Defend Free Movement
New Home Secretary Priti Patel has pledged that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, free movement of people will come to an end on the day after the UK is due to leave the European Union. This is a bombshell for EU citizens living in Britain.
There are more than 3 million such people living here. The previous plan outlined by Theresa May’s government was that there would be a transition period before EU nationals would be treated just like any other foreigner in Britain. Millions of EU citizens have made their lives here, married UK citizens, raised families and pursued successful and useful careers. All this is of no account.
EU citizens living in the UK see themselves being cynically used as bargaining chips by the Johnson government. One of those affected, Dr Christopher Schuringa explains, “It’s quite obviously a sign of panic...It’s the message that counts; ruthless xenophobia takes priority with this government over basic humanity or even practical sense.”
The previous plan was that, if they hadn’t taken out British citizenship, EU citizens could apply for ‘settled status’. This procedure, like anything else involving the Home office, takes time and is a massively bureaucratic process where you have to prove your identity over and over again and fill out oodles of paperwork.
Forewarned, one million EU citizens have applied for settled status, but more than two million have not done so. They are likely to be caught out by this surprise announcement. The government argues that EU living in Britain have till December 2020 to apply for ‘settled status’. Everyone is asking the same question: in the event of Brexit on October 31st how will migration officials distinguish between those entitled to remain when they return to the UK and those who are not?
The Home Office is distinguished by racism, xenophobia, and incompetence. We have recently heard the revelations about the Windrush scandal, where Caribbean migrants came to this country as children when their countries were still British colonies, and have been refused citizenship rights though they had lived and worked here all their lives. People were refused treatment for cancer, refused the right of return to their homes in Britain, were deported and not allowed to claim benefits in the UK for which they were entitled and had paid for decades. Home Office officials seemed to take a delight in ruining people’s lives, hiding behind a mask of anonymity. Is this all going to happen again?
After the Windrush scandal, further evidence of Home Office malice and incompetence emerged on the question of student English language tests. Some evidence of cheating in certain exam centres was unearthed by the BBC. The Home Office then proclaimed all those tested to be guilty - with no evidence. It cancelled tens of thousands of student visas and deporting a thousand overseas students. Many had spent huge sums of money for the ‘privilege’ of studying in the UK. Some were detained, lost their jobs and were made homeless. None of the students had the right to appeal.
Jeremy Corbyn has been scathing, calling the current plan “Windrush on steroids” and “utterly ludicrous”. He asks, “Does that mean that a European Union national living in this country – possibly as a doctor, a nurse, a trauma surgeon, all kinds of things – goes home to see their family in Germany or Czech Republic or wherever else, they are not allowed back into this country?”
Diane Abbot added, “There’s no possibility of two million registering between now and the 31st October, and then those EU nationals that were here but haven’t registered for settled status will be in the exact same position as the Windrush people, ...There will be people that came here perfectly legally but will not have the paperwork to prove that and will have all sorts of problems with employers and the NHS and so on.”
This sudden decision is an indication that this hard-right government is concerned above all to stigmatise hardworking migrants for the problems caused by this government and the capitalist system they defend. The LRC defends free movement. Migrants are not a ‘problem’. They are an asset to us all and their rights must be defended.
The Labour Campaign for Free Movement has called a demo
Freedom of movement is under immediate threat.
Join us for an emergency demonstration on 4 September, 5 PM outside the Home Office.
Stand up for migrants, stand up for your rights, stand up for free movement!