A Beacon of Openness and Generosity

Wail Qasim

I don’t remember my parents bringing me to London as an infant asylum seeker, but I do know we arrived in relative safety by plane. There were risks in coming to Britain to flee war in Somalia, but physically crossing the border didn’t put our lives in danger. Last year, at least 44 people died trying to cross the English Channel in small boats to seek asylum in the UK. Boris Johnson’s recent announcement that the processing of asylum seekers will be outsourced to Rwanda promises to make the journey to safety yet more dangerous for those looking to gain refuge in Britain.

The plan is the latest volley in a succession of cruelly devised Home Office schemes. Priti Patel’s ministry has in the past considered using nets and water cannon to hamper boats trying to cross the Channel. Places as various as North Sea oil rigs and Ascension Island in the South Atlantic have been touted as potential processing stations for migrants seeking asylum. Now the government has settled on a ‘new migration partnership’ with Rwanda, where tens of thousands of refugees from neighbouring states are already trying to make a home. Orphans of the 1994 genocide are apparently going to be evicted from the hostel where they live in Kigali to make way for people seeking asylum in the UK.

All these profferings from the Home Office may seem both immoral and absurd to many onlookers, but they are in keeping with the ministry’s long history of prioritising hostility over welcome. Since at least the early 1960s successive home secretaries have imposed ever stricter border controls while crafting the racist public opinion they claimed to serve. The Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962 stripped citizenship rights from subjects of the former colonies and laid the groundwork for the ongoing Windrush scandal.

The ‘hostile environment’ long precedes Theresa May’s tenure at the Home Office, let alone Patel’s. A gradual ratcheting up of hostility by successive governments, Labour as well as Conservative, has been evident for decades. There is seldom any relaxation of border policy, with each Home Office regime instead building new restrictions on top of the schemes of past administrations. Yet they easily could provide safe and open routes for those in need.

In recent weeks, when public opinion grew too vocal, a semblance of compassionate policy was introduced for those escaping war in Ukraine. Even though this has been a feeble effort, it points towards the reality that we need not choose between deadly Channel crossings and offshoring to Rwanda. If the outsourcing deal with the government in Kigali is allowed to pass unchallenged, the way to Britain will only become more dangerous. If we don’t want people to risk their lives crossing the Channel in small boats, we need to make it easier for them to come by safer routes.

In many ways my family was lucky to enter Britain in the 1990s, not least because now this is home. The suffering my home seeks to inflict on those in the same position a few decades later is brutal. ‘Our compassion may be infinite,’ Johnson says, ‘but our capacity to help people is not.’ The lack of capacity is entirely of his own making. If Britain really is a ‘beacon of openness and generosity’, it will draw back from the unusual cruelty of its current hostile trajectory.


  • 20 April 2022 at 4:41pm
    Steve McGiffen says:
    This - especially the matter of evicting refugees from neighbouring countries - seems designed to start a new civil war in Rwanda. Any comment on that anyone?

  • 20 April 2022 at 5:57pm
    Mike Young says:
    I believe the policy will never be introduced because of the legal challenges ahead. However, the very proposal of it will reinforce the growing attitude at home and abroad that the present British government is unwelcoming, mean, uncaring and 'nasty' and, of course, incompetent.
    Dr Michael Young

    • 21 April 2022 at 5:22am
      Charbb says: @ Mike Young
      Non-white immigrants in large numbers create cultural tensions in Western countries who fear immigrants of alien culture will in the long run destroy their history and traditions - even leftwing traditions. Muslims, for instance, do not love 1789 and reject the secular traditions of French republicanism. It is unlikely that the heritage of Shakespeare, Voltaire, Goethe, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Trotsky, will survive the overwhelming of the native popluations. Fo coloured immigrants the heroes are the likes of Malcolm X, not Churchill or Cromwell or the revolutionary heroes of France. As the immigrants dominate, the history of Europe will be binned.

      As an Ugandan Asian I have no objection to coloured immigration in small numbers. Our people came to Britain the 1970s and had close connections with Britain, having lived under British rule. Immigration then was small in numbers and manageable, not demographically destabilising as today.

