A Broken Immigration System

UCL has released a new study which shows that immigrants contribute more to British finances than is expended on them and are less likely to claim benefits or housing. Since 2000, it shows immigrants have contributed £25 billion to the British economy. So much for all the Tory/New Labour/UKIP hysteria. But unfortunately reality rarely intrudes on this fear-driven campaign. David MacIsaacs, a respected head teacher at a Scottish school, who is married to a British citizen, is being deported after living 10 years in this country. I myself nearly suffered a similar fate after living 8 years in this country and paying tens of thousands in taxes.

This debate is even more poisonous across the Atlantic, and it is poignantly highlighted in a new documentary “The Dream is Now” by Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim.  The film tells the story of those directly affected by the immigration system, especially the undocumented children of immigrants.

UKBA vs Education

Last year I had my unpleasant run in with the UKBA. Because my bank balance had fallen below the required minimum of £800 in the final months of my PhD, the UKBA refused to renew my visa and I was asked to leave. The grounds for rejecting my visa were that I couldn’t meet the UK’s ‘maintenance’ requirements, even though I had been in the country for over 7 years, paid taxes, and contributed to the economy in myriad other ways. More importantly, I had just been hired as a senior lecturer at a UK institution of higher learning, so my capacity to earn wasn’t in any doubt. In the end I had to appeal the decision, go through months of uncertainty, and finally have the decision over-turned only after a campaign in my support by leading academics and intellectuals. The Scotsman and BBC Scotland were also immensely helpful in publicising my case. I thought my case was outrageous enough; but now a couple of thousand others find themselves in a similar situation thanks to the UKBA’s decision to withdraw the London Metropolitan University’s license to sponsor foreign students. In the video below you can hear some of them. Worse, Professor John Tulloch, a respected UK academic, a 7/7 survivor, has also been stripped of his British passport because of an absurd technicality.

In pandering to the xenophobic right, the government is gambling with the future of British Higher Education. This is madness at a time when a collapsing economy could really benefit from the money that foreign students bring in. Earlier this year 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents had written to David Cameron, warning him against the strict immigration policies that were going to lead foreign students to go elsewhere, costing the British economy billions. Universities are feeling the strain and the government is trying to place the burden for the lost revenue on home students, who are now made to pay exorbitant fees for degrees. This usually means the diminution of choices for students as they come under pressure to chose profitable disciplines. Social sciences and humanities inevitably suffer. The collapse began under New Labour, when education funding was slashed and top-up fees were introduced. Academic performance became less important than economic viability; highly regarded institutions such as Middlesex University’s philosophy department were shut down because they were no longer seen as being profitable enough. Things are now much worse. Universities spend more time marketing to a dwindling pool of students, academics spend more time chasing grants, managers spend more time searching for superfluous academics to lay off. It’s dog-eat-dog. It is unclear how bad things will get before those in authority reconsider the wisdom of their current policy. Academics have certainly done nothing to engender such reappraisal. The unions are compromised and for now most are just busy fending for themselves.

Also worth reading are Craig Murrays immensely important observations on the LMU scandal.

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Punishment and Profits: Immigration Detention

Josh Rushing brings another episode of Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines.

The detention and deportation of immigrants has reached an all-time high under the Obama administration. Fault Lines investigates the business of immigrant detention and finds out how a few companies are shaping US immigration laws.

Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

Continue reading “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms”

Asylum Seekers often find Sorrow

Cartoon by Steve Bell

by Giovanna Fassetta Guariento

The images of a small, rickety boat full of asylum seekers being thrashed by the waves off the coast of Christmas Island are unforgettable. As remarked by a witness who watched in helpless desperation, it was like being in a horror movie, minus the relief experienced at the end when the lights come back on and the audience is allowed to return home. It was a nightmare without the awakening, a tragedy that should not have happened, not to those who perished — the children, the women, the men — or those who were forced to watch from nearby cliffs.

