‘With Literally Nothing’

Sadakat Kadri

The Nationality and Borders Bill, lauded by Priti Patel as an end to ‘open borders and uncontrolled immigration’, has its second reading in the House of Lords tomorrow. A Home Office factsheet explains that the measure is going to ‘differentiate’ between refugees. Instead of acknowledging that people desperate enough to flee persecution often ignore barriers – a fact that has structured rules about sanctuary for centuries – it proposes to distinguish between asylum claimants ‘according to whether they arrived by safe and legal routes’. Unauthorised entry into the UK will be punishable by four years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence for helping irregular claimants will rise from fourteen years to life. According to the home secretary, ‘the British people have had enough … of economic migrants pretending to be genuine refugees.’

In recent evidence before a House of Lords Committee, Patel tried to characterise the bill as a humanitarian reform. Traumatised victims of war and human trafficking were losing out, she said, because too many asylum applicants were arriving from countries that were already safe. The 33,000 who reached the UK last year supposedly outnumbered those in all but three EU states, while 70 per cent of the people who came in small boats were single men whose claims were bogus. ‘They are not genuine asylum seekers. They are able to pay the smugglers … elbowing out women and children.’

When the Refugee Council challenged the 70 per cent figure, Patel failed to back it up, and a parliamentary research paper says the UK isn’t the fourth most popular asylum destination by comparison to EU states, but the fourteenth: a very middling position. The home secretary’s expressed concern for women and children was also unconvincing. The Nationality and Borders Bill potentially criminalises vulnerable migrants, and it doesn’t carefully target profiteers. To facilitate convictions, it will abolish an existing provision requiring prosecutors to prove that alleged people-smugglers acted ‘for gain’.

That isn’t all that’s dubious about the home secretary’s position. In her maiden speech to parliament in 2010, she said her parents had come to England ‘with literally nothing’ before saving enough to buy their first corner shop. The claim was an exaggeration, and it has been embroidered ever since. According to a profile in the Daily Mail at the start of the Brexit campaign, Patel’s family was expelled from Uganda in 1972, ‘penniless and homeless’. Another puff-piece in the Mail, celebrating her appointment as home secretary, claimed ‘they were expelled by the murderous dictator Idi Amin in the Seventies and had all their possessions seized.’

In fact, by the time Amin told Ugandan Asians to get out within ninety days or ‘find themselves sitting on fire’, Priti Patel’s parents were long gone. Her father had been in England since 1965, having emigrated as a teenager with his own father, and he married her mother (who was from a well-to-do Ugandan family) in 1970. Priti was born in north-east London in March 1972, five months before Amin issued his ultimatum. More than 28,000 refugees then fled to the UK (assisted by a sympathetic Home Office) but Priti Patel was already part of a well-settled immigrant household.

Patel isn’t the first politician to overstate her experiences of adversity, and her opinions, at least, are consistent. She’s been an ardent nationalist since working as a press officer for James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in the mid 1990s, and politicised patriotism runs in the family: her father contested a council seat for Ukip in 2013. The dodgy backstory matters, however, because it illustrates how hard it is to differentiate between worthy and unworthy refugees. Just as Patel’s parents escaped Uganda to improve their lives, most migrants are compelled to leave their homelands for mixed reasons: hopes as well as fears, ambition as well as anxiety.

If borders are to be regulated effectively, the rules should honestly accommodate that simple truth, and they need to be agreed in collaboration with neighbouring states. The measure that first prioritised ‘genuine refugees’ over ‘economic migrants’ was an international treaty to manage demographic upheavals set off by the Second World War. There are at least 84 million displaced people in the world today. Unilateral efforts by a small nation to resist pressures of that magnitude don’t protect sovereignty; they guarantee instability.

The isolationists in charge of this country think otherwise. Almost two years ago, when a radio interviewer asked Patel if post-Brexit Britain would have found space for her mother and father, she became tetchy. Taking back control of the UK’s borders was ‘not about refugees and asylum and people being persecuted around the world’, she said. ‘We must differentiate between the two.’ At the time, the answer was just another hint that her parents had suffered grave persecution. Today, it reflects what’s deceitful about the new law. The Nationality and Borders Bill doesn’t meaningfully differentiate at all. Its purpose is simply to exclude.