    • 21 April 2022 at 12:27pm
      P Eluard says: @ Charbb
      Skin colour is not a vector of culture. The History of Europe cannot finish, because it is constantly being added to. Tradition matters less than people, because tradition does not feel pain, nor can it be hungry, or cold. More demographically destabilising than immigration will be the demographic collapse that will occur without it (ignoring the ill-formed nature of demographic destabilisation as a social concept.) Programmatic statements: check. And let's not start comparing the moral records of Churchill and Cromwell with that of Malcolm X. Only one of those three people cannot be held responsible for the deaths of thousands or millions of colonial subjects under their leadership.

    • 25 April 2022 at 12:42pm
      Rory Allen says: @ Charbb
      Psychologists of a future generation perhaps will need to study the phenomenon of immigrants, or their children, turning against the idea of immigration. Among the most vocal opponents of asylum seekers are Priti Patel and Melanie Phillips, both daughters of people who came to this country and did well here. Are they examples of the sort of people who would destroy our cultural values? If those values include tolerance and common decency, perhaps yes. But that is a somewhat disturbing argument to make.

    • 25 April 2022 at 1:04pm
      Reader says: @ Charbb
      Fascinating. 'For coloured immigrants the heroes are the likes of Malcolm X, not Churchill or Cromwell or the revolutionary heroes of France.' So Charbb, who are your heroes? Please tell me, I'm dying to know. Or is it possible that you also venerate Shakespeare, and the rest of them? In fact, that you have become a hard-working, productive member of British society? In that case, doesn't your example rather undermine the point you are trying to make?

    • 25 April 2022 at 2:02pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Charbb
      It is interesting that you cite the example of Karl Marx. Marx was an immigrant to Britain fleeing political persecution in his native Germany. That contradicts your thesis, does it not?

    • 26 April 2022 at 7:14pm
      Charbb says: @ Rory Allen
      You and my other critics here have misunderstood me. I am no racist. All I am saying is that immigration should be limited to prevent the country being taken over by people who, whatever their virtues, have no ancestral fealty to British culture and traditions. This really does matter. When immigrant numbers become so huge that today's London is majority non-white, the London of Dickens, of Wilde, of Evelyn Waugh, of Orwell, of Graham Greene, vanishes. As an Ugandan Asian I feel the anguish of this: I came to England to experience English culture, not a conglomerate of cultures which do not belong to the historical one of this country.

    • 27 April 2022 at 2:47pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Charbb
      But surely you are the living proof of the wrongness of your views. You are a devotee of English culture, which is still very much alive and well, and in your own life you can and no doubt will contribute to it. So if your presence here is a net gain to English culture, who are you to say that other immigrants might not be equally beneficial to it?

  • 20 April 2022 at 6:32pm
    bentoth says:
    One of the many sad aspects of this ugly Tory manoeuvre is the calibrated response of Starmer's Labour. So desperate for power they can offer no hope for a different future except one without Johnson. Beyond that it's nothing but flags, hubs, and war.

  • 20 April 2022 at 9:53pm
    Michael Dagostino says:
    The Australian Government set up offshore processing close to two decades ago. Australia processes it’s refugees on Manus Island. If refugees come by Boat, they are sent to this island and will never be able to seek citizenship in Australia. It’s a horrific policy on refugees, but widely seen as a success in Australia. It’s totally inhumane and goes against The Refugee Convention, in which Australia is a signatory. As the convention is not legally binding, there is no repercussions. It’s a slippery slope and when they started on this path the government now has the opportunity to demonise those that do not fit the Australian identity.

  • 21 April 2022 at 5:18am
    Charbb says:
    Coloured immigration in large numbers creates the threat of fascist takeover in Europe. That is one of the bioggest reasons why it has to be curbed.

    • 21 April 2022 at 2:16pm
      Kam Sangha says: @ Charbb
      You notarise yourself as Ugandan Asian to give kudos and reign to your ideas. Cheap hack, intellectually pathetic as name-dropping Malcolm X and instigators of mass slaughter in the same sentence. Far worse, charlatan (look that one up, son), is "Coloured immigration" causes fascism, blaming victims for being harassed, chased, beaten and killed. You're a front, a proxy, a patsy, redolent of W. Allen's " I don't know enough to be incompetent."

    • 25 April 2022 at 12:44pm
      Rory Allen says: @ Charbb
      Perhaps it would be better to curb the fascists? Or do you think the best way to combat Nazism in the 1930's would have been to expel the Jews from Europe? For that is the logical consequence of your argument.

