Inside IndyRe2 – Scotland’s inclusive immigration perspective
By Norrie Hunter: Humans have moved around the globe for centuries either forced or planned for better life choices. Moving is fraught with risk, with the movement of family and possessions. It is not taken lightly.
So why are so many Scots now looking to move away from their homeland? Well here is where Brexit rears its ugly head leaving people with a choice of remaining in a narrow nationalist xenophobic Britain or digging out their Irish heritage to see if they are eligible for an Irish passport.
Increasingly there has been a rise across the UK in racial incidents not least when an Indian Surgeon working in the NHS asks his patent before surgery if she has any questions. Her response was to ask if a white surgeon could do the operation. ‘After giving my life, blood, sweat and tears to the NHS, do I have to put up with this? he said.
In Scotland we now have hate crimes where a hate incident is any incident that is not a criminal offence, but something which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice. A hate crime is any offence that has been committed when there has been aggravation based on prejudice of any of the 5 groups; race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability – all protected by law from such prejudice. ”You may have been attacked because someone thought you were a particular type of person, for example, of a particular race, even when you are not.”
This applies only in Scotland where we have our own unique legal system and where a country treasures those who have come to Scotland to settle down. The Scottish government have even put out statements to our ‘new Scots’ telling them they are welcome in Scotland and we value the contribution they make to our economy and our culture. Videos from “Scotland Is Now” on YouTube show how New Scots are describing the benefits of coming to Scotland. But – and it’s a big BUT – immigration is a reserved power in the hands of Boris Johnson. The very man who wrote in the Telegraph in August last year comparing veiled Muslim women to letterboxes and bank robbers. Any apology was cruelly overlooked when the Conservative Party cleared Boris Johnson of any wrongdoing. An Independent panel decided the former foreign secretary was “respectful and tolerant” and was entitled to use “satire” in his newspaper column.
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So, what does this mean in terms of Scotland; well we are at the mercy of Westminster despite having a very different view of immigration. This means that EU nationals currently living, loving and working in Scotland are at the mercy of a Tory Party despite any reassurances the Scottish government give to them. We have the sickening Dungavel immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire where pregnant women are detained even when Home Office guidance states there is “a clear presumption” that detention is not appropriate for vulnerable people.
“we are at the mercy of Westminster despite having a very different view of immigration. This means that EU nationals currently living, loving and working in Scotland are at the mercy of a Tory Party despite any reassurances the Scottish government give to them”
The brutal treatment of the Windrush generation and the hostile environment engineered by Theresa May when she made the Conservative party more right-wing to keep UKIP at bay have created a dangerous and unsafe place for our immigrant community. True to form the Tories make it very difficult for people to become British Citizens. The rules around British citizenship are complicated. If a child is born in the UK and if, at the time of birth, at least one of their parents has British citizenship or settled status, then the child automatically qualifies as a British citizen and can easily get a passport.
However, if the child is born in the UK to parents who don’t have British citizenship or settled status; born in the UK to a parent who gains British citizenship or settled status after their birth; or is stateless and has grown up in the UK, then that child doesn’t automatically qualify for British citizenship. These children do, however, have the legal right to British citizenship (a right enshrined in law by the Nationality Act of 1981). To get it, they must apply to register as British citizens—a process that now costs child applicants £973 ($1,377). Those who apply aged 18 or shortly after have to pay £1,282.
They could be denied their right to work, rent, and access health care and social support once they become adults, and wind up paying international fees to study at British universities. They’re even at risk of being removed from the UK and deported if they can’t prove they have a right to live in the country (many applicants struggle to get the right documents).
“It is probably the most unlawful, scandalous thing that the government is doing,” says Solange Valdez-Symonds, an immigration lawyer and founder of the charity the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC). This isn’t simply an immigration issue. Estimates suggest there are around 120,00 young people living in Britain without citizenship or secured status. Of these, approximately 65,000 were born in Britain.
So, no wonder people are leaving Britain and the loss will be great. Doctors engineers and our University staff will all be lost just because the UK Government wants Brexit done and dusted. But even our own people in Scotland are sickened by the state Britain is becoming and are looking out jobs as far away as New Zealand while those Scots married to a foreign national are choosing to live in Norway or Finland but we must take heart from stories like from the Syrian refugees who made it to Rothesay.
“But even our own people in Scotland are sickened by the state Britain is becoming and are looking out jobs as far away as New Zealand while those Scots married to a foreign national are choosing to live in Norway or Finland.”
Fadel Helmi fled Damascus after fighting broke out. He made it to Scotland a shattered man but was made welcome by the local people who gave him hope once again. Angela Callaghan was part of a reception committee “These people will become part of our community and will not have much time when they arrive to organise meals. I know what it’s like, and it’ll be no different for them, so we’ll all rally round,” she said.
If Scotland becomes independent, we can try and get, decency, dignity and fairness and make those like Fadel to settle here without persecution. Our hate laws help in this respect, but our people lead by Nicola Sturgeon who champions the need for immigration are key. We must, however, keep our heads up against this UK vendetta and maintain our support for those New Scots.
Norrie Hunter has an MA in Politics and International Relations – is a columnist for the SNP independence magazine and co-founder and presenter of indyliveradio.