One of the most exciting aspects of Labour Conference 2019 was the shift in Labour Party policy and rhetoric towards a more explicitly pro-migrant stance, with Diane Abbott using her conference speech in September to announce the immediate closure of Yarl’s Wood and Brooke House detention centres, an end to the hostile environment, and that Labour would be campaigning on a pro-migrant stance going forward.
In addition, an important pro-migration motion, based largely on text produced by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, was passed with a resounding majority at Labour Conference, with the help of delegates from Stevenage CLP. The motion supports the leaderships’ pro-migrant stance and goes further to commit a Labour government to defending and extending free movement, ending the hostile environment and no recourse to public funds policies and extending voting rights for national elections to all UK residents, making it the most radical immigration policies Labour has ever had, should it make it to the manifesto.
In light of this, the Women’s Forum was delighted to welcome Sabrina Huck, an organiser for the Labour Campaign for Free Movement (LCFM) and writer at Labour List, to our October meeting to talk about the campaign and the broader issues around migration. Sabrina gave us an excellent overview of the different aspects of the policies LCFM supports and why, with the overarching theme that many immigration policies deliberately set out to pit the working classes against each other, as a distraction from holding those in power accountable for their decline in living conditions.
Many women in the room shared their own experiences of the hostile environment (both in the present day and in the past) with moving stories, often starting with an invitation from the UK government to come and live here in the first place. We also had a wide-ranging discussion on the value that people from diverse backgrounds add to their communities, with the Irish Network offering a fantastic example of the support and community which migrants contribute in Stevenage. Much of this work can’t be measured with the tickbox exercises which comprise points-based visa systems touted as a “sensible” answer to migration.
One topic which also hit close to home was the impact that “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) policies can have on children. NRPF policies effectively ban people from accessing support and benefits provided by the state due to their visa status, regardless of whether they pay taxes which support the system. Kids whose parents cannot access the welfare system under NRPF policies are ineligible for free schools meals, leaving them at risk of going hungry during the school day. This type of everyday injustice is unacceptable in a society which considers itself civilised, and it is our duty as Labour Party members to stand up and fight against them wherever we can.
The morning was a great success with thoughtful contributions from everyone in the room. New and existing members alike had the opportunity to speak and it was wonderful to have such a productive, interesting conversation which sets the stage for a broader debate at the CLP level in the future.
Stevenage Women’s Forum is committed to discussing key topics and campaigns from across the Labour movement in a friendly and informal environment for women and non-binary people. We have a lot more planned for the coming year but we also want to hear which topics *you* are interested in discussing!
Contact Michelle Gardner, Stevenage CLP Women’s Officer (details in the Members-only section of the site) and share your voice with us.
Find out more about the Labour Campaign for Free Movement here: https://www.labourfreemovement.org/