    • 25 April 2022 at 2:07pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Charbb
      I am driven to wonder if you are really, as you claim to be, from an immigrant family, or merely some kind of racist troll posing as an immigrant to avoid the accusation of fascism. One thing that makes me speculate along these lines is your rather poor command of English spelling. In my experience, immigrants speak and write better than people born and bred under our deteriorating education system. In that case may I offer a kind word of advice? Use a spellchecker before posting in future.

    • 26 April 2022 at 4:32pm
      Charbb says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      You and my other critics here have misunderstood me. I am no racist. All I am saying is that immigration should be limited to prevent the country being taken over by people who, whatever their virtues, have no ancestral fealty to British culture and traditions. This really does matter. When immigrant numbers become so huge that today's London is majority non-white, the London of Dickens, of Wilde, of Evelyn Waugh, of Orwell, of Graham Greene, vanishes. As an Ugandan Asian I feel the anguish of this: I came to England to experience English culture, not a conglomerate of cultures which do not belong to the historical one of this country. Apologies for the typos in the previous post. I am using a rather quirky computer.

    • 27 April 2022 at 8:44am
      Kam Sangha says: @ Charbb
      "I came to England to experience English culture, not a conglomerate of cultures which do not belong to the historical one of this country." An elementary understanding of empire informs us how misguided and ignorant you are. As for culture, understand it as a broad, inclusive concept than an outdated one such as yours of England. You gave have away your racist credentials in your first post when you cited Muslims as an obstacle to enlightenment and French democracy and furthermore in, "Coloured immigration in large numbers creates the threat of fascist takeover in Europe." As if the agency of racists and fascists is not an issue or a question. There was very little "Coloured" presence in the early part of the twentieth century to prevent people from being attacked in British port cities and/or murdered in police custody for their appearance and background. You are not a listener or a reader, no amount of mature argument and evidence in other posts has even made you think beyond I am not a racist, I am a Ugandan Asian defensive mantra. Trust me, like the rest of us, you have been heard and you have been dealt with - and dismissed.

    • 27 April 2022 at 11:54am
      Charbb says: @ Kam Sangha
      I listen and read more than you imagine. Even in that short post above I mentioned several classic British writers. You say their world is outdated. Not so fast. Every nation has a basic cultural inheritance that is crucial for defining its sense of identity and which it will hang on to. I doubt you will tell Africans they must make way for white settlers because their culture is "outdated". Or lecture the Arab Palestinians that they are outdated compared to the Jews. Speak to ordinary English people. Countless of them will tell you of their feeling of loss of an England in which they felt at home, an England lost because of indiscriminate and excessive immigration. Excessive is the key word: no serious person is against immigration as such, but only demographically ad culturally destabilising immigration. As for Islam being a threat to democracy and secular values, look at the Muslim world; talk to the countless French who fear losing their country to it. Asm I dismissed? By yoiu, no doubt, but not by the reality of today's politics in the West. Some of the concern to preserve a native identity for society s taken up by racists, and I reject them. Le Pen is a case in point. But mainstream democratic parties will have to sharply curb immigration in the West, to avoid fascist takeover.

    • 27 April 2022 at 2:52pm
      Lexa Hypatia says: @ Charbb
      If you look historically, you will find that national cultures, like living beings, evolve over time. Anglo-Saxon culture in the year 1066 was one thing, the Norman culture was another thing, Tudor culture yet another thing, then we had the contribution of the Scots with the Stuart monarchy, followed by Enlightenment influences, a Dutch king, rule by the House of Hanover and an influx of German musicians and thinkers, then the expansion of the British Empire that led to more cultural change, and so on and so on. Cultures are not stuffed animals to be kept in a glass case but living, changing systems. You seem to want a culture in a museum cabinet but you do not understand that once a culture ceases to change it dies.

    • 28 April 2022 at 8:05am
      Kam Sangha says: @ Charbb
      I said your concept of culture is outdated as Lexa Hypatia has tried to inform you - because you truly need as much help as possible to understand culture and society - not the writers cited. Your reference to Africans - is that a race? A monolithic category? - and Palestinians are another example of poor form and moribund ethics. Waugh's journals supply evidence of racism and antisemitism. Dickens'support for the British Empire included contempt for native Americans and Indians of India and elsewhere. So, you are in good company, and your "ancestral fealty" is intact. You are an intact Ugandan Asian and no one has the right to suggest you have lost any of your Englishness in the course of this debate: an immutable, god-given essence that makes you immune to introspection, knowledge and humility. Like Tony Soprano in therapy: once a made man, always a made man.

