Category Archives: Immigration

The Tories Won So What

I have been following the UK General Elections 2015 and a lot of people seem pretty disappointed that the conservative party, also known as the Tories, won the 2015 general elections. David Cameron will remain at 10 Downing Street. This is said to have been one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history. There were a lot of debates around the economy, immigration, the NHS and education.

Many people voted on their convictions along those lines. I did not vote, but I know many who did. A lot of people whom I know voted Labour but then again that’s the popular party followed by the diverse London crowd. The Labour party did not get enough votes to form a majority, and many analysts have blamed this on the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron. Source: www.versanews.co.uk
Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron. Source: http://www.versanews.co.uk

Apparently, a lot of Labour voters deflected to Conservative party for fear that if they voted Labour and that party was in a place to form a coalition government, it would invite the SNP to join it. Why are people afraid of the SNP? The SNP has consistently said that Scotland is its priority and thus people are worried that it would be pushing an agenda to divide the union.

Consequently, the Tories will be running shop for the next 5 years. What will the public expect? Records suggest that food banks have grown since the Tories came into government 5 years ago. This is a good stop gap measure, just as aid is a stop gap measure for developing countries. But may not necessarily be a good thing in a G7 country as it could mean that the poorer are indeed getting poorer.

SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 11:  Salisbury foodbank volunteer sorts a donation of food at the foodbank centre  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 11: Salisbury foodbank volunteer sorts a donation of food at the foodbank centre (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In the last 5 years, the NHS has begun to struggle even more, failing to meet its target response time for A&E patients; there have been news stories of emergency tents being set up outside hospitals, nurses being urged to come back to work on social media as there aren’t enough hands, and some portions of the NHS heading towards privatization.

In addition, the bedroom tax is biting poor people, while mansion taxes have been clearly avoided by this government. Tax evasion of the rich has increased, and people with disabilities are having their benefits increasingly cut as part of the austerity measures. However, the Tories inherited a deficit and a country whose books were unbalanced, overspent, and struggling from the credit crunch.

credit_crunch

Since 2010, the deficit is being reduced gradually, and records show a growing economy and reduction in unemployment. Whatever the case, the public in Britain will have a chance to go to the polls again in 5 years and vote. I personally have tried to understand the protests and public outcry at the majority win of the Tories. In any case, coming from a very young democracy, to me if elections are free and fair, and the people have voted, there really is no need for protests regarding the win unless people have smelt foul play.

I think the UK is very fortunate to be in a place where its elections are free and fair and the people are given a voice. Some people think that the election system is very unfair, that the number of votes do not translate into the number of seats. Will David Cameron be interested in a reform that will match votes to seats? Will there be a referendum soon to suggest a reform?

Photo from the 7 party debate of major party leaders. From left to right; Green Party, UKIP, LibDem, Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru. Source:www.bbc.co.uk
Photo from the 7 party debate of major party leaders. From left to right; Green Party, UKIP, LibDem, Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru. Source:www.bbc.co.uk

The anger I have heard from people is that he has no clue about the middle class or the working people, and his policies benefit him and his cronies; the rich. Hopefully, David Cameron will do what is just and look after the poor. At least people can heave a sign of relief that UKIP did not get a chance at 10 Downing Street with its far right plans of huge increase in defence spending, harsh restrictions on immigrants and anti-European co-operation.

A business owner expresses annoyance at Tories win. Source:www.facebook.com
A business owner expresses annoyance at Tories win. Source:www.facebook.com

Ed Milliband, Nick Glegg and Nigel Farage all of Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP have all resigned following the failure of their parties to make significant gains per their expectations at the genral elections. Their post results announcement speeches all spoke of regret and exhaustion, and then they resigned. I think perhaps Nigeria can borrow a leaf from these attitudes.

Although we know a lot of politicians to be two faced and dishonest at best, there are boundaries and levels to dishonesty, ambition and shamelessness. Politics cannot be a matter of life and death. If one runs and fails, there is no use making a spectacle such as the one we witnessed at Jega’s results announcement from one time Minister Godswill Orubebe. I look forward to the next couple of years of Nigeria’s APC government and the UK conservative government. Hopefully the change being demanded by the people will begin to come to fruition.