  • 4 January 2022 at 3:50pm
    Francis FitzGibbon says:
    The new law will sanction those who do not come to the UK ‘directly’ from a place where they face persecution. The sanctions include, but are not confined to, limiting the time they can stay in UK and imposing more restrictions on them and their family members while they are here. The list of sanctions is not exhaustive: it gives examples of what the Home Secretary or immigration officers can do. It is rather difficult to reach the UK ‘directly’ from the countries from which most refugees presently come - Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Albania. You would have to fly. That means getting past the authorities on the way out. Whether you use your own passport (if you have one and dare to carry papers that identify you to the regime's operatives) or a false one, you risk detection at the airport. The smugglers or agents often take their charges' travel documents, for sale and re-use. The only viable means of escape for most are likely to be over land, and then by sea or hidden in a lorry. If you make it here and apply for asylum, you will have to prove your case to a 'decision-maker' - Home Office workers or an Immigration Judge - to higher standard than at present. Not just a 'reasonable degree of likelihood' or a 'serious possibility' of future persecution on return to the home country - as laid down by the Courts in 2000 - but a stiffer test: on the balance of probabilities.

    • 7 January 2022 at 10:43pm
      Charbb says: @ Francis FitzGibbon
      Why do they come to Britain? Let them sort out their own messes, if necessarily with Western help. Britain has a culture of its own and cannot allow itself to be submerged by immigrants.

  • 7 January 2022 at 11:09am
    Charbb says:
    False argument. Patel's father was already a British subject when he arrived in the UK. The Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin were in large part British subjects, and all had backgrounds in an ex-British territory in a time removed from British rule only by a decade. The Ugandan Asian story is part of the aftermath of colonialism story. Britain is a small island territory and cannot take unlimited numbers from outside now.

    • 7 January 2022 at 1:22pm
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      False argument, yourself. Because no one is suggesting that we take in ‘unlimited numbers’. What a lot of people do want is a more generous and compassionate system. A system that understands that people only risk their lives in the way most illegal immigrants do if they are desperate. A system that remembers that one of the oldest human values is that given to welcoming strangers, and that we are privileged to live in one of the richest countries in the world. At the very least, we want a system that manages immigration both legal and illegal in a way that doesn’t make us profoundly ashamed.

    • 7 January 2022 at 7:49pm
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      Nonsense. Britain is in danger of losing its British cultural identity with so many immigrants. Those who preach open borders never say the numbers to be admitted must be tiny and extremely carefully vetted. Why should they have come to Britain from far away? Why not stay in nearby lands or in France? Will their culture fit into Britain's? The days of letting in unvetted hordes are past. Stop dreaming.

    • 7 January 2022 at 8:18pm
      Eamonn Shanahan says: @ Charbb
      Whilst you, Charbb, are evidently a 'small island', I like to think of a greater Britain.

    • 7 January 2022 at 10:37pm
      Charbb says: @ Eamonn Shanahan
      Defending European communities from excessive immigration is a leftwing cause. Leftism is a Western invention, don't forget. Comes of Western culture. If France becomes Muslim we will not have lovingly edited 100 volume editions of Marx and Engels. It will be the Koran., full stop. The progressive culture of centuries will vanish.

    • 7 January 2022 at 10:40pm
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      Defending European communities from excessive immigration is a leftwing cause. Leftism is a Western invention, don't forget. Comes of Western culture. If France becomes Muslim we will not have lovingly edited 100 volume editions of Marx and Engels. It will be the Koran. The great progressive culture of many hundred years will vanish. France is currently in an all-mighty panic about that looming reality. The France of Christianity and the French Revolution is in dire danger of being swept away by excessive immigration.

    • 7 January 2022 at 10:43pm
      Charbb says: @ Eamonn Shanahan
      Why do they come to Britain? Let them sort out their own messes, if necessary with Western help. Britain has a culture of its own and cannot allow itself to be submerged by immigrants.

  • 7 January 2022 at 10:47pm
    Charbb says:
    "he Nationality and Borders Bill doesn’t meaningfully differentiate at all. Its purpose is simply to exclude."

    Yes. Exclude. Let them sort out their own affairs, if necessary with Western help.

    Let us hope, for the sake of the survival of British culture, that the bill succeeds.

  • 8 January 2022 at 7:17am
    Joe Morison says:
    Charbb, you really are churning out the most appalling amount of ignorant bilge. Muslims currently make up 5% of the French population, the chances of them becoming a majority there is zero. The real danger to France is the rise of fascism which is fuelled by the sort of poisonous and mendacious scaremongering that you are treating us to here.

