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Child refugees have become pawns in a rightwing culture war

In striking down Alf Dubs’ House of Lords amendment, the government is feeding nativist narratives

“Who could be against children joining their families?” Few questions better capture the cruelty of the Conservative government’s approach to child refugees than that posed by Labour peer Alf Dubs this week. Dubs was protesting against the government’s decision to scrap a commitment from the Brexit withdrawal agreement that allows unaccompanied child refugees to reunite with their families in Britain. The House of Lords struck down the measure on Tuesday – only for the government to promptly overturn its changes. Dubs’ question pinpointed the confusing priorities of Boris Johnson’s hard-right government: why did it pick this fight?

The government’s position is riven with contradictions: it publicly supports protecting family reunification, but argues that including the commitment within the Brexit withdrawal bill ties its hands in EU negotiations. How can your hands be tied by something you’ve publicly supported? Vulnerable children should not be made bargaining chips, but the row over child refugees plays into a culture war that has proved a winning electoral formula for the right. Much like rightwing politicians’ tirades against international aid, which pit overseas donations against the needs of British pensioners waiting for beds in hospital corridors, the debate around child refugees fortifies a nativist narrative: (white) Britain comes first.

READ  114 Ivorians, Guineans, Liberian migrants return home from Algeria amid COVID-19 with IOM assistance

This message is finding a growing audience among a population that has experienced the economic hardships of austerity and absorbed its belt-tightening mantra. The populist right preys on this invented feeling of economic scarcity. While debating the issue of unaccompanied child refugees recently on Sky News, my fellow panellist, a Conservative supporter, argued the government’s priority should be housing the many deprived British children and families living in temporary accommodation.

Read Also: Millions of future climate refugees may need protection, U.N. committee warns

It was a perfect example of the racialised antagonism that pits groups against one another. Having helped to plunge a fifth of the population into poverty, the right now uses Britain’s straitened circumstances as justification to attack progressives for wanting to help refugee children. This deepens the divisive rhetoric of “us” and “them”; the latter category now includes not just migrants or foreigners, but also people who are anxious to defend them.

Across the world, progressives are consumed by the question of how to dismantle this dog-whistle racism. The communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio works on political messaging designed to defeat far-right narratives. She has closely studied successful progressive campaigns, from New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s 2017 victory to Ireland’s 2018 referendum on abortion. During the 2018 US midterm elections, Shenker-Osorio worked with grassroots groups in Minnesota that were attempting to counter Republican race-baiting and immigrant-bashing. They found that messages focused only on economics weren’t cutting through. As JaNaé Bates, communications director for the Isaiah coalition of faith communities for racial and economic justice in Minnesota, has explained, some voters who wanted free healthcare, education and childcare would add: “If my Somali neighbour is going to get it [too], I don’t want it.”

READ  Forced displacement passes 80 million by mid-2020 as COVID-19 tests refugee protection globally

Progressive groups worked with Shenker-Osorio to develop a campaign message with an inclusive narrative capable of persuading swing voters. It focused on a relatable subject: long Minnesota winters. A campaign ad, which ran on radio and online, claimed that everyone knew how to dig their neighbours out of the snow – regardless of whether they had lived in Minnesota for one year or 50. The ad concluded with a rousing message that called out the divisive rhetoric of opposition candidates: “There are lots of ways to be Minnesotan and all of them are greater than fear”.

Minnesota, previously a marginal Democrat state, wound up with resounding Democrat victories for governor, attorney general and Senate races, taking control of the state house and elected the first Somali-American, Ilhan Omar, to Congress. Its story is a lesson for the challenges facing the UK left: how to build a more inclusive version of the collective “us” and share ideas with progressive movements in other countries – which is exactly how the populist right is organising. As Shenker-Osorio says when we talk on the phone: “The right uses the same talking points everywhere, all they do is run it through a localised spellcheck.”

READ  EU considers taking in 1,500 refugee children living in Greek camps: Germany

The alternative is to be dragged into a nativist narrative that incites division. And that’s where everyone loses, from desperate families forced to use food banks, to children living in camps far away from their families.

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

READ  900 stranded Britons to return home next week

“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US

A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun  narrated how he  burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.

“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.

Giving details of how he executed the task,  the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet.  I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet.  I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked  how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok.  I asked  how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and  he called back  the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.

“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet.  In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them.  When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.

Thereafter, Balogun said  the police  processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss.  The girls cooperated and  made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested  him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”

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Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back  my experience as a  police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect  and want to join?”

He hinted that his  security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria.  There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.

“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood.   You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’  For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”

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He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that.  We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs.  We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president.  We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”

Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table.  We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47.    I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation.  They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come  to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum  and choose.”

As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it.  Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “

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On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses.  My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here.  We are   looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.

“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it.  With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place.  It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die.  But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”

 

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Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

 

Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout  of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.

There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.

“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.

The study is based on labour market data.

The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.

The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.

If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.

No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.

However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.

The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.

Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.

A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.

READ  Forced displacement passes 80 million by mid-2020 as COVID-19 tests refugee protection globally

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

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