The Migrants’ Rights Network is delighted to announce its Annual Migration Summit, taking place in London, Birmingham and Manchester at the end of November. MRN’s director discusses why it is important to move debates around migration beyond questions of economic contribution and legal procedures.
by FIZZA QURESHI
Is there scope to change the conversation on migration in the UK? As public debate and policies become increasingly hostile toward migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees), and as resources to support the vulnerable continue to shrink, the task for the sector appears daunting. Yet it is important not to be divided into the silos created by border regimes and austerity. We at MRN believe there are opportunities to strengthen a convergent position in the current debates around migration, while continuing to acknowledge the different facets (and challenges!) of the work we do as individual organisations and activists.
It is with this task in mind that we invite you to MRN’s Annual Migration Summit at the end of November. We have titled the summit Beyond the ‘Good Immigrant’ because it is important to think of migrants’ rights outside of a narrative where migrants ‘play by the rules and contribute’. Migrants are constantly being asked to prove their worth or their contribution to the UK. Yet this frame seems to do little to placate the anti-migration hordes, and plays into the hands of those that only see the worth of the ‘other’ through the lens of their economic value. We believe it is time to change the framework. We cannot and should not ignore that the fundamental rights of individuals and families should be forefront, regardless of their (legal, socio-economic) situation or place of origin. The time has come to start pushing for these rights, in addition to mitigating the consequences of restrictive immigration policies on the ground.
After a year’s hiatus, the MRN Migration Summit is back in a new format. First, the events will be open to the wider public, so that conversations in the migration sector can inform and benefit from those in other sectors. Second, the summit will take place in three UK cities: London, Birmingham and Manchester. For each event, inspiring activists, campaigners and thinkers will lead an evening of interactive discussions on the future of migrants’ rights in the UK.
Immigration is a human rights issue affecting a broad range of people and social groups. With every new immigration policy and enforcement rule, the government introduces heightened discrimination for diaspora and BAME communities in the UK. This calls for continuing collaboration between migrants’ rights campaigns, on the one hand, and equality and anti-racism activism on the other. Similarly, migrants’ rights to participate in economic life is an issue with far-ranging implications, from proliferating labour exploitation to the displacement of migrant businesses. In tackling these issues, migrant and affected communities can only benefit from strengthened collaboration to tackle collectively the root causes of precariousness, destitution and displacement.
In today’s landscape of hostility and austerity, a unified voice for migrants’ organisations may not be possible, but a common front against dehumanisation is more necessary than ever.