Discriminatory policies need more than just a rebrand, Quakers tell Home Secretary

By agency reporter
May 5, 2018

Quakers in Britain have written to new Home Secretary Sajid Javid, to encourage him to change the government's discriminatory policies. They say this is now "a question of civil rights and liberties, and like every civil rights movement before, Quakers stand on the side of the oppressed."

The full text of the letter reads:

“This is an open letter to welcome you to your new role as Home Secretary. It is encouraging to hear your suggestion to end the use of the words 'hostile environment'. We will be delighted when the policies they represent end too. Our government's discriminatory policies need more than just a rebrand. In your first outing as Home Secretary, you highlighted that you will be working on a 'compliant environment' policy rather than one of hostility; however if all we are asked for is compliance with hostility we end up with a complicit environment, which is no kind of positive change.

“You'll remember that the term 'hostile environment' gained traction during Theresa May's time as Home Secretary, and informed immigration policy through the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts. Quakers and others have been picking up the pieces of those policies and welcoming newcomers to communities across Britain. In this work we have met people prevented from accessing basic services such as housing, bank accounts, healthcare, education, work, benefits and driving licences. This goes far beyond a question of immigration policy. This is now a question of civil rights and liberties, and like every civil rights movement before, Quakers stand on the side of the oppressed.

“We respect the humanity of every person, including border force officers. But those of us Quakers who are teachers, nurses, and other public servants should not be forced to act as border force officers. We seek to answer that of God in everyone by treating people equally. The constant introduction of these new and expanded forms of 'border control' throughout our society formalises unjust inequalities between people born in Britain and people who are not. We want no part in implementing such injustice.

“In December last year, our Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers in Britain formed during the time of Quakers' own persecution – warned that the policies of the hostile environment were building discriminatory practices into the fabric of the state. Those warnings – as with so many others – went unheeded until the Windrush scandal brought them to the light of public attention.

“The UK urgently needs a change of direction. People are still being unjustly kept in detention centres, and enforced removal charter flights – some to commonwealth countries – are still scheduled. As a mark of change, it is time immediately to announce the regularisation of papers for all who have been in Britain for more than a decade. This would be a practical and humane move towards policies which are orderly, just, and respectful to every person's humanity.

"Then and only then will we know that the new Home Office leadership is serious about addressing the injustices it has inherited. Whatever your decisions, we will keep working for change. Below is the change we work for:

"Sanctuary Everywhere Manifesto

  • Human rights standards for all should be the foundation on which any national policy or international agreement on migration is founded, and these include the right to work, to learn, to housing, to medical care and to security in the event of adverse circumstances beyond personal control.
  • We will campaign for change to the asylum process so that it is built on a culture of compassion and practical response, rather than starting from an assumption of disbelief.
  • Within the UK system of immigration detention is institutional violence and discrimination. We oppose indefinite detention, which we believe neither right nor necessary, and will work towards the closure of all detention centres. Other more humane policies are more effective and should be introduced.
  • Our belief in every human being's equality leads us to oppose unjust deportations and removals, whether to the EU or to the wider world.
  • The humanitarian risks of trafficking and unsafe passage lead us to work for new, peaceful, safer routes of migration including the introduction of humanitarian visas and improved rules for family reunion.
  • To ourselves and wider society, we reaffirm our determination to acknowledge and dismantle discrimination in all of its forms, wherever it is to be found."

The letter was signed by Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain

* More on Sanctuary Meetings here

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

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