‘If you keep fishing babies out of the river, sooner or later you have to ask yourself who keeps throwing them in?’
This was the indefatigable Zrinka Bralo, CEO of Migrants Organise at a recent NACCOM ‘campaigning and advocacy’ meeting. She also had a what turned out to be (for me at least) a surprisingly challenging question. ‘We know what we are against, but what are we for?’
I’m against destitution. I’m against bad asylum decision making. I’m against racist policy and demonizing people who need protection. I’m against throwing babies into the river. Articulating what I’m for is harder. The sheer wrongness of what I deal with from day to day at Hope Projects seems to push me into simply opposing that. Wrong because its hostile and wrong because it fails even by its own standards. When you bang your head against a brick wall, they say, it’s great when you stop.
Zrinko was floating the idea of what you might call a charter for a fair immigration policy, following on from an amnesty allowing irregular migrants to regularise their status and the Home Office to clear the decks for long enough to breathe, think and make policy that might actually work, perhaps by taking the radical step of listening to the experience of people subject to immigration control. So what am I for? I’d be comfortable with no borders, but this side of utopia I’d be more than content with something fair that more or less works. Here are 3 principles which could help underpin a fair immigration policy.
1. The people affected should understand the system. The immigration rules are, as I’ve argued previously, labyrinthine. The rules should be comprehensible and people should have a right to sufficientl legal advice not just to process their cases but to spend time explaining what must be proven and to agree the arguments and approaches to be deployed.
2. Fair decision making. Decision making that recognises that inconsistencies are a likely consequence of chaotic, stressful events not necessarily a sign of deceit. The criminal standard of proof should apply; refusal of initial decisions only where there is no reasonable doubt. Appeals then become a rarity, not the norm. The swathe of people who get initially refused then have that refusal overturned at appeal get accepted first off, saving time, money and anguish all round
3. A support system that never leaves anyone homeless and hungry, or without medical treatment. Because that’s how human beings should treat other human beings.
A side effect of this would be putting me out of a job. I’d be delighted.