Yesterday, Theresa May made it clear how she and her government see migrants. By saying 'high migration made a cohesive society impossible', May proved it is an intolerant and hateful ideology that drives the government's immigration policy, rather than sensible and rational policy.
After lecturing the audience on the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq, without any mention of the role that Western interventions have played in these wars, May carried on to say how British aid is saving lives in the region with no mention of the thousands whose deaths could have been prevented with better coverage of the Mediterranean sea. Although she mentioned how millions of Syrian refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey and Lebanon, somehow, she concluded that accepting 20,000 refugees over the next five years is adequate and acceptable.
The next in line to be attacked were international students. May claimed one of the main reasons for net migration to have doubled since 2007 were international students, and that:
"Too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out. So I don't care what the university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students, yes. Overstayers, no. And the universities must make this happen."
This is an alarming indication that universities might be forced to ensure students leave the country upon graduation, taking away our right to gain experience, earn money to repay the debt many of us have acquired due to our studies, and not allowing us to contribute to society.
Most worryingly, such a policy will transform our universities and colleges from educational institutions to security complexes, a process that has already been started by the unacceptable methods of attendance monitoring for international students.
The claims of international students overstaying, are of course, unfounded and at best based on the International Passenger Survey, taken from interviews with around 4,500 passengers entering and leaving the UK over a twelve month period, only a small proportion of which are international students.
May did not spare European migrants coming to the UK neither. As always, the enormous contribution of these migrants - especially those from Eastern Europe - went unnoticed, and it was implied that most of these migrants come to the UK to steal jobs and take benefits and tax credits.
Another unfounded claim which will only further enforce stereotypes and spread anonymity and hostility. For us, as international students, and the wider student population in general, it is important to pay attention to the narrative that May and her colleagues are shaping. On the one hand, there is the persistence not to conflate 'economic migrants' with refugees. On the other hand, high numbers in each category are used to limit the numbers in the other. Given the deadly passage across the
Mediterranean to get to Europe, it is astonishing how the Conservatives can dismiss the desperation of so many by simply labelling them as 'economic migrants'.
Many who are not fleeing intolerable war zones, are leaving postcolonial states which are in major need of reparations and infrastructure investment. It is clear that poverty and lack of prosperity in many African and Asian states, as well as the ever-growing war in Syria, Iraq and North Africa are not issues that can be fixed overnight.
However, Theresa May and her government have failed to take any meaningful steps to:
- Resettle a reasonable number of people in desperate need of a new home
- Agree to pay reparations to countries which have contributed to Britain's current wealth
- Cut ties with states which are directly or indirectly fuelling the conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen
- Acknowledge the UK's responsibility in the current state of affairs in the war zones
It is only by taking the aforementioned steps that the UK can claim it has started to seriously address the migrant crisis.
Now, more than ever before, the student body needs to stand in solidarity with migrants and fight against this disgusting attitude. That is why we will all be taking part in the #students4migrants campaign. Join the event, spread the word on your campus and find more information here.