by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
The treatment of Shamima Begum has highlighted the racism at the heart of the government and its immigration rules.
Shamima’s baby son Jarrah died in a Syrian refugee camp last week.
A month before, Tory home secretary Sajid Javid had stripped her of British citizenship. And now Javid has taken away British passports from sisters Reema and Zara Iqbal.
All three are trapped in the al-Roj refugee camp in north eastern Syria.
The death of Jarrah in a refugee camp was wholly predictable—and the responsibility lies with Javid.
Reema and Zara have five children all under the age of eight stuck in the same desperate conditions.
The Tories saw Shamima’s case as an opportunity to increase racism and state-surveillance of Muslim people in Britain.
Secondary school pupils Shamima, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana from Tower Hamlets left for Syria in 2015.
Reema and Zara from the east London borough also went to join Isis, a reactionary, sectarian group fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
But stripping Shamima of citizenship backfired on Javid, who caused widespread fear by his ability to make someone stateless.
And an intervention by Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott last Saturday helped to further shift public opinion.
She said, “This week a British baby died from pneumonia in a Syrian refugee camp—a tragedy that might have been avoided.
“If the mother and baby had been brought home, the baby might have lived. Sajid Javid has behaved shamefully.”
Labour taking a principled stand against racism, rather than making concessions to the right, can have a real impact.
It should speak out against all attacks on migrants’ rights and for freedom of movement.
The Tories are riddled with racists. Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd referred to Abbott as “coloured” during an interview last Thursday. “Coloured” harks back to the racist language that black people who came to Britain after the Second World War faced. Rudd was forced to resign as home secretary over the Windrush scandal last April.
The scandal saw the threat of deportation hang over the heads of thousands of people who had come from Britain’s former Caribbean colonies between the 1950s and 70s.
Her remarks came not long after Independent Group MP Angela Smith referred to black and Asian people as having a “funny tinge”.
The Tories’ racist attacks on Muslims, migrants and refugees have given a lease of life to older forms of racism.
And they reinforce the need for a mass movement against racism.