07/06/2022

WWhen I took my refugee welcome poster at a demonstration in front of the Home Office last week, I had to fight back with some hesitation. Yes, I wanted to show my solidarity with the refugees who are still waiting to see if they can board a plane to Rwanda. I wanted to show lawyers and activists working around the clock that many of us believe we are doing heroic work. I wanted to remind viewers in the UK and abroad that many here want to fight for a more humane society.

But I didn’t want to leave either. I felt the creeping fear of using activists, forcing them to play a small part in Priti Patel’s nightmarish vision of an increasingly polarized and increasingly angry nation. She proposes hateful policy, so people are yelling at her. She tries to do something illegal and the judges contradict her. You describe the opponents as a mob and we sit in the street. No wonder some of us feel compelled to follow the guidance given by the government. It saves the plot, we’re just a reaction shot. The government has pushed those who care about refugees – or other equally pressing issues – into a position of constant protest.

I’m afraid we will fall into a trap and fall into it by playing this part in a farce we didn’t write. As many have said, there is an astonishing madness in the approach of this government, where the real aim is not to achieve any of the stated goals but to provoke a sense of crisis. Wir wissen, und sie wissen, und sie wissen, dass wir wissen, dass ein Hauptziel der Ruanda-Politik nicht darin besteht, potenzielle Probleme zu lösen, die durch Ankünfte auf kleinendensdenchnachn verchen verung Regenauer carrying out. The more polarized and irritated the debate, the more successful the conversion. Yet many of us continue to do our part.

But we can’t help her. While this performative cruelty may be partly a game for the politicians who enforce it, it is only a game for the people already affected by this policy. The narrative that Rwanda’s policy is just a dead cat thrown to the table to distract Partigate and that the cost of living crisis ignores the real harm the policy is doing and the worse harm it can do, if people stop opposing it. Let’s not forget that last week’s deportations only stopped because people kept getting on their feet. Stubborn individuals at charities worked day and night to support refugees facing deportation, and lawyers worked tirelessly to meet their legal challenges. They all knew this wasn’t the time to give up, because what might seem a farce to some is actually a tragedy in the making.

No one who has heard or read any of the interviews with refugees threatened with deportation to Rwanda can doubt that the atrocities are real. For politicians who make policy, this may be a path to staying in power, but for those affected, this is a path to real trauma. We can’t get away from this fight started by Boris Johnson and Patel because real life is at stake.

Real people like the young Afghan who allegedly received deportation orders, and whose father was an interpreter for British forces. Or the Iranian policeman who disobeyed orders in his country and was imprisoned for that. Or the Iraqi who was hit and held while being dragged onto the plane at the last minute, just before he was deported. While the testimonies of these men were terrifying to read, their actual experiences are almost unimaginable.

Therefore, it remains important for everyone to take the situation seriously, no matter how ridiculous and cunning the policy may seem to some. It is important to uphold the challenges and do everything possible to stop the deportations at this time. But it is also important to keep trying to change the text and bypass the role of constant protest. There is a lot to say activists. It’s easy for government to portray them as counterproductive solutions, but they couldn’t be less valid. Charities and think tanks have come up with all kinds of suggestions over the years.

As many have shown, there is simply no reason for this kind of irrational panic from people who come here in search of safety. Other countries have seen more refugees without falling into crisis. Instead of arriving at these punitive and oddly impractical measures — including the new e-tags proposal, the latest plan that manages to combine cruelty with futility — there are many more constructive proposals out there. Practically speaking, activists have talked about everything from safe methods to processing asylum claims in a timely manner.

Perhaps the problem with this type of text is that it is not very exciting. When I ran a refugee aid organization, of all the reports we published, the ones that attracted the least attention were those related to improving asylum procedures. And I understood why politicians and journalists turned their backs on her. You can grab people’s attention by talking about outrageous failures. All eyes are on when it comes to case management, early legal advice, international agreements, alternatives to imprisonment…

This is the problem facing many leftists. If we are to resist the right’s disturbing narrative, it will not suffice to discuss technocratic solutions. Even if it were applicable, it wouldn’t necessarily convince people to believe in the possibility of a kinder and fairer world. What’s important for this is a more ambitious story that includes not just where we are now, but where we want to be. It’s important to keep the line today, but it’s also important to keep the map open and remember where we want to go tomorrow.

Natasha Walter is the founder and former director of Women for Refugees and author The new feminism And the Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

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