      Late news: "But mainstream democratic parties will have to sharply curb immigration in the West." It's happened.

    • 28 April 2022 at 5:07pm
      Charbb says: @ Lexa Hypatia
      National cultures change, as you say, but when they are overwhelmed by a sudden influx of aliens that means even the British capital is now majority non-white, that is a very different and abnormal process. I cannot imagine Indians accepting Indian cities being overwhelmed by immigration in the same way.

      In the end this is up to the natives, the white people. Do they care about the survival of British culture as it has been known? Are they not worried by immigrant majorities whose spokesmen in London talk of changing the street names and other historic landmarks? What if Pall Mall disappears? Oxford Street? Charing Cross? Nelson's Column? Is this OK with you? The London mayor, a man of Bangladeshi origin, is talking of changing the names of London landmarks.

      Would Orwell be happy if he revisited his beloved England?

      i am only a Ugandan Asian after all. It is up to you lot to act to save your culture. Not inhumanely or in fascist manner like the Le Pens but by restricting further immigration and insisting on the assimilation of immigrants already in the country.

    • 28 April 2022 at 9:54pm
      Kam Sangha says: @ Charbb
      "In the end this is up to the natives, the white people." More racist lyrics inspired by the Le Pen songbook.
      I'm a white Ugandan Asian rapper seeking asylum from non-white Ugandan Asianland. George Orwell is my manager. My chart-topping hit, 'Britain First', has been remixed by DJ Prankster, aka Ugandan Asian, responsible for such hits as 'Waugh!' ("What is it good for? Absolutely nothing...")
      I sense the derision at my capacious, voluntary musings, beholden to comforting import from Don MacLean's 1971 release 'Vincent':
      "Now I understand what you tried to say to me
      And how you suffered for your sanity
      And how you tried to set them free
      They would not listen, they did not know how..."
      Alas, they are not listening now.
      (Glad to say this was the only addition to said remix.)
      All proceeds from this release go to Britain First ("patriotic, nationalist, conservative and traditionalist"), The National Socialist Movement (does what it says on the tin), The British National Party ("If you aren't British, get out") English Defence League ("Is there a corner of a cracked head forever England?" Ask Morrisey - definitely in the know.).

    • 4 May 2022 at 11:21am
      Rory Allen says: @ Charbb
      Your post sent me running to the British Government website examining the very issues you raise. Of particular relevance is a paper is called "Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: 2020." I suggest you look it up. Point 4 in the summary states:

      "London continued to be the region with the largest proportion of non-UK-born (37%) and non-British (22%) population."

      I suspect that what you have done, if indeed you have looked up the figures at all, is to add these two percentages to come to a total of 59%.

      If this is correct, and if the numbers all refer to non-whites, it would indeed be the case that 'the British capital is now majority non-white.' But this would represent a statistical blunder of the most elementary kind. The first point is that there will be a large overlap between the categories 'non UK-born' and 'non-British'. In fact, almost all the non-British total will be non-UK born, since if you are born in the UK, and one of your parents is either a UK citizen or settled in the UK, you automatically have the right to UK citizenship yourself. So the number you are referrring to is closer to 37% than 59%.

      The second point is that only a proportion of the 37% will be non-white. The same document states that 'Polish is the most common non-British nationality', in the UK. The document does not give a separate number for London, but we can assume that a large number of the 37% are Polish, and those people are not 'non-white'.

      I am sorry to contradict you, as you clearly hold strong beliefs and it is painful for those to come into conflict with the facts, but I suggest that one aspect of British culture you might benefit from acquiring is the practice of basing your beliefs on the empirical evidence and not preconceived beliefs.

  • 21 April 2022 at 8:51am
    Charbb says:
    I am an immigrant in the West myself but what is so sacred about continuing it at levels that are clearly destabilising the demographics of the West and leading to the rise of fascist parties like Le Pen's?