Xenophobia Attacks in South Africa: Nigeria Set To Evacuate Its Citizens From South Africa

More attacks continue to occur in South Africa, targeting immigrants from other African countries. According to a report by Reuters, at least seven people have died this week alone.

The Federal Government of Nigeria is set to begin evacuation of its citizens. The High Commission hotlines in Pretoria are +27 12 342 0805, +27 12 342 0688, +27 12 342 0905, +27 12 342 0808. The website of the High Commission is here for further information.

Meanwhile, the South African Government has deployed soldiers to its streets particularly in the township areas where the attacks are happening more.

Ghana Must Go: Nigeria’s Expulsion of Immigrants

Every Ghana-must-go bag has a story. It’s usefulness and fame in Nigeria arrived in late January 1983, when the President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, held a press conference and ordered all immigrants without the right papers to leave the country within a few weeks. There were over two million people; one million were Ghanaians, and the rest were from a mix of other West African countries.

“If they don’t leave, they should be arrested and tried, and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it”, he said in a statement.

Ghana must go patterns. Source:www.modernghana.com
Ghana must go patterns. Source:www.modernghana.com

According to Aremu in the African Research Review (2013), this statement was greeted by a barage of criticism from the international community. Most of these immigrants lived in Lagos and had arrived during the oil boom of the 1970s. News travelled like wild fire and there was a lot of fear mongering in Lagos, rumours had it that once the deadline arrived by Feb 2, 1983, civilians had the right to confront aliens living in Lagos. Fuelled by the rumours of the Lagos treatment during the civil war, within a few days of the announcement, two million people packed what they could into “Ghana must go bags”, a large and deep bag characterised by its chequered appearance. There was massive exodus as immigrants travelled west towards Seme border; the only exit to Ghana.

Hundreds of thousands camped out at the Seme border as they waited to cross over into the tiny country, Benin where they could find a ship to cross to Ghana. The water was not the prefered means of transportation, but became compulsory because the military head of state of Ghana at the time; Jerry Rawlings, had closed the road borders between Ghana and Togo. This was a common precaution among military rulers to avoid coup d’etat and to keep control of its state. In order to avoid a refugee crises on its hands, Togo in turn had closed its borders with Benin Republic. Thousands of Ghanaian refugees were stuck in Benin by its borders with Togo. Finally after a few days of camping by the borders playing Bob Marley tunes and roasting yam and meat by the roadsides, Ghanaians made the rest of the journey back home. Jerry Rawlings opening the border between Ghana and Togo was the catalyst Togo’s Gnassingbé Eyadéma needed to open its borders with Benin, allowing free flow of refugees to their home in Ghana.

Fancy Ghana must go bags. Source:www.danhalter.com
Fancy Ghana must go bags. Source:www.danhalter.com

About two decades before; in 1969, it had been the turn of the Government of Ghana to banish Nigerians and other immigrants. According to Awumbila et al of the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana, in Ghana, the expulsion order was known as the Alien’s Compliance Order. This saw the expulsion of a large number of immigrants from Ghana. The order required all aliens in the country to be in possession of a residence permit within a two week period. The order earned Ghana the displeasure of West African Governments especially Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso whose nationals were mostly affected. In both countries, this banishment of immigrants was a decision fuelled by economic and social difficulties, for which foreigners were held responsible. In Nigeria, the economy was suffering and elections were approaching. Thus politicians hoped that the expulsion will prove popular with the voters. Another round of immigrants expulsion took place in Nigeria in 1985 on a smaller scale.

Border movement. Source:www.spyghana.com
Border movement. Source:www.spyghana.com

Now there are better diplomatic relations between all west African countries through the ECOWAS free movement accord. In addition, countries signed up to and most ratified the United Nations General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990, on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. In summary, the primary objective of the Convention is to raise respect for migrants’ human rights. Migrants are not just workers, they are also human beings. The Convention does not generate new rights for migrants but aims at securing fairness and equality of treatment, and the same working conditions, including in case of temporary work, for migrants and nationals. The Convention depends on on the vital belief that all migrants should have access to a minimum degree of protection. The Convention recognizes that legal migrants have the validity and lawfulness to claim more rights than illegal migrants, but it stresses that even illegal migrants must have their fundamental human rights respected, like all human beings.

