The answer is solidarity, not scapegoating – Why trade unionists should join the SUTR demonstration


“The most terrifying thing about this government’s increasingly hostile policy is how quickly it has whipped up hatred and division, with an increase in far-right activity targeting refugees.”

By Louise Regan, NEU

On Saturday 18th March 2023 Stand Up To Racism will hold its annual march to oppose racism. Trade unionists will be at the heart of this protest because we understand the need to fight oppression wherever we see it. We know that racism is endemic, it runs through our society and the institutions that run it.

In the National Education Union we understand the need to decolonise our education system, to teach our young people the realities of the world that we live in and to give them the language and understanding to challenge racism, hatred and oppression wherever they see it.

In recent weeks, we have seen an alarming rise in violence and intimidation organised by the far right against refugees and refugee accommodation. Many trade unions work closely with Care4Calais and Stand Up To Racism. The current and ongoing anti-migrant politics are whipping up these attacks and trade union members have been at the heart of organising counter demonstrations and standing in solidarity with refugees.

The governments rhetoric is an attempt to divide working class people and blame refugees for the current cost of living crisis. In the past decade, the UK has suffered a crisis of living standards. We have seen falling wages and know that our public services have been underfunded and pushed out to the private sector. This was not inevitable, this was a political choice. The people to blame for this are politicians, billionaires and big corporations, not migrant workers or refugees forced to live in temporary accommodation. The anti-refugee campaign offers no solutions to the real problems faced by the deprived communities they are often targeting.

The answer is solidarity, not scapegoating. Our job as trade unionists is to engage with people in these communities to speak out about who the real enemy is and to oppose the hostile rhetoric of this government.

Last week the government announced yet another new policy targeting refugees. This policy would trample international human rights regulations and would deny those arriving by small boat to claim asylum in the UK. 

Care4Calais states that the new policy will mean that people arriving on small boats will:

  • Have their asylum claims made automatically ‘inadmissible’
  • Be subject to mass detention
  • Be removed to a third country as soon as practicable
  • Be permanently banned from returning to the UK

This policy is quite simply intended to demonise and scapegoat refugees and divert attention away from a government which is doing nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis and is facing increased mobilisation of workers who are saying enough is enough.

However, the most terrifying thing about this government’s increasingly hostile policy is how quickly it has whipped up hatred and division with an increase in far-right activity across Britain targeting refugees.

If the government really wanted to stop small boats crossing the Channel there is a very simple answer – provide safe passage and allow those fleeing war, torture and human rights abuses to travel safely to our country to seek asylum.

As trade unionists we must reject the politics of hate and say loud and clear that refugees are welcome here.

It is essential that we have a huge show of solidarity on Saturday 18th March in London, Glasgow and Cardiff with trade union banners and solidarity signs making clear to this government that we do not accept their policies and that we stand shoulder to shoulder with those that the government are attacking.

  • Stand Up To Racism, Care4Calais and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) are mobilising for protests of thousands to take to the streets of London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday18th March to #ResistRacism 
  • Louise Regan is a National Officer for the National Education Union (NEU).
  • You can follow Louise Regan on twitter here; and show your support for the NEU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The “No Human is Illegal – No to the ‘Illegal Migration Bill'” demonstration takes place on Saturday 18th March, 2023. Assembling at Portland Place, London W1A 1AA from 12pm.
Featured image: Louise Regan, National Officer for the National Education Union.

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