by RITA CHADHA
Much has been made of Sajid Javid being the first ethnic/black Home Secretary. Indeed, his appointment – aside from providing a symbolic U-turn from the Windrush cul-de-sac the government finds itself down – is hugely significant, as it provides a fresh canvas upon which to draw new, humane immigration policy.
In theory, at least, it could signal the start of a better understanding of the intersection of race and immigration. Even if it is not articulated by Javid himself, it may very well inspire the civil servants at the Home Office. ‘Institutionalised awareness’ is a great opportunity. However, this would also mean attributing Javid’s whole political career, his failures and successes, to his ‘race’.
If we do that, we expose ourselves to the very same criticism that many migrant and refugee groups levy against the use of the word ‘asylum seeker’. People are more than their physical and legal characteristic (and for the latter the term, ‘person seeking asylum’ is gaining popularity). MRN’s Reviews section, launched this week, shows that our choice of language is not just a symbolic intervention: it is a defining and somewhat constraining (in the context of immigration policy) artefact.
Javid would do well to look for insights in MRN’s own new five-year strategy. It is very much focused on the development of a progressive immigration policy, bolstered by processes rooted in care and solidarity, and manifested in practices that reiterate people’s humanity.
Agreed by the MRN board in May, the new priorities centre around three key areas:
(Today’s re-formatted newsletter is the start of us sharing our work in these areas, and invites you, the reader, to also contribute your experience and expertise – be it as a person with lived experience of the system, as an activist, a community organisation, a local public service provider, a legal advisor or an academic.)
In our current juncture, with a ‘post-Brexit’ new dawn promised around the corner, the development of a rights-aware immigration policy will be fundamental to our collective future, including economic and cultural prosperity.
Sajid Javid should be judged not by the colour of his skin, but by his ability to develop a humane and just immigration system. After all, you don’t have to put your hand in the fire to know it is hot…