On the day of the planned deportation flight to Rwanda, Nabeela Akhtar makes a passionate case for people power
It is much too easy to feel disempowered by this government, while opposition parties wave flags and cultivate their base, but do little to actually oppose or to achieve change. Remember, it is people who make governments make change. They all work for us. It is not just at elections that we can hold them to account.
We can’t afford to be so disheartened or upset that we are paralysed into inaction, or become mere bystanders. That would not be in our interest, nor that of the refugees, nor of our society as a whole. We live in a defining moment. There have been many such moments in recent years. Will this be the one where we act? Where we stop the shameful terror that is the Rwanda policy and today’s refugee deportation flight? Or will we be like some we read about in history books who watched, cheered on or actively participated in unspeakable harm. We can’t rationalise inaction or cheerleading on grounds of fear, given that most of us are not in danger. The questions arise: who are we? Cheerleaders of violent abusers? Bystanders? People who fight for better? Part of a growing collective realising its power and using it to make our part of the world better?
A government hurting its people on so very many fronts relies on certain tools and techniques to divide them. It makes it easier to conquer and get away with abuse. Divisive, racist, anti-refugee and anti-immigration ideology targeting Black and Brown refugees is one key means of dividing and conquering. Racism has a function and purpose, which is to divide and disempower. There is little as effective as pointing a finger at someone else, especially when it is someone different from us in some way. It gives us a target for our resentment, it fuels an anger that can make us feel powerful and superior, mainly because they are a weak target. These are lies. We gained nothing from previous deportations in the past.. Ask yourself what you gained and what you lost. We were distracted and only lost more of our own rights and humanity with it. ‘At least it’s not us’ doesn’t work either, because we too suffer in all sorts of other ways and this only degrades us and lessens us further.
There is also nothing like channeling all this into fighting for better via focused action. This is when abusers, the corrupt and governments get scared. They know action directed at them, their failures and their cruelty threaten their power. Societies where people value and fight for each other, uniting and organising as collectives, taking action against injustice can achieve change. It feels good. We have little power as individuals, but we have some. We can all take some actions. When we come together in small numbers this grows, when we come together in big numbers, we are unstoppable.
We are the targets of myths around refugees as draining NHS resources, being the cause of long waiting lists, taking our jobs, drawing benefits and skipping the housing queue. In reality the vultures have been corporate – think of the PPE scandal,
The Rwanda plan and today’s deportation flight are the acts of a brutal, cruel government. One that divides us, with unjustified attacks on refugees as the reason we have less, as drains on our economy, as economic migrants, as potential rapists and worse. A government that has at the same time effectively decriminalised rape, no less, an arsonist government singling out refugees desperately seeking asylum from mortal danger. These arsonists tell us refugees are the fire-setters and when we believe this lie, they’ve succeeded in distracting is from all the things they are taking from us.
None of us are ever truly neutral, we make choices here, in what we don’t say and do, as well as what we say and do. The deportation of people who’ve been through all sorts of hell and danger to a place they don’t know, where they don’t speak the language, and where they will face more danger and maltreatment, possibly even torture, makes us complicit. The UN and other organisations keep telling us, and refugees keep telling us. We keep hearing about people dying because of the Hostile Environment and we must listen and act.
These deportations are amongst many attacks on refugees and racial minorities also evident in The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the Nationality and Borders Act. Our government is not allowing safe and legal entry, and is not allowing refugees to have their applications considered in the UK. It lies to us that this somehow helps victims by hurting human traffickers. This government does not care about human trafficking. If it did it wouldn’t be engaging in human trafficking of traumatised refugees to Rwanda. A previous attempt to deport refugees there by Israel was deemed unlawful. It was alleged to have included harassment and multiple other abuses of these traumatised humans.
Instead, our government is criminalising refugees in our name. Complicity is ultimately a betrayal of ourselves, our families, and our communities as well as those unfortunate enough to need refuge. This is the Hostile Environment. The maltreatment of refugees, is only part of the picture. Other victim groups include the socially disadvantaged, the disabled, sick, LGBTQIA+, victims and survivors of gender-based violence, and racial minorities including Travellers. There is a danger of being pawns in a game until we resist. We aren’t all being deported but the years of successfully losing sight of the struggle, unions being systematically weakened, communities divided and neglected, individuality over community and society has done much harm. If you’ve never been in the fight, it is past time to get in it.
Use your power and take action in this week of solidarity. Do whatever you can, share and encourage others to make a difference. Use the links below for ways to help they include quick, small actions we can all take. #StopTheFlight Get in the fight!
The views expressed are the personal opinions of the author
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