    The idea that ‘Leftism is a Western invention’ is also rubbish. The concept may have been forged here but the ideas behind it have been around forever. Aristotle, for example, wrote that ‘the truly democratic statesman must study how the multitude may be saved from extreme poverty’ and that ‘measures must be contrived that bring about lasting prosperity for all’ - his solution to how this should be done was that old leftwing idea of redistribution: ‘The proper course is to collect all the proceeds of the revenue into a fund and distribute this in lump sums.’ He also wrote that ‘the state is essentially a community … [it] is not merely a sharing of a common locality for the purpose of preventing mutual injury and exchanging goods.’
    Or you could go forward a few hundred years and look at Christ who preached that we should give up our worldly goods to care for the poor, and that it is harder for a rich man to enter paradise than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (the eye of a needle, incidentally, was a notoriously narrow gate into Jerusalem, one that with great difficulty a camel could be got through - Aristotle also said something similar, that it was possible to be good and rich just very difficult.

  • 8 January 2022 at 7:18am
    Joe Morison says:
    As for your tired old nonsense about British cultural identity; if you understood anything about the history of this country, you’d know that it has always been changing for the little over 300 years it has existed, just as English cultural identity had for the millennia before that - and that both have always been formed and enriched by waves of immigration.

    However, it may comfort you to know that there have always been people like you. In 1185 Richard of Devizes wrote, ‘I do not like that city [London]. All sorts of men crowd there from every country under the heavens. Each brings its own vices and its own customs to the city.’ And in 1255 the monkish chronicler Matthew Paris wrote that London was ‘overflowing … [with] Poitevins, Provençals, Italians and Spaniards’. I’m guessing you’d approve of his use of ‘overflowing’ - reminiscent of the ‘swamped’ your sort so often accuse this country of being by immigrants.
    But there have always been people like me. In the late seventeenth century Joseph Addison on viewing the multi-ethnic assembly at the Royal Exchange, remarked that it ‘gratifies my Vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so much an Assembly of Country-men and Foreigners consulting together upon the private Business of Mankind, and making of this Metropolis a kind of Emporium for the whole Earth.’ Then in 1850 Wordsworth, writing approvingly of his earlier residence in London, wrote that he had found

    every character of form and face:
    The Swede, the Russian; from the genial south,
    The Frenchman and the Spaniard; from remote
    America, the Hunter-Indian; Moors,
    Malays, Lascars, the Tartar and Chinese
    And Negro Ladies in white muslin gowns.

    • 8 January 2022 at 8:55pm
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      I myself am of Ugandan Asian origin, though I was a British subject before I came to live in Britain. I have no objection to carefully vetted and strictly limited immigration. It is above all a question of numbers. When London and other big cities of Britain become majority non-white and immigrant what happens to the native culture of Britain? This is a very serious point. No people will accept being overwhelmed by outsiders in their own native land. In France censuses do not take religion into account and so the numbers of Muslims are uncertain. Most authorities think they are in the region of ten percent. The native French birthrate is in steep decline and so immigrants becoming the majority in several decades is entirely possible. Leftism is a Western and European tradition. You cited Aristotle and Christianity. I myself do not hold either to be leftwing . Leftism is any modern sense begins with the French Revolution. When Western countries are dominated by immigrant communities the wonderful progressive traditions that have given everything to mankind is going to be eclipsed. Voltaire! Rousseau! The men of the French Revolution! St Simon! Marx! Engels! Bakunin! Herzen! Bebel! Chernyshevsky! Lenin ! Trotsky! Luxemburg! Liebknecht! Ibsen! Shaw ! I fear for the legacy of them all.

    • 9 January 2022 at 7:54am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      Your origins are as relevant to this argument as what I had for breakfast. London is already a city that is majority non-white/non-British born, it’s one of things that makes it such a fantastic place; and I can assure you, as someone who’s lived near it all their life and in the heart of it for the last 43 years, that the vast majority of native Brits like me who live here celebrate the fact. Indeed, survey after survey has shown that it is the areas of low immigration that have the strongest objections to incomers - in areas of high immigration they are welcomed. (And as anyone who lives in London will tell you, it is often immigrants who espouse love for Britain and its values the loudest.)

    • 9 January 2022 at 7:54am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      When it comes to Muslim immigration and integration, the EU puts the proportion in France at 5%; others may put it a bit higher, but I’ve seen nowhere that puts it at 10% - perhaps the publications in which you read that have an agenda. As for Muslim integration, I well remember the situation before 9/11 when the overwhelming majority of young Muslims were as integrated and secular as anyone could hope for. Bin Laden’s plan was always to turn western populations against their Muslim inhabitants thereby forcing them back into religious identity and a fearful and therefore hostile attitude towards the rest of us. It is a tactic that has worked brilliantly because of attitudes like yours; thankfully, the vast majority of Muslims in the west have had the common sense and decency to put up with the hostility they face without succumbing to the hate mongers’ siren song - but if you want that to change and bin Laden to succeed, just carry on as you are. As for the nonsense of ‘they will outbreed us’, that is one of the oldest and always disproved racist tropes there has ever been - you really ought to read some history.