    • 21 April 2022 at 2:39pm
      XopherO says: @ Charbb
      You really need to to see the reality rather than asserting quasi-racist opinions. In the year to March 2020 313,000 more people came to the UK than left - the main countries were China, Poland, USA and Australia (all very dark!)- and India. Far from all seeking permanent residence, some just temporary. This is massive compared with those risking coming across the channel. However, those actually resettled in the UK in the year to Sept 2021 amounted to 13,210 with 6,524 relatives and children of those already here. Asylum applications were 37, 562. Those risking their lives to cross the Channel were 23,000 last year. People who came to the UK as successful asylum seekers over the years amount to 0.6% of the total population. Germany, France and Spain accept many more refugees than the UK which is 4th after them but only 17th per capita. Far from demographically destabilising, the UK will not be able to survive with declining births without substantial immigration. The same is true of most Western countries. But one has to wonder about the justice of taking hardworking people, some skilled, some highly skilled from poor, developing countries. Last year 90,000 more EU citizens left the UK than came. So we have kicked out the mainly white Christians - who will replace them? Boris Johnson is currently in India negotiating with Modi who has made clear that any trade deal will require many more visas - permanent, visiting, holidays etc.

    • 23 April 2022 at 12:11am
      CarpeDiem says: @ Charbb
      I have a suggestion. Be a mate and leave, and take your racist, bigoted, petty views with you. We have plenty of homegrown white supremacists and chauvinists, we don't need imports peddling this crass and xenophobic commentary.

  • 22 April 2022 at 12:58am
    Laurie Strachan says:
    Watching the Chelsea-Arsenal game the other day I was struck by the slogan "Visit Rwanda" on the sleeves of the Arsenal players. Is this an encouragement or a warning?

  • 24 April 2022 at 5:23am
    Charbb says:
    I am of Ugandan Asian origin. When our community came to Britain in the 1970s they were small in number, about 30,000. We had close connections with Britain, having lived under British rule in Uganda and most of us being British subjects. Immigration of people of alien cultures is acceptable, in small numbers. When it becomes huge as today in the West the indigenous white population becomes alarmed. The problem is that the demographic structure is destabilised in countries of low birth rates. The political and cultural consequences of this are dangerous. The indigenous history and traditions are challenged and junked. The native population in many Western countries flocks to fascist and bigoted parties, as in France. The established democratic parties refuse to act to curb immigration. But that is the only answer.

    • 24 April 2022 at 12:08pm
      XopherO says: @ Charbb
      You continue with your racist rubbish, and it is actually folk like you and Priti Patel plus the bigoted tabloid press who promote fear by exaggeration, as I pointed out in my previous reply which you have conveniently ignored. But I am not surprised, there was and maybe still is a lot of racism from the Asian community towards the indigenous Blacks in both S Africa and Uganda - if your white you're alright, if your brown stick around, but if you're black...As Carpe Diem says, we don't want your kind of xenophobia here.

    • 24 April 2022 at 11:14pm
      Charbb says: @ XopherO
      I have experienced violent racism at the hands of Blacks in Uganda that would make people in the West freeze in horror. In the West in the last couple of decades fascist parties have acquired dangerous strength because of the panic of the majority white population over excessive immigration. The natives feel they are losing not only their present and future but even their past. The only way to deal with this situation is to end immigration.

    • 25 April 2022 at 7:33am
      OldScrounger says: @ Charbb

      I notice that posters here are not required to prove "I am not a robot". Until now there has never seemed a need for it. At the very least, a moderator or editor of this blog would be doing us a favour if posts which are merely re-pastings* of an earlier contribution were edited out. They're very tedious, and I suspect that that is their purpose. It smacks of the war of attrition that we see on Youtube live chats -- a quasi "denial of service".

      *(The "a" is not a typo.)

    • 25 April 2022 at 2:21pm
      CarpeDiem says: @ Charbb
      Still here ?

      So let me get this right - you are proposing to fight racism with ..... racism ? I can only hope that you were/are not a fireman.

    • 29 April 2022 at 2:39pm
      Delaide says: @ OldScrounger
      Now that you point it out it seems obvious. I hope that the editor takes note.

  • 27 April 2022 at 12:29pm
    Charbb says:

  • 2 May 2022 at 10:01am
    Roy says:
    Those people who attempt, or succeed, in crossing the English Channel in dinghies or other life-threatening modes of transport are departing from a safe haven. Most will already have travelled through more than one EU country, all of which offer refuge to those fleeing hazardous situations. Politically incorrect as it may be, I would like to know why this is regarded as acceptable.

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