The Conservative government’s relentless drive to legislate harder on migrants can be traced back to their commitment to an exclusionary and nationalist agenda, which has become much more prevalent since the Brexit vote. The vote to leave the EU was largely driven by a xenophobic and nationalist discourse that portrayed migrants as a threat to the country’s security and economic well-being. This dialogue has been amplified and exploited by the Conservative government time and time again, who have used it to justify harsher measures against refugees and migrants. This government’s policies are indicative of a larger trend of continued xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the US. This trend has been amplified in recent years by the widespread use of right-wing rhetoric across the media landscape. Furthermore, the government’s actions today can be viewed as a cynical attempt to divert attention away from deeper structural issues, such as economic inequality, the cost-of-living crisis, and austerity, that are the real causes of social problems. This serves to reinforce the government’s power and dominance over the population, by scapegoating and demonising vulnerable groups.
The vilification of migrants by newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph plays a significant role in amplifying the “fear of the other”. These newspapers have relentlessly promoted anti-migrant sentiment and have created a false narrative that portrays refugees and migrants as a burden on the economy and a threat to national security. They use derogatory language and racist stereotypes to describe refugees and migrants, further stoking fear and division. This fabrication is then used by Tory politicians to justify harsher measures against them. The fear of migrants among some white-working class UK residents can be traced back to the social and economic dislocation that many of them have experienced in recent decades. The resulting economic insecurity and social exclusion have created a sense of alienation and resentment among these communities, who feel abandoned and disempowered by the forces of global capitalism.
The UK government’s plan to disqualify asylum claims en-masse, regardless of their merit, has drawn fierce condemnation from human rights experts today. According to Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, Steve Valdez-Symonds, this proposal represents a shocking new low for the government. “There is nothing fair, humane, or even practical in this plan, and it’s frankly chilling to see ministers trying to remove human rights protections for a group of people whom they’ve chosen to scapegoat for their own failures,” he said. Similarly, Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director at Human Rights Watch, described the proposal as “illegal, unworkable, and utterly inhumane.” She warned that the government is risking stoking fear and hatred in our communities, all for the sake of scoring political points. By playing fast and loose with international commitments and ramming through flawed legislation, the government is betraying its duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Throughout the afternoon, voices of those who work with refugees have been pouring in, all denouncing the UK’s illegal migration bill.
- Katy Chakrabortty, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam GB, condemns the UK government for turning its back on vulnerable refugees, who deserve compassion, dignity, and fair treatment.
- Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee UK, criticizes the bill for adding to the trauma of refugees crossing the Channel and damaging Britain’s global reputation for fairness and compassion.
- Emma Stevenson, Deputy CEO of Choose Love, describes the bill as punitive, shirking the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK’s international responsibilities towards asylum seekers.
Both Neil Faulkner and Phil Hearse, two respected Marxist historians and writers, have put forward the hypothesis that right-wing authoritarianism in Europe and the US represents a form of “creeping fascism.” While Neil Faulkner sadly passed away in 2022, his work remains a key part of Marxist theory for leftist activists. Alongside Hearse, they have argued that creeping fascism is characterised by the use of populist and nationalist rhetoric to mobilise support, coupled with the erosion of democratic rights and the suppression of oppositional voices. The Conservative government’s legislative agenda on migrants can be seen as part of this trend. By portraying migrants as a threat to national security and welfare, the government is attempting to create a common enemy and rally support behind their authoritarian agenda.
As we reflect on the legacy of Faulkner and the continuing work of Hearse, their warnings about the rise of creeping fascism remain a sobering reminder of the need for vigilance and resistance against the erosion of democratic rights and social justice. The UK government’s latest bill, as outlined by Home Secretary Suella Braverman in the House of Commons this afternoon, represents a troubling continuation of this trend. By further restricting the rights of refugees and migrants and eroding the principles of justice and fairness, the bill moves us closer to a state of authoritarianism and creeping fascism.
This bill, with its harsh restrictions, and its disregard for basic principles of justice and fairness, also echoes William I. Robinson‘s theory of a global police state. According to Robinson, a leading sociologist and critic of globalisation, the increasing militarisation of borders and the expansion of security apparatuses are leading to the creation of a new form of global authoritarianism. The UK government’s moves to further criminalise and detain refugees and migrants, coupled with its disregard for international human rights law, fit into this broader pattern of the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms. As Robinson warns, the creation of a global police state threatens the very foundations of democracy and social justice, and demands a united and coordinated response to oppose and resist it.
Neil Faulkner, Phil Hearse, and William I. Robinson have all warned of the dangers of creeping fascism and the global police state. They have argued that the rise of authoritarianism and the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms are not inevitable but require active resistance and opposition. Faulkner and Hearse believed that it was necessary to build a strong anti-capitalist movement that could challenge the forces of fascism and nationalism. Robinson, addressing the crisis of global capitalism and fighting against 21st-century fascism requires a coordinated effort by the working class. He argues that a massive redistribution of wealth and power to the poor majority is the only solution, which in turn requires a mass transnational struggle from below. In other words, a united and concerted effort by the working class across national boundaries is necessary to challenge the power of global capitalism and achieve a more equitable redistribution of resources, ensuring the basic needs of all people are met, and forced migration becomes a thing of the past.
These warnings are more urgent than ever, as the UK government’s harsh policies on migrants and refugees, and its callous disregard for human dignity, risk further entrenching the erosion of democratic rights and social justice in this country.
Doing nothing is really not an option; it is up to us to take action and stand up right now for the most vulnerable members of society.
 Some argue that Brexit was not about racism, but rather about sovereignty and national identity. While it is true that some who voted to leave the EU may not hold explicitly racist beliefs, the fact remains that the vote to leave was largely driven by xenophobic and nationalist rhetoric. The Leave campaign, led by figures such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Michael Gove, played heavily on fears of immigration and stoked anti-immigrant sentiment to rally support for their cause.
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