    • 9 January 2022 at 7:55am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      As for your not holding that Aristotle or Christ were leftwing, so what? No one cares what you or I think unless we can back it up with arguments and facts. Christ was avowedly non-political (render unto Caesar …), so while his values chime with leftwing ones, and capitalism definitely seems deeply unchristian, I accept that it’s a bit of a push to call him leftwing. But if you’re going to deny it of Aristotle provide some reasons backed up by quotes or keep quiet.

      Again, you spout this racist nonsense about western countries being ‘dominated’ by immigrant communities - it’s absolute piffle and you can’t provide a single example to back it up. What immigrant communities actually do, what they have always done, is enrich and beautify our culture; of course, that means changing it, but without change we stagnate and die. As I said before, if you understood anything about the history of these isles, you would know that this has always been the case and that it has always been resisted by people like you uttering precisely the same nonsense that you are.

      You are afraid of our progressive traditions being overthrown; well, so am I. But the danger comes not from immigration but from fear mongers like you who, whether you intend it or not, are fostering the rise of populism and fascism with your lies which will, if you succeed, turn this country into a little inward facing haven of conservative mediocrity instead of the great outward looking polity that has the self-belief and vision to embrace the world in all its wonderful diversity.

    • 9 January 2022 at 11:14am
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      Aristotle was a notable defender of slavery. As indeed was Jesus. "Left" and"Right" began in the French Revolution, where the king's enemies sat on the left in the National Assembly and his friends on the right. The mechanism by which excessive immigration leads to the eclipse of the left is plain enough if you are willing to open your eyes and get past cheap platitudes. It is happening in France as we speak. The native majority panics as it sees it past, present and future being taken away, and sides with the far right; meanwhile immigrant populations with no Western leftwing traditions impose their retrograde values on the polity. The two processes feed each other with frightening results. The only way to prevent it happening is to strictly curb immigration and take determined steps to enforce assimilation on immigrants.

    • 10 January 2022 at 6:59am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      Aristotle did indeed support slavery. Over the years I have been unable to find a single voice from the classical world that didn’t - slaves wanted to stop being slaves but not because they thought slavery was a crime. (Oddly, there was no shortage of people arguing for animal rights - the Pythagoreans, for example.) We have to judge people by the era they came from, that’s why we say that the Greeks invented democracy even though the vote there was denied to women and slaves.

    • 10 January 2022 at 7:00am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      Equally, when we come to the French Revolution which you see as such a model of leftwing values we find that women were excluded from either voting or holding political office; and while there may be commentators in the Daily Mail who think that chopping off the heads of people who disagree with your politics is a leftwing value, I’m sure that we would both deny it. By modern standards the French Revolution was not leftwing, but that is not how we judge it. Personally, I am certain that before long the the leftwing value of justice for all people will be expanded to justice for all sentient beings - as many modern philosophers, not least Peter Singer, have pointed out leftwing values are incoherent if that change is not made. I can imagine someone in a 100 years saying, mirroring your argument, that Marx couldn’t have been leftwing because he ate meat. Yes, the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ were a modern invention, but the mindset was not. Aristotle was leftwing because he believed in the state as a force to foster equality and justice through redistributing wealth; because he was of his time the application of that justice and equality was limited, just as it was in revolutionary France, just as it is today.

      You say that in France the ‘native majority panics as it sees its past, present and future being taken away, and sides with the far right’, but can you give a single example of any of these subtractions? The people who are flocking to fascism are not doing so because of anything that’s actually happened or happening, they’re doing it because of people spreading the sort of poisonous nonsense you are.

    • 10 January 2022 at 10:13am
      Camus says: @ Joe Morison
      Thank you for taking the time to confront Charbb with the inconsistencies in the argument he/she uses. The spread of xenophobia is usually linked to weird theories about the origins of evil in the cosmic system such as the Microsoft threat or the ramblings of Farage.

    • 11 January 2022 at 5:47am
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      None so blind as those who refuse to see. For many years there have been banlieus of Paris dominated by Arabs where the police are reluctant to venture. For many years French Jews, for the first time since the Hitler War, have felt the sting of anti-Semitism, thanks to the heavy Muslim influx. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending these things are not happening will not stop them.

