimacy” of their presence, and others who cannot find, or never had, such flimsy guarantees of family tranquility.
It never used to matter but, for a Tory government with a built-in racist mentality and the instincts of an exploiter class, family cohesion and natural justice are matters of no concern.
If there is any suspicion that racist attitudes to migration are the special property of the Brexit buffoons who crowded Parliament Square, a cursory examination of the European Union’s approach to the migration issue will dispel such illusions.
The EU and its Nato partnership is a substantial reason why the export of bombs and drone-guided missiles is the main driver for mass migration.
The EU paid for Turkey’s wall against Middle Eastern refugees and economic migrants, the EU bankrolls the jihadi goons who police Libya’s seas.
No human being is illegal. Britain has responsibilities that arise from its colonial role and from the human consequences of its foreign and war policies.
Brexit means our nation state is no longer bound by the free and often forced movement of labour that accompanies the EU’s free movement of capital.
Now is the time for Labour to press upon the government a non-racist migration policy that both serves our economic needs and meets our humanitarian obligations, but does not denude poorer nations of their skilled personnel.
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