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We Must Fight Like Lions Against Islamophobic And Anti-Migrant Policies On Both Sides Of The Atlantic

31/01/2017 20:37 SAST | Updated 31/01/2017 20:42 SAST
NUS

The events of the last few days in the US have been truly horrific. The naked targeting of migrants and Muslims by the new Trump administration, the turning away and detaining of current green card holders as well as new applicants, entry being made conditional on questions related to matters of religious and political affiliation, have now been added to the signing of the Presidential executive order building a wall on the US/Mexican border. These developments mark a sharp acceleration and deepening of existing racist immigration and so-called counter terrorism policies. They also give us a taste of things to come in the months and years ahead.

As the President of the National Union of Students in the UK, I want to send all my solidarity to the thousands of people, of migrants - settled and otherwise, of international students and double citizenship holders who are now, from one day to the next, suddenly confronted with the absolute insecurity of what will happen next. Where will they be allowed to work and live? How will they manage to make ends meet, to study, to simply carry on? Will they go home? Can they leave and return? How long before they are reunited with their loved ones? I personally know that feeling all too well. My childhood was filled with it. I know the way this mixture of fear, insecurity, and powerlessness can freeze your limbs and paralyse the mind. I know the feeling of terror, deep in your stomach, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. Even then, sleep is only ever a temporary and ineffective escape.

It is the task of our movements to collectivise the carrying of the burden, to offer solidarity, and pull people out of this terrible isolation. It is our task to offer a shield from these decisions, made by the powerful. The scenes of tens of thousands of people occupying airports, tens and tens of lawyers working pro-bono all night to support people, the sight of taxi drivers in New York, often from migrant backgrounds themselves, taking strike action in solidarity - a movement of ordinary people roaring so loudly that they forced a partial step back on the extent of the policy - are absolutely magnificent and inspiring. They show the way on how to fight them and push them back, in the US and at home.

To people here in the UK also, these questions are not abstract. Many have highlighted the way own Prime Minister is staying silent and inactive in the face of these policies to safeguard her so called 'special relationship'. But Theresa May's own politics align perfectly with those of her US counter-part: She too is building a wall, alongside the French government in Calais. She too is deporting tens of thousands of innocents, like the tens of thousands of international students who had their student visa's wrongfully stripped when May sat in the Home Office. She too is profiling and monitoring Muslims through the Prevent agenda. She too is vilifying migrants and leaving unaccompanied minors without support or protection. She too is fuelling the practice of detention of people who have committed no other crime than to look for a better life on our shores. Ask the women in Yarl's Wood and their fellow detainees in centres across the UK if they think May's policies are really any different. Their politics, their hate, and their project of division are the same. It is our task to avoid the normalisation of these actions and to roll back existing policy. We must fight like lions on both sides of the Atlantic.

The banning of citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen is especially ironic given the role of the US and its allies' intervention in all these states. The situation is thus one were after destroying people's lives and making their continued stay in their countries of origin impossible, the so-called land of the free is now closing its doors to its own victims. For a right which talks much about being pro-life, pro-responsibility, and about the importance of duties and consequences for ones actions - these Islamophobic and anti-migrant policies point to exactly the opposite. For the powerful there are no consequences and no repercussion. When it comes to the lives of Black and Muslim people, there is no will to defend it - at home or abroad. When duty calls at the door of our politicians, all too often the answer is silence and deceit.

As NUS president, I have made solidarity with migrants a central element of my priority campaign - Liberate Education. I want to make our movement's solidarity practical and effective. I have already added NUS' support to the demonstration outside Downing Street on Monday 30 January at 6pm. I hope as many students as possible will make their voices and their anger heard. There are a further few simple steps students and officers can take. First of all, I encourage everyone to show all those affected, and those protesting, that we are with them by taking action on their campus and in their communities: whether it's taking solidarity pictures, organising protests or holding organising meetings to discuss what can be done. Secondly, I encourage people to pass motions in their unions calling on our government to take action and for Trump's planned state visit to be rescinded. Thirdly, I want to encourage Students Unions to provide the necessary support and advice to those in need and for students to make their homes into refuges for people stranded in the UK, while they wait for their situation to become clearer. Finally, I am working closely with the Vice President of the Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS) Yusuf Hassan, in organising public actions with those from the most affected community, Muslims students, on Friday this week.

As always the fight against Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia continues. Let's make the slogan - an injury to one, is an injury to all - a reality, and let's start the process of healing through struggle together. It is our collective task, wherever we are.