      The past, present and future of France vanishing for the natives? One needs a minimum of common sense and imagination to appreciate that. As the Muslim and immigrant proportion of France increases to 20 percent and 40 percent - easily conceivable - the kind of people who feel linked to the past of France will diminish. There will be few interested in the orations of Andre Malraux about the Resistance hero Jean Moulin, the history of De Gaulle, Voltaire, Rousseau, Stendhal, Hugo, Flaubert, Zola, Proust, Camus, Sartre. (Not that Sartre will care, the nihilist.)

      A family has its distinctive life based on shared experiences and memories. The mistake of the Western nations was to bring in such vast numbers of outsiders that the life of the national family itself is vanishing. The newcomers feel no link to the national past. Limited immigration I am all for; as I said, I am of Ugandan Asian origin. But when immigrant numbers reach unassimilable levels there is inevitably panic among the native majority and that is what we are seeing in France today.

    • 11 January 2022 at 8:04am
      Joe Morison says: @ Charbb
      I’ve just got Covid and don’t have the energy to carry this on, anyway I’ve said all that I’ve got to say. Most people who spout the nonsense you do are motivated by malice, that’s obviously not the case with you. However, you seem to have completely forgotten that most important of human virtues: compassion. You are not hateful but the stuff you’re saying really is - it’s cruel and cold and wholly contemptible. Stop worrying about what might happen in some imagined future (in which nothing is certain) and concentrate on what we can do now to make this a less miserable world.

    • 11 January 2022 at 9:40am
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      Get well soon anyway, Joe! And take it easy - I am not really as bad as all that. Ponder my last paragraph. It's my case in a nutshell.

    • 11 January 2022 at 1:19pm
      Charbb says: @ Joe Morison
      Get well soon, as I said. But I must add that there is nothing in the least cruel in recognising the plain fact that excessive immigration, by panicking the natives in Western Europe into moving to the far right, is destroying the great progressive tradition Europe invented and the world benefits so much from. Excessive immigration must indeed be curbed, for sound leftwing reasons.

    • 13 January 2022 at 10:37am
      ChrisS says: @ Charbb
      I note you are careful to say above when you came here that you were a 'British Subject' - but of course the meaning of that term over time was highly fluid and contingent, and as subsequent events have shown whether not an individual with that status would be allowed to settle in the UK was very much down to the actions of the government at the time.

      You also state you were Ugandan Asian. Of course, it was the Ugandan Asians coming to the UK that triggered Powell to excoriate the flow of migrants in language not dissimilar to your own, and I'm not sure you have advanced an objective reason why your critique should be taken any more seriously than his.

    • 13 January 2022 at 3:27pm
      Charbb says: @ ChrisS
      I have been careful enough to repeat that it is not immigration but immigration that changes the demographics of society drastically, that is at issue in what I have to say. Up to the 1970s things were still on a relatively small scale and easy to manage. After that - somewhat surprisingly given the dominance for much of the time of Mrs Thatcher, not a notable friend of immigration - the numbers became overwhelming. No nation can undergo such an influx with terrific demographic change without inducing very serious political consequences, and we are seeing this all over Western Europe in the steady drift to the far right and the abandonment but a lot of the native populations of the left and liberals. You can shut your eyes to this dangerous situation, but that will not address it.

    • 13 January 2022 at 3:35pm
      Charbb says: @ ChrisS
      My point in mentioning that I was a British subject when my family came to live in Britain - slightly before the expulsion by Idi Amin - was that where people have close connections with Britain the case for their settlement in the country becomes more reasonable. I never said it was unchallenged. I dare say you would have liked to challenge it. Tough luck. Powell was ranting years before the Idi Amin affair. I made clear in what I wrote that unlike Powell I did not oppose immigration as such but excessive immigration that changed the demography of the native country, and concerned people with no close historical connections with Britain. I also raised a key point you do not address: that demographically altering immigration levels are in effect eclipsing the great leftwing traditions of the West to which I owe allegiance.

    • 13 January 2022 at 10:57pm
      Charbb says: @ ChrisS
      A quarter of a century ago I happened to go by bus from London to Coventry by a rather convoluted route, through one immigrant dominated city after another, and was surprised to feel I was hardly in Britain at all. I might have been travelling around Pakistan, it seemed. This level of demographic change is extremely unfair to the native population. Everything in human affairs has to observe reasonable limits and sensible numbers. I am an immigrant myself but I do feel that in Britain and several other Western countries there have arisen immigrant communities that lack links to the national history and have reached numerical levels which cause the native majority serious concern that the demographic profile of their country has been altered to an extent they never expected to see.

  • 8 January 2022 at 7:27am
    Joe Morison says:
    Being leftwing is about treating everyone equally and seeking justice for all. It is entirely antithetical to giving primacy to one’s own country as can be seen by how disastrous the mixture of socialism and nationalism has always been.

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