Now every Nigerian and Ghanaian know what a Ghana must go bag is. We have all used it, so have our mothers and for some; grandmothers. It is quite popular worldwide and is used for laundry and to store beddings or even as holiday excess luggage in many countries in the world. But specifically, in Germany it is “Tuekenkoffer”, which means the Turkish suitcase. In the United States of America, it is called the “Chinatown tote”. In Guyana, it is the “Guyanese Samsonite”. In Ghana and Nigeria, where the bags are celebrities and the most recognisable signature of “movement” it is known simply as the “Ghana must go” bag.

Xenophobia in South Africa: Another Tragedy

Every time I hear South Africa, I think of Madiba, and even when the spate of violence rocked the world with images of people being burnt in the streets for being non South African, I still thought about him. South Africa has a long history of struggles with apartheid but also a triumph of the human spirit. A triumph for how the black, brown and mixed race South Africans rose above that and forged forward with unity and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela was a true hero and is as much a son of South Africa as he is a son of everywhere else, we all lay claim to him. But I digress. Today black South Africans are killing foreigners in another spate of horrendous xenophobic attacks much worse than what happened in 2008 where a record 67 people were killed nationwide.

Nelson Mandela: Source: biography.com
Nelson Mandela: Source: biography.com

This is quite clearly a problem of economics; these killings are happening in townships and poorer areas and the theory or justification for it is that these foreigners are coming into SA and taking their jobs, introducing drugs into the streets and raping their women. First off, I think all these are unfounded accusations and if indeed these were happening, since when were citizens allowed to take laws into their hands? Why haven’t these so called illegals been reported to the police or arrested for crimes committed? This is quite clearly a question of xenophobia. For me the biggest question is; why wasn’t the police dispatched in their thousands immediately? I understand that these crimes took place in the townships; does policing have an economic bias?

Solidarity marches. www.paarag.org
Solidarity marches. http://www.paarag.org

Furthermore, I disagree with the narratives coming out of this tragedy. I have read comments on social media and watched tv interviews. People keep asking why these South Africans are attacking their “black brothers”. Someone wondered how any black person in Africa can be regarded as a foreigner. Personally, I think that these conversations are important, but they may not be helpful. There should be an outright condemnation of the violence and attacks; the blackness of the victims is immaterial. This is a crime against humanity, plain and simple. This narrative of race, ethnicity and background coming into it trivialises it and reduces it to a discourse about race. I think the discourse about race is important, but I do not think this is the place for it. All those responsible for this heinous crime should be brought to justice, there should be consequence.

Xenophobia attacks in South Africa. Source: www.dennisweeklydigest.com
Xenophobia attacks in South Africa. Source: http://www.dennisweeklydigest.com

The world is such a huge case study of immigration and expatriation, we cannot have xenophobia taking root in the world, there are enough ills as it is. Surely everyone in the world has a relative who lives some place that is not their country of birth? These criminals and their supporters should be ashamed of themselves, particularly coming from such a history of prejudice and injustice, and rising above that through the solidarity and support of the world, how can they forget so soon? This is akin to the treatment that the perpetrators of apartheid dished out to them, thus they should know better. There have been solidarity matches in some parts of SA and elsewhere, condemning the xenophobic attacks and urging peace and tolerance. For every evil person killing a foreigner, there is another championing the cause of “live and let live”.

Let us hope that the government of SA deals with this swiftly and decisively. The Zulu king who has been accused by some of making utterances which began the cycle of violence has recanted and claims he did not say anything. Well, nothing was caught on video so we really do not know if he did. However, the SA government must know what triggers these attacks. Do they need to change the curriculum in schools and teach diversity on the African continent and more on the role of the rest of the continent and indeed the world in conquering apartheid? Do they need to embark on a 5 year (or more, or less) national orientation campaign? Do they need to create more jobs and opportunities in the townships? Do they need to invest more in policing the communities? Do they need to reform the immigration system to improve the skills coming into South Africa?

Invariably this is a horrible situation and no human being deserves to be treated the way some South Africans have treated the foreigners living in their land. I stand in solidarity with the victims and their families; may they find safety and comfort in the country where they have chosen to live. This was a repeat of the horrendous 2008 xenophobia attacks. I hope the 2015 occurrence does not repeat itself in a few years. The world is watching and standing with immigrants and expatriates in South Africa and indeed all over the world. Many countries have been built on so called foreigners, in some ways everyone is a foreigner somewhere by virtue of association, one’s self or family links. But first we are human beings and thus must be treated as one.

