Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Reject the Summons of the “Illegal Immigration Bill”


Hyab Yohannes


Time to read

3 Minutes

Guest post by Hyab Yohannes, University of Glasgow.

a welcome sign
Photo by Roger Bradshaw (https://unsplash.com/photos/Yd1IJocQdHo)

I have been mostly mute since the government’s announcement of the “Illegal Migration Bill” as I had failed to see any sense in speaking out without any means to influence the passing of the bill. However, I have spoken to so many of the people I know who are the subjects of this cruel bill, who know of no way to react but to cry. So, I decided to offer my reflections on this appalling bill that creates a condition of impossibility of finding a place of welcome for the people seeking refuge and, which, importantly, inflicts deep colonial wound that penetrates our shared futures.

Since 2012, when then Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the “Hostile Environment” policy, the government has published legislation after legislation, which has led to the effective banning of asylum. The Immigration Act 2014 called upon landlords, NHS staff, and other professionals to serve as agents of bordering in the name of “national security”. It was in the name of maintaining British “identity” that Brexit called on citizens to lock their doors to their neighbours and friends, only to find themselves in self-imposed solitude. In the name of protecting British “values”, you and we are called upon to deny the humanity of people seeking protection, only to find (y)our own humanity eroded. In the name of “capitalism”, citizens of the UK are called upon to compete against each other at the dining table, only to find their own voracious greed threatening (y)our next meal.

These discourses of “national security”, “values”, “identity”, and “capitalism” do not seem benign to me. In fact, they are all indelible markers of inherently colonial structures imposed on people seeking refuge. The very idea of national security presents people seeking refuge as threats who require swift action to remove them. These manufactured narratives subordinate the human security of those seeking refuge to national bordering. Likewise, the quintessence of human values rests not in the homogenous totalities of a particular group of people in a particular place, but in interwoven pluralities, fluidities, and interculturalities spread across place and time. As Marxists would argue, capitalism enacts a modern form of slavery against the working class. This is why it is essential, as the philosopher Nelson Maldonado-Torres reminds us, to question ‘the terms in which humanity is defined and recognition takes place’. Some would say the answers lie in the universalisation of human rights and the expansion of the rule of law. Yet, decolonial thinkers rebuke this view that human rights and the rule of law do not exist in a fair and universal terrain; rather, these Eurocentric juridico-political norms exist and de-exist in racialised hierarchies.

Thus, I see little to be gained in arguing for the universalisation of human rights to include more of the people it has relegated to the realm of sub-humanity; nor am I arguing for the expansion of the rule of law that constructively excludes the racialised and marginalised with impunity. Obviously, I would never advocate the expansion of capitalism, for doing so will only lead to the exploitation of those it has enslaved for so long. I write for one purpose only: to proclaim that all these systems are rooted within the very foundations of “coloniality”, namely, ‘a logic, metaphysics, ontology, and a matrix of power that can continue existing after formal independence and desegregation’. I invite you to refuse to validate the impersonal logic of coloniality, for it will irreparably damage the very meaning of human existence.

Coloniality, Maldonado-Torres argues, ‘creates a profound scission in the concept of humanity…. into zones of being human and not being human or not being human enough’. As such, we must subject the impersonal logic of coloniality to profound questioning and move beyond the mere normative praxis of “critique”. The national and international immigration systems are designed so that we can merely critique their scope, without fundamentally questioning their very existence (e.g., without questioning their very functions or disfunctions). These imperial and totalitarian systems, as political theorist Hannah Arendt in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism warns, ‘have demonstrated that human dignity needs a new guarantee which can be found only in a new political principle, in a new law on earth, whose validity this time must comprehend the whole of humanity while its power must remain strictly limited, rooted in and controlled by newly defined territorial entitie.s

It is therefore imperative to project (y)our imaginations beyond the colonial systems of legislation and human rights discourse to destitute the unrelenting state-sanctioned violence against people seeking refuge. The condemned figure of the refugee ‘who is pinned down in hell in various ways including by virtue of how it appears’ represents all of our shared futures. It is incumbent upon us all to respect the humanness of the refugee and recognise our shared human vulnerability and relationality. The “Illegal Migration Bill” excludes the very possibility of the refugee finding a place of welcome. The bill loses its materiality and temporality in the face of intersubjective hospitality because when there is hospitality, humanity withdraws from violability and bestiality. It is therefore urgent to choose radical hospitality in the face of racialised violence to allow the human places and faces to extend a gesture of welcome, of hospitality.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

H. Yohannes. (2023) Reject the Summons of the “Illegal Immigration Bill”. Available at:https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/border-criminologies-blog/blog-post/2023/03/reject-summons-illegal-immigration-bill. Accessed on: 26/05/2024

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