Meeting report: ‘The Case for Open Borders’ – A Refugee Week event speaker – Teresa Hayter
Teresa Hayter (member of the Close Campsfield Campaign and an author of the No One is Illegal Manifesto) gave a thought provoking talk to a well-attended meeting at the Refugee Forum’s Square Centre on the evening of 19th June. Teresa made the case that migration controls are rooted in racism and right-wing ideology and that any distinctions made about whether someone is a genuine asylum-seeker, an economic migrant, an illegal worker, or whatever just prop up the system of control. We shouldn’t be demanding ‘papers for all’, instead we should be getting rid of the need for papers. Anti-immigration arguments are little different that those used against Jewish or Irish immigrants in the past. In addition tightening of the screw against refugees goes in parallel with the waging of war by our governments – many recent immigrants are Iraqis. All immigration rules, harassment of asylum seekers, the difficulty of getting refugee status, and the horror of detention centres are all part of a racist agenda to prevent and deter freedom of movement. We must struggle for complete freedom of movement for all. It was noted that immigration controls are actually quite new to Britain (1905) and especially for people in the ex-colonies who were able to come freely to Britain until the 1960s.
In the discussion after, various points were made and questions asked:
How does ‘the system’ really benefit from borders? Is it mostly to further a racist ideology? Do our rulers just want to create fear of others in order to ‘divide and rule’? Or does a capitalist system need to invoke the threat of illegal immigration to make the working class ‘at home’ feel vunerable economically?
Do some trade union fears about immigration threatening jobs make any sense, or does this attitude actually prevent workers linking up to fight for equal pay and benefits? The idea of the welfare state is that you have to ‘put in’ to ‘get out’, but doesn’t this attitude help create division? What’s this we/they thing anyway – shouldn’t we all just be ‘citizens of the world’?
Is there a difference in the way immigration controls are sold to the people in the USA with its historical embracing of immigrants, compared to Britain with its sense of superiority from the days of empire? Or is the apparant positive attitude to immigrants in USA reserved only for its anglo-saxon settlers?
Is it right to only blame governments for creating such a terrible situation for asylum seekers in Britain, or should people be blamed for doing nothing about the racism, and abuse in detention centres?
Will it take a revolution to get rid of borders, or could it just collapse on its own if immigration control became unworkable, knowing that the capitalist economy already depends so much on immigrant labour whether legal or illegal?
Should we be concentrating on fighting the result of an anti-immigrant culture, like the successes of the far-right in some areas of Notts (in recent elections)?
** Read about other activities for Nottingham Refugee Week 2007 – 16th?24th June