Ben Weich

Theresa May was hailed as 'a true friend' to Jews - but what about her treatment of immigrants and refugees?

JC journalist Ben Weich says a community descended from migrants should be concerned how they are treated today

May 30, 2019 09:51

As Theresa May announced her scheduled departure from Number 10, she wept. Online and offline, commentators who had relished predicting her downfall were suddenly sympathetic.

Not that there should be any imperative for our leaders to weep openly but since Mrs May has, I’m entitled to ask where the tears were for those who have suffered under her Hostile Environment policy, or for Grenfell Tower?

The JC published an article on the day she resigned which lavished praise on her support for British Jews and Israel. Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl called Mrs May "a true friend to the Jewish community".

She may have been. But I assumed the community, as a group descended from migrants, would be more concerned by the treatment of immigrants and refugees under her watch.

As Home Secretary for six years, one of her primary goals was to drastically cut the numbers of immigrants coming to the UK.

The idea behind the Hostile Environment – as the name suggests – was to induce those without permanent residency to leave voluntarily, by making life difficult for them.

Under legislation introduced in 2014 and 2016, landlords, banks and other agencies were charged with carrying out ID checks on suspected “illegal immigrants”.

‘Deport first, appeal later’ was the order of the day, and vans were sent out into the world emblazoned with the slogan “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”.

In the speech announcing her resignation, Mrs May even had the gall to cite Sir Nicholas Winton, who was, before his death, a constituent of hers in Maidenhead.

She said that Sir Nicholas, the saviour of hundreds of Kindertransport children, bestowed on her the advice that “compromise is not a dirty word”.

But Lord Alf Dubs, the Jewish peer who has spearheaded the drive to admit unaccompanied child refugees into Britain, duly rebuffed the Prime Minister’s appropriation of Sir Nicholas’s memory.

“Nicky Winton did not compromise. He was resolute in his determination to save refugee children like me," he tweeted.

He said he hoped Mrs May would "honour Nicky’s memory by welcoming more unaccompanied refugee children from France, Italy and Greece.”

It was her government, after all, which came nowhere close to settling the 3,000 unaccompanied minors MPs believed they had voted to let in when passing the Lord Dubs’ eponymous amendment.

Under her watch, as both Home Secretary and Prime Minister, the life for migrant and many ethnic minority groups in Britain has worsened.

The secondary effect of Government policy – largely designed by Mrs May – is that it has emboldened certain sectors of society to treat such groups with increasing hostility and contempt. That cannot be denied.

As Jews, we should be outraged – not least because it seems to have been engineered primarily for electoral ends (and perhaps ideological ones, too).

It was us not that long ago.

May 30, 2019 09:51

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