Alison’s contribution to the debate “Changes in US Immigration Policy”
Monday 30th January
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Will Quince), who made an excellent contribution. I, too, want to praise my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). Both of them do their families very proud. I know that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon spoke on behalf of all those in our country who have ever travelled abroad and felt that sinking feeling as they approached the immigration desk. It is not something we speak a lot about, but I know, sadly, that it is a common phenomenon. There will be people the hon. Gentleman will never meet, but who will feel comforted by the words he has said this evening. I want to make three brief points on Muslims in this country; on the importance of Syria and Iraq in the middle east; and on populism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) made a very moving intervention about Holocaust Memorial Day, and on the poignancy and horror of what we witnessed over the weekend. The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) said that her own contribution would matter very little, but I profoundly disagree. What I have observed over this weekend is an outpouring of distress and dismay from all quarters. Of course, British Muslims will feel this most keenly, but all of us in this country-whatever our background, whatever our faith, or of no faith-stand with them whether they are British Iraqis, British Syrians, British Somalians or British people who are descendants from the affected countries. I say this to our friends in America: we are Brits, all equal, and we will not be divided on the basis of our faith or wherever we have come from.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) also spoke very movingly earlier. If anyone is questioning, wondering or thinking about whether these events have an effect on Muslims in this country, I would encourage them to listen to the tone of this debate. It is incumbent on all of us, Muslim or not, to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and in the best traditions of my party, and show them our support.
That is particularly true for those who have been working recently on issues connected with Syria. When I heard about these events over the weekend, my first thought was for the brave and brilliant people whom I have had the honour to come to know as part of our campaign to protect human life in Syria. Many of them are Syrian nationals and would have good cause to want to travel to the United States in order to make representations on behalf of that humanitarian cause for vulnerable people in Syria. Where does this order now leave them?
I would like to ask the Minister for Europe and the Americas-I do not feel that the Foreign Secretary gave a very substantial answer to my earlier point-what representations the Foreign Office has made to the Americans about the need for those representing humanitarian causes to be allowed access to America. That applies whether they are Syrian nationals, Iraqi nationals or even US nationals who will now no doubt face equal trouble accessing places in Iraq, Syria and other areas affected by this ban. We should ask ourselves this simple question: does this Executive order help or hinder peace and security efforts in that troubled region? I think that the answer to that question is glaringly obvious and staring us in the face: it is a total disaster for peace and security in that region.
I understand that a gentleman who played a particular role in the referendum campaign has recently gone on the radio to say that this is just the cause of “loony lefties”. To those commentators who say, “Donald Trump is a perfectly fairly elected President of the United States who is entitled to do this”, I say that this issue will affect the security of each and every one of us, including some of the most vulnerable people on our planet, and it cannot stand.
Finally, on populism, the past year has been very difficult. I always believe that we should look to the future and think about what our values tell us about how to approach the modern world as it is, not as it once was, but unfortunately I feel that what we are witnessing in our world is an old, old story-that in times of economic trouble, there are always forces in our world, who I think of as the far right and the hard right, who want to turn up and tell ordinary working people in America, Europe or wherever and say, “No, your troubles and your wages failing to rise are not the fault of the economic system or Governments or companies or anyone else; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be Polish; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be Muslim; they are the fault of people who are just like you, but happen to be from another part of the world.”
That tendency and the susceptibility of people to want to believe an easy story when the truth is much more complicated is always exploited by the purveyors of hate. Those of us who stand against that cannot give in to populism. We cannot kow-tow to prejudice; we cannot say, “Yes, you are probably right, so let us try to do what you want.” We have to be very clear with people that we are all, underneath it all, fundamentally the same. We need the same ability to work together, to learn together and to have hospitals for when we are sick; it does not matter where people come from, they need the same things in life. No amount of populist rhetoric designed to divide us and make us fight each other rather than work together will change that.
For the full debate please click on this link-