Sunday, 7 February 2010

Why do we obsess over borders? What about PEOPLE?


I have just caught a bit of The Politics Show where there is a panel including Phil Woolas the Minister of State for the UK Border Agency, debating asylum and immigration and it made me want to weep.

Some of the audience are having that effect on me but hearing a Labour MP trying to outdo the Tory is just so depressing. What hope have we got when the only two parties who can win in England (and thus the UK) are competing to see who can get to the far right the quickest?

I believe in nations. I believe in national identity and culture. Of course I do. I believe in having borders between countries in the same way I am quite happy for Glasgow to have its own council distinct from, say, East Renfrewshire. But I believe in all of that for positive reasons one of which is bringing democracy closer to the people. I don't believe in having separate borders as a way of forgetting our responsibility as global citizens.

I would love to hear this audience talking about the British Empire of old. What are their thoughts on the countries that we invaded, took over, milked dry and then left, not forgetting to throw a few crumbs their way? Was THAT movement of people okay?

Is it only okay if WE are moving between countries?

One thing Phil Woolas did point out (he said it proudly but I'm just using it to illustrate a point) was that the UK is 13th on the list of European countries in terms of intake of asylum seekers.

The feeling I got from much of the audience and the Labour and Tory MPs when they were talking about a new Borders Police Force amongst other measures was that they were giving no thought at all to the actual people involved.

I accept we have to have limits but seeing as we're 13th amongst European nations, I hardly think we're bursting at the seams. Phil Woolas ought to spend a little bit of time with some of the people I've met who've fled situations so horrific and so violent that your worst nightmare wouldn't come close! Perhaps then he'd have the guts to stand up and say that we OWE a duty of care to fellow human beings fleeing to the UK often from countries we've stuck our noses into in the past.

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