Everyone is worthy of protection

Polish firefighter Lukas is based in Dundee

Post by Rachel Hamada, Media and Communications Officer

Posters are being unveiled all over the UK, including Scottish locations from Airdrie to Inverness, highlighting the positive contributions of migrants to British society and countering the negative rhetoric around immigration coming from some of the British media and from many politicians.

The crowdfunded poster campaign shows immigrants from different countries who currently occupy roles such as lawyers, nurses and firefighters (the Polish firefighter in the campaign is in fact a Dundonian). The posters have been produced by Movement Against Xenophobia, a network of organisations, faith groups and individuals with over 100 members.

Such a UK-wide campaign, in the corrosive atmosphere fostered by the rise of UKIP and tough talk on immigration even by supposedly mainstream parties, is most welcome. While many Scottish politicians and the media here do tend to be more positive, Scotland isn’t immune to the wider mood, especially with cross-border publications like Metro bringing an English take on immigration to a substantial Scottish audience.

Hostility creates fear

As the Mapping Immigration Controversy event later this week will explore, tactics such as the ‘Go Home’ van used by the Government to try to persuade (or bully…) people to return their country of origin, made people feel stressed, frightened and unwelcome. Positive representations of immigration such as the posters being launched today do help to counter this.

As an organisation that works particularly with people seeking a safe haven in the UK after experiencing war or violence, we are conscious that the narrative – both negative and positive – is often framed in terms of the contributions that people make rather than their right to protection and to be with their families.

The fixation on trying to quantify people’s value and worth can however feel like playing those opposed to immigration at their own game. If person A can be shown to contribute in measurable terms to British society, what about person B, who can’t yet contribute? Person B could be a child that has fled war and never had access to education. Do we not value him or her at all? Do we deem them unworthy and put them in the debit column?

Protection should be universal

The rights enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention holds that Person B has a right to come to a place of safety. In a world where reading the newspapers can often leave us feeling despondent about the human capacity for cruelty and selfishness, this safety net is something to believe in – that fifty years ago after populations were persecuted and killed, it was agreed that where such horrors are happening again the world won’t stand by and let people die or suffer needlessly.

Conflict does not pick and choose. People who have to run from their homes with nothing, people who have to scoop up their children and struggle across border after border in a bid to find somewhere they are not in danger, people who in their country might face a future of oppression and hopelessness, range from the doctor or the teacher to the manual labourer or the child.

All of humanity can be at risk where unrest flares up or exploiters come to power. There should be no hierarchy of human worth.

Different dreams

At Scottish Refugee Council, we believe that there should be support for those who come to Scotland seeking protection to lead secure, fulfilled lives. When we put refugees and their own passions and motivations at the heart of our support services, the rewards for us and Scottish society are great – but that’s not why we do it.

We do it because we believe in the human potential to put down roots in a new place and blossom - whether as a carer or a mother or a neighbour or a volunteer or, indeed, as a fireman.

If you would like to support the poster campaign in Scotland, you can go to the website of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to download and print out mini posters to distribute. Please don’t flypost!

Read Movement Against Xenophobia’s founding statement 

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