jeremy_seabrookI really liked this response, by Jeremy Seabrook, spurred by  the anti-asylum-seeker, anti-NGO comments made by the British Minister of Immigration.

Here’s why I think it’s a good piece:

1) I like that he points out that even defenders of asylum seekers buy into the “we’re being flooded by immigrants” meme – which weakens the defense of free migration overall. If you let your ideological enemies set the terms of the debate “yeah, yeah, immigration in general is no good” – then you help them beat you.

2) I love his phrase “irresponsible humanitarianism” – I want a bumper sticker that says “Practice reckless acts of justice and irresponsible humanitarianism” – or maybe a teeshirt?

It points out poetically the idiocy of the “it’s just not feasible or practical” argument against migration freedom. Maybe you don’t know exactly where to put them, maybe you don’t have all the details worked out, maybe it looks hasty or irresponsible, but sometimes, you have to do it – you have to let people come, because you cannot – your moral self cannot – let them stay where they are. It wouldn’t be human. And what are administrative details weighed against humanity? Ahhh the hopeless idealism of it….

3) I like this bit:

Asylum seeker is now a term of abuse, often fortified by the adjectives bogus and failed. “Bogus” is calculated to separate economic migrants from refugees, an increasingly untenable distinction given mass evictions now carried out in the name of global development.

Forget why the “economic migrants” are being displaced, let’s ask a more basic question: Why is someone fleeing certain poverty, starvation, famine, destitution, the ripping of your kids out of school to work, or putting your daughter or your sister on the street (all economic pressures), less deserving of help than someone fleeing political persecution? Are not both equally threats to someone’s life? One is enshrined in law, the other is not. That’s all.

4) And to continue:

“Failed” suggests inability to pass some test, a kind of GCSE in persecution. These categories create a separate moral universe, one we do not inhabit.

Exactly. This echoes my point about Woolas’ comment that a refugee who got in on appeal “doesn’t have a right to be here” – as if this is a measure of some sort of incompetence, or as if an initial “failing” grade (an initial denial) is more valid than a subsequent approval – why? This isn’t like someone who passed their SAT’s only on the eleventh try, they haven’t studied to the test. If it’s anything like the process I’ve gone through (which is a walk in the park compared to an asylum seeker’s) it’s a bureaucratic obstacle course -set up to fail people on technicalities, the ones who can stick it out get through. I doubt very much it has to do with the “validity” of their persecution.

5) I would make a comment here though

It is easy to harden hearts in a vacuum, especially when created by media owners pursuing some vanished dream of imperial or racial supremacy.

I would say the “imperial or racial supremacy” line has little to do with big media (and big money) interests these days. They appeal to that kind of intolerance to further their agenda – it is convenient – but i do not believe it is the driving force. As with nearly everything, I’d say it’s money. There are many reasons why it’s convenient for powerful economic players (multinationals of all sorts) to keep poor people on one side of a particular fence (it creates a cheap labor force by pitting workers against each other to keep wages low for example).  Race is just a red herring.