The dead now number 48, but many more have yet to be accounted for. They were Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish women, men and children who left everything behind in search of a better life. They fled from the destruction of war, from the festering wounds left by forced democracy, and from the unbearable struggle of making ends meet, towards what they imagined as a better future. Sadly, this tragedy is not the first, and will not be the last. It was however the most visible yet, because it happened before the eyes of the anguished locals on the shore, and millions more who saw the images in papers or on their television screens. Many similar tragedies happen every year less visibly though, in a hushed and subdued manner. No one knows exactly how many people perish on their way to the ‘Developed World’, but the number of people who are believed to have drowned in the past decade is in the thousands, and this only accounts for people lost while crossing the Mediterranean basin.

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The Invisibles: A Hidden Journey Across Mexico

Mexican actor/director Gael García Bernal and British director Marc Silver have recently collaborated with Amnesty International in a series of four short films, entitled “The Invisibles”. The films draw attention to the plight of Central American immigrants traveling across Mexico in order to reach the U.S.

Watch “The Invisibles” here, and read Amnesty’s full 2010 report entitled “Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico“.

Following is a brief excerpt from Amnesty’s website, which gives an idea of the situation currently faced by migrants:

Kidnappings of migrants, mainly for ransom, reached new heights in 2009, with the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reporting that nearly 10,000 were abducted over six months and almost half of interviewed victims saying that public officials were involved in their kidnapping.

An estimated six out of 10 migrant women and girls experience sexual violence, allegedly prompting some people smugglers to demand that women receive contraceptive injections ahead of the journey, to avoid them falling pregnant as a result of rape.

Continue reading “The Invisibles: A Hidden Journey Across Mexico”

Rocking the Boat: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence… In 2008, the federal and provincial governments were forced to issue apologies for the Komagata Maru. Now, two years later, if those words are to mean anything, we cannot afford to repeat history: let them stay.

by Fathima Cader

"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html
"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html

They’re at it again.

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence.

By then, however, it was too late: anti-Tamil and anti-refugee hysteria had spread like wildfire. Now, mere weeks after that most tepid of mea culpas from the CBSA, the hysteria greeting the Tamil MV Sun Sea passengers is worse. As with the Ocean Lady, these migrants will be detained in Maple Ridge jails before their refugee claims are considered. The Conservatives have begun to create new rules to treat refugees who arrive by boat differently from others. Meanwhile, Paul Fromm, the infamous neo-Nazi, has been receiving uncritical coverage in mainstream media with his demands that the migrants be sent back.

As the paranoia grows ever more heightened, it becomes increasingly important that we resist it. The universal rights of safety and mobility must be upheld, not only for the Sun Sea migrants, but for all people fleeing violence.

Continue reading “Rocking the Boat: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada”

The Carnival at Novara and Unmasking of a Racist Regime

by Huma Dar

The police, in the northern Italian town of Novara, fined a 26-year-old Tunisian woman for wearing a black niqab; she was going to a mosque for the Friday prayers.  According to the New York Times she was fined about $650 under a regulation introduced in January 2010.  Apparently, Novara — a bastion of the xenophobic Northern League — “bans clothing in public that prevents identification by the police.”

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The Madman of Freedom Square

I see no need to swear an oath in order for you to believe in the strangeness of this world.”

How can imagination respond to a situation like Iraq’s, in which truth is so blatantly stranger and more horrifying than the darkest fiction? Perhaps by simply recording real stories, then sometimes allowing reality to slip a little further in the direction it’s already chosen.

Hassan Blasim, film maker, refugee, and author of the astounding short-story collection “The Madman of Freedom Square,” has a more precise formulation:

The important thing is to observe at length, like someone contemplating committing suicide from a balcony. The other important thing is to have an imagination which is not melodramatic but malicious and extremely serious, and to have an ascetic spirit that is close to death.

Except this isn’t a formulation but a voice within a story. In another story there is a man who throws himself from a balcony – a man who clears blood and debris in the aftermath of explosions, then migrates to Holland, renames himself Carlos Fuentes, becomes a Hirsi Ali figure, more Dutch than the Dutch, and suffers nightmares. There’s a man who dreams a number which foretells not a lottery ticket but .. something else. I give away too much.

Continue reading “The Madman of Freedom Square”

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