Bits and Bobs. My Journey so far in Good Old England

I have lived in the UK now for 7+ months. It has certainly been a mixed bag of sorts; there have been joys and challenges. Joys for the most part for which I am thankful. I have met some wonderful people from all over the world and have settled into academia as much as possible. It has been busy as is evident from the irregular blogging. The weather has also gone through several phases; to me coming from 45 degrees Abuja, it is certainly cold which brings me to the question; why has my landlord refused to turn on the heating? Surely this is the right time for the radiators to do the work for which they were built?

Wardown Park Luton. Source: Annechia photography
Wardown Park Luton. Source: Annechia photography

While studying here, I have found the right stores to buy everything I need from food to clothes to books. If there is one thing I can tell you about the UK, it is that the money goes very very quickly! There are people who live very well obviously; the bankers and folks who work in the city, doctors and such healthcare professionals, the aristocrats, the top 2% or so who own businesses and live off trust funds which will never run dry (it seems), footballers, celebrities and others who have 100 different gigs to pull in money from different sources. The rest (and that is really the majority) live from pay check to pay check. The incomes are certainly better than many other EU countries from my research, but incomes in certain places like the USA and Germany are much better. This is solely from speaking to people in the same income brackets, same qualifications and relatively same experience who live or have lived in the mentioned countries. The taxes are shockingly high, but the good thing is that it provides a system that looks after its own (well as much as it can, it is certainly not perfect).

Pension table. Source:www.conversation.which.co.uk
Pension table. Source:www.conversation.which.co.uk

People with learning disabilities, special needs, mental health problems, old people living with dementia are all looked after. There are those who do not work and rely on welfare and council housing. The state pays for a lot of welfare for the aforementioned groups. The NHS which is the health system (a bit like the new Obamacare) has been around for a long time but certainly has it’s shortcomings. The waiting time for an ear infection or to see a consultant can be as long as six months. It is free for all citizens and people who make some sort of formal and legal contribution to the state; including international students who have paid full fees for the duration of their study, and other EU countries with whom the UK has a reciprocal arrangement. There are ongoing debates about the efficacy of the NHS and what kinds of reforms it may require. In spite of its shortcomings, you have to admire a system that seeks to look after its own.

NHS Hospital. Source: www.guardian.com
NHS Hospital. Source: http://www.guardian.com

In these 7+ months, I have also travelled a lot within the UK and within the EU. I think that travel is the best gift anyone can give to themselves. Nothing beats taking time to visit other countries and experience the cultures of other people. It opens one’s eyes to how the rest of the world lives, and the beauty and openness of the human race. I had tea in a tiny village near Reading, I tried some chocolate goodness in a small independent cafe near Baldock, I saw the amazing Christ Church at the University of Oxford where Harry Potter was filmed, I went to the Hindu festival of lights (Diwali) at Trafalgar square in London. I also went to Pairs, Toulouse, Carcassone, Athens and Rome with my sister. I saw the incredible works of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Louvre in Paris and visited Mona Lisa. I saw the genius of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel in Rome and attended mass said by Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica. I saw the Temple of Athena in the Acropolis in Athens and climbed Mount Lycabettus. It’s been an incredible couple of months and I am so thankful for this experience.

St Peter's Basilica. Source: Annechia photography
St Peter’s Basilica. Source: Annechia photography
The Acropolis. Source: Annechia.com
The Acropolis. Source: Annechia.com
Lover's Bridge Paris. Source: Annechia.com
Lover’s Bridge Paris. Source: Annechia.com

Most importantly, I have begun to dialogue with several INGOs who I may be interested in working for on the African continent, in South East Asia or indeed in the middle east after my graduation next year. It is all work in progress and I have put my intentions and plans to God and his universe believing that it all comes to fruition. My aunt is alive and well, many thanks to all of you who have emailed to ask about her and her dating advice, I reckon she needs to write a blog at this rate. I shall do another post on how to find a husband. Everytime I speak to her, she wants to know “how far”, and I shall blog about it in the coming days I think as I have been on a couple of her recommended “Igbo men dates”. In the interim, thanks to everyone who stayed subscribed. I shall do my best to update you regularly.

