If we must be selfish, at least let’s do it humanely

If we must be be selfish, at least lets do it humanely, writes James Marston (Picture: Steve Parson

If we must be be selfish, at least lets do it humanely, writes James Marston (Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire) - Credit: PA

Immigration is a subject I almost dare not touch with a barge pole.

Any critique of multi-culturalism can so quickly result in allegations of racism and the subject is so fraught with dangers that I am going to have to be careful with my words. Views are entrenched, emotions run high. Nonetheless immigration is a hot political topic and the debate, which perhaps we need again and again, is ongoing.

The Prime Minister and others recently marked the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, a ship carrying 500 or so Caribbean migrants recruited to help rebuild post-war Britain.

Theirs is a story of highs and of lows and is a story that, as people reflect with the benefit of hindsight, has been one of overall successful lives and positive experiences – at least it seems that way.

Indeed, the shocking Windrush scandal and the reaction of anger to it earlier this year goes to prove how much the contribution of those who came to the UK is valued and admired. Though concerns remain, the government responded by setting up a task force to address the problems faced by the Windrush generation in proving their right to remain in the UK.

In America, President Trump recently signed an order calling a halt to the policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

Both of these measures by both governments followed days of outrage from the public and politicians about the policies and rules in place.

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But it seems difficult to deny the obvious, that these policies and rules that have come under so much scrutiny, are and were implemented and aimed at reducing immigration brought about by politicians responding to voter concerns.

This might be difficult to stomach, but I cannot help thinking that it might be because of American and British voter concerns and fears about immigration that these policies are put into place in the first place.

It strikes me as no coincidence that the Windrush scandal has been brought about since a 'tightening up' of the rules in 2014. It strikes me that Brexit has been so closely linked to the immigration issue because of the freedom of movement across the EU has, rightly or wrongly, frightened and scared many.

It strikes me that the West is trying hard to hold on to its power, wealth and privilege. Let us not forgot that in Italy they are planning to deport half a million migrants currently living in squalid reception centres.

And as a result incidents such as the Windrush scandal, the treatment of families on the US-Mexico border, the conditions and crisis in Italy – these basic abuses of human dignity – will continue as long as the democratic west, for all its moralising on the global scene, continues to fear and resist the mass movement of people.

It was, of course, ever thus.

Fear of immigration or mass movement of people to where another population is already established is nothing new.

It's a recurring theme throughout human history.

Migration and immigration is recorded in the Bible, it is recorded in our own Anglo-Saxon chronicles, America was built on the arrival of the huddled masses, immigration is part of our modern recorded history as Windrush attests, it is part of every-day speech and discussion.

Perhaps that fear is what leads to these scandals, perhaps we are all a little bit to blame in wishing to preserve our comfortable lives and not share the world's resources.

If we are going to continue to control immigration then perhaps we and America need to look at our own history a little more.

Perhaps we in the West ought to practice what human rights we preach to ensure that migration is handled humanely and migrants are treated with a little bit more dignity.

After all, thanks to immigration, we are the richest and most powerful nations on earth and treating people with dignity we expect for ourselves really is the least we can do.

What do you think? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk