I finally wrote to my MP today on a few issues I’ve become increasingly worried about this past year. As I wrote in my last post, there is always something we can do in a fearful situation, and it’s better to focus on doing that than on worrying about the future or getting angry or regretful about things past. So today, this is what I felt I could do about the refugee crisis, the uncertainty hanging over my immigrant friends’ futures, and the way the media are stirring up hatred and division. Here is my letter: If you’re in the UK and want to write something similar to your own MP, you can do so easily at writetothem.com, all you need to know is your postcode and what you want to say 🙂
I’m writing as I’m extremely concerned about a number of issues connected with xenophobia in this country; I hope you will take action on each of these points.
Refugees – I’ve been horrified to hear about how the clearing of the Calais refugee camp has been handled, and by the government’s back peddling on its promise to accept unaccompanied children and ensure all reach a place of safety. There have been so many reports of people left on the streets of France, vulnerable to crime and exploitation and mistreated by the police, and this includes young people. Please urge the government to do more to ensure all unaccompanied under-18s are genuinely given sanctuary, as a bare minimum. Their country of origin shouldn’t be a block to them being brought into the country; if they are fleeing an unsafe situation and cannot return home at present, wherever that home is, they should be protected. And I would far, far rather we accidentally helped a few desperate young adults, than that we turned away genuine vulnerable older children ‘just in case’. The shrill cries of outrage of the papers do not speak for me, nor I believe for a majority of British people, so I hope you will allow voices of compassion to be heard in parliament and ensure people fleeing danger overseas are not subjected to further mistreatment here and in France.
Existing immigrants – I am also deeply concerned at how the rights of immigrants, particularly non-British EU citizens, are being used as a bargaining tool in the wake of the referendum. These people came to the UK under the understanding that they had a guaranteed right to live and work here. Many of my friends have been here many years, have married, bought homes, set up businesses or got permanent jobs here. Suddenly life seems very uncertain, as the rights they had been guaranteed on entry are being hinted at being revoked. It is deeply unfair to use people’s real lives as a bargaining tool in negotiations; if someone is already living here and has the right to remain here, this should remain the case as they will have planned their lives around this. I want you to ensure the government make it clear that the rights of existing immigrants already living in the UK will not be revoked retrospectively, as this would cause a huge amount of suffering. I would like this to be explicitly promised, as my immigrant friends are struggling with the uncertainty hanging over their futures. If uncertainty causes them to leave unnecessarily, it would be a great loss to the country and to the lives they have built here.
Media incitement – We have freedom of speech in this country, but also laws against hate crimes and incitement of hatred. Is there no similar law to temper freedom of the press with a requirement that the media do not incite hate? I’m extremely concerned by the amount of quite explicit hate-incitement I am seeing, particularly from the Sun and the Daily Mail, but also from other papers, directed predominantly against foreigners, but also against those who stand up for their rights, and against other minority groups such as the poor or LGBT people. The Mail even went so far this past week as to publish an article implying neo-nazi views justified Jo Cox’s murder. I believe in both press freedom and freedom of speech, but incitement of hatred must be policed, possibly more so from the media than from individuals, as it is so much more influential than the speech of an individual. It shouldn’t be acceptable for a paper like the Sun to repeatedly publish headlines that are both untrue and inciting, and then wait to see if they are caught, and weeks later have to publish a retraction, in small print, many pages in, by which time the damage to society is already done. I would like to see much greater press regulation, to protect genuine news coverage and stop papers turning public opinion so viciously against certain vulnerable groups.
I look forward to your response.