Your email confirms you are lining up beside the populists and fascists

Late last year, the Islamic Women’s Council of NZ’s Anjum Rahman received an email urging her to join the fight against the UN Global Compact on Migration. This was her response.

Recent reporting has joined the dots between groups in New Zealand targeting the UN Global Compact on Migration and neo-Nazi groups offshore. This prompted me to recall an exchange I had at the end of 2018, when I received a message from a mainstream political group promoting a petition against the UN pact. I replied to the email, expressing my disgust and disappointment. A representative wrote back defending their position. As I explained in my response — an abridged version of which is published below — the links between the groups peddling racial hatred were already clear.

You have reaffirmed that you are taking the stance of populist and fascist groups especially prevalent in the US, UK, Europe and Australia.

You write about “illegal migrants”, then immediately afterwards write about the US-Mexican border. It isn’t illegal to seek asylum if fleeing war in your own country. You don’t look at the history and present involvement of the US in Latin America via its “war on drugs” that has caused so much of the upheaval and unrest.

The US has the structures and resources to process asylum seekers; to accept those who are genuine and reject those who aren’t. The hundreds of millions spent on additional troops could have been spent on processing centres and staff. You show no concern for children separated from their parents and lost when they are flown across the US.

You don’t talk about facts, such as the fact that migrants in all nations have a much lower crime rate than local populations (see also: this research). Yes, it should be zero, but then so it should be for all citizens.

You don’t mention the “war on terror”, which created humanitarian crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya and so many other countries, creating the conditions that cause so many to seek refuge abroad. Europe, the US and the UK have massively benefitted from these and other wars, often selling arms to both sides of the conflict. It is their moral responsibility to spend as much on refugees created from these wars as they gain from profiteering from the arms sales that are causing death, disease and poverty.

You talk about helping the refugees in their own countries, but I have never seen a petition from your organisation calling on the US, Australia and Europe to put money into rebuilding what they have destroyed.

I haven’t yet mentioned colonisation. Colonising countries sucked resources out of developing countries across the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. The current wealth of colonising countries is built on land and resource theft, as well as slavery. Migrants “pouring in” to colonising countries do so because of the theft of resources from their own home countries. Moreover, many of these migrants were deliberately imported over the years to provide cheap labour for the dirtiest and worst jobs in colonising countries.

As to this “pouring in” of migrants, again, this is so, so ignorant of the facts. A senior staff member the NZ Red Cross informed me earlier this year that all countries across Europe, the UK and the US are drastically cutting refugee numbers as well as migrant numbers. So, as the number of refugees worldwide is growing, the number of places for them to go is massively decreasing. Migrant numbers across the world have also dropped, but have a look at which region takes the most migrants.

The number of “illegal” migrants taken in by Europe, the UK, the US and Australia is a fraction of the number taken in by developing countries like Jordan, Pakistan, Kenya, Iran, Turkey, and Latin American countries. The neediest countries are actually the ones who take in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and destruction, and the wealthiest (again, only so wealthy because of colonisation) make sure that refugees have to jump through a multitude of checks and regulations before they take in a small proportion.

I haven’t even gotten to my main point yet. Please read this article.

One of the main reasons for this UN Global Compact on Migration is to protect migrant workers and to ensure they are documented properly. Migrant women of colour suffer the most on a global scale. They go overseas from impoverished countries to work as maids, sending most of their income back to their families. In many instances they have their passports taken, they are held prisoner inside homes, or they are used for sex by males of the household. They are raped daily. This Compact is designed to provide some protection (but nowhere near enough) when nation states refuse to provide adequate laws and protection.

Don’t think migrant exploitation is a foreign thing. There are many migrant workers exploited here in New Zealand: from the farming sector to the hospitality industry and to sex workers. Again, they have their passports taken. There are people in this country who are working for $5 an hour or less; they are threatened and unable to leave their situation. The previous government cut back the department of labour so there were hardly any inspectors. This meant that our government was deliberately turning a blind eye to the plight of these workers and ensuring there weren’t enough regulators across the country to provide protection and do spot checks.

When a government turns a blind eye to exploitation and the people of the country refuse to hold that government to account or take action to remedy the situation (that includes you, because I have never seen you circulate a petition to protect the rights of migrant workers in this country), then there should be an international body and an international agreement through the UN to protect those workers. No wonder there are politicians who don’t want our government to sign this Compact. They don’t want any future government they are part of to be held accountable for appalling policies and a lack of funding that cause so much harm.

How many migrant workers have you talked to directly? I am a trustee of Shama (Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre), and we have to clean up after New Zealand citizens who treat migrants this way. We support women who have had their immigration status abused and have then been subject to violence (including sexual violence). We see their tears; we hear their heartache. Where are you? We never see you on our side; we never see or hear you speak up for them.

In circulating this petition and then giving me the response that you have, you are stating that you don’t care about these women, locally or internationally. You align yourself with white nationalists and supremacists. You are requesting that our government aligns itself with the Trump administration; with the hateful Australian immigration policy that created abusive conditions on Manus Island and Nauru; and with Theresa May’s government, many members of whom were part of the Leave campaign responsible for a Brexit vote based on lies and straight out illegal campaigning activity through Cambridge Analytica.

If you have support, it is because there are so many other people who are ignorant of the issues I have listed above, who don’t read articles like the ones I have given you or this one from the Washington Post. And you don’t bother to give them another view; you don’t bother to circulate facts. You only gave me this rant about illegal migrants pouring in, devoid of any context or factual basis. You are an accomplice in perpetuating ignorance. And what is worse, you clothe this misinformation campaign in freedom of speech arguments, as if that justifies the spreading of lies and half-truths.

Neither you personally nor your organisation is safe for any of our clients. Our clients should never approach your organisation for support or assistance because it has shown a complete lack of care for the plight of migrants and has shown that it is willing to spread misinformation and use inflammatory and untrue language when discussing immigration issues.

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We will be doing our best to make sure that we protect our clients as best we can from the harm caused by your organisation. Of course, that will be difficult for us, because we don’t have funding and support from wealthy backers. We are a struggling NGO, whose social workers are working to capacity and whose board is made up of volunteers also stretched to capacity. We don’t have your reach, and I know that I can’t trust you to provide the facts around this UN Global Compact.

But I will continue to do what I can, and hope that the majority of New Zealanders will not succumb to the kind of views you are spreading. I will do my best to continue to fight for the vulnerable, exploited and oppressed – both in this country and internationally.

Please don’t write to me again. If you don’t take the time to read through all of the above, including the links, then there is really nothing more we have to say to each other. And if you read it all, but still don’t come to the conclusion that you have grossly erred, then again, I can’t help you and I have no further energy to devote to this.

I trust that I have been taken off the email list as requested.


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