Am I An Immigrant?

I was reading a post by JannaT about facets of change when I recalled an incident which happened to me and decided to articulate what I was feeling. Luton is an incredibly diverse town; thousands of people from all over the world have moved here, sometimes with their entire families, sometimes very wealthy families have come here to set up businesses and invest here for the safety net and low risk business environment. Others have come alone with no money, sometimes with only the clothes on their backs to sojourn for better lives for themselves and the people they love. They remain here for decades and begin a new life, marry and have children. Thus there is a sense that anyone who comes here and speaks in a different accent is an immigrant. I went to the bank to set up a student account and the lovely customer care lady I spoke to said to me;

“Are you an immigrant?”
“I do not believe I am, are you?” I asked

Wardown Park Luton
Wardown Park Luton

To be honest, I was shocked by her question and my response. I think we were both shocked. Anyway, we cleared that up; student vs immigrant; two completely different things, thank you very much. When I thought about it later, I wondered if I should have reacted that way. I wondered if I should feel a bit ashamed? It is like there is a stigma attached to being an immigrant, a feeling that these people are aliens and a burden to the state. You can tell who the immigrants are because they have no language and money is often times a struggle, they also work the hardest jobs which nobody else wants.

According to the international migration organisation, an immigrant is someone who moves to another country usually for permanent residence. I have moved here to study not for permanent residence. In the event that my project Management qualifications are needed by a company and I am hired, then by all means call me an expatriate, thank you. Immigration is incredibly fascinating, equally fascinating is the host community’s reaction to it. When you think about it, the world is one huge immigration case study. Most of North America was “founded” by immigrants. Australia for example, was used as a penal colony by the British; the dumping started with the ships arriving in Botany Bay in 1788. There are certainly disadvantages to immigration; the culture of deprivation and alienation shows in densely populated immigrant areas; there is very high incidence of crime and poor integration which can then beget problems which last for generations. There is also the culture of resentment in some parts of the host communities towards immigrants for competing for jobs that are already scarce, few and far between, and for using other facilities which are bursting at the seams already.

It has been three weeks since I moved here to study and I still feel like a part of me is incomplete, that feeling you get when you forget something but can’t quite place your finger on what was forgotten.

“Do you miss home?” People constantly ask me.

It really is not that big a deal, I say most times. I wake up as usual, put on my warm clothes, and conduct my business as best as possible. But you see, change is tough, it is like a scab on a healing wound; you know that pulling it off will reveal a new layer, a much needed healing. But you are also afraid of the pain and possible bleeding. When I decided to move here for 14 months, I knew this was not the usual holiday where I saw sights, did some shopping, visited friends and went home. Nonetheless, nothing prepares you for the tightness in your chest when you hang up after speaking to your mother, nothing prepares you for the tears in your eyes when the wind slaps your face and howls in your ears. More than anything, nothing prepares you for that feeling of being an outsider, when you open your mouth to speak and it is evident that you are a stranger.

Coming To America

Source: Commons Getty Collection Galleries
Source: Commons Getty Collection Galleries

I pressed my face against the glass as we moved, steaming it up while trying to catch a glimpse of Sally. Papa drove fast, quickly leaving the caftan clad groups behind as they waved goodbye to us. The men and women waved and waved, while the children chased the car, I watched the dust cover them as their figures became softer. I pushed further and further, wishing I could rescue Sally, her beautiful lacy dress dragged on the dusty soil behind her new owner. Sam and Bill bickered behind, oblivious to everything happening outside. They did not care about their toys which had been distributed. I pressed myself into mama’s bosom and began to sniffle.

“Don’t cry nne, when we get there, we can buy you a prettier doll, Mary will look after Sally.” Mama said.

I dissolved into loud noisy sobs, breaking now and then; like the pirated CDs Papa favoured. It was a noisy drive; the bickering increased and my crying became louder as we drove towards the phantom of prosperity and freedom.

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Word Count: 175

Written for this week’s Trifextra Writing Challenge:

“…a representation of something abstract, ideal, or incorporeal <she was a phantom of delight — William Wordsworth : phantom
Remember:
Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
The word itself needs to be included in your response.
You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
This week’s word is phantom.”