Comedian Ava Vidal expresses her disgust in an exclusive piece for Show racism the Red Card entitled 'The Racist Van'
The Racist Van
The Home Office recently saw fit to drive a van around London with a message emblazoned across it telling illegal immigrants to ‘Go Home or face arrest.’ The van has been dubbed ‘the racist van’ by many that are unhappy at the targeting of immigrants in this way. But the van is indicative of something else that has been happening in Britain recently. Mainstream politics have lurched to the right with the rise in popularity of Nigel Farage’s party UKIP. Instead of offering an alternative to UKIP’s divisive policies which seem to begin and end with dealing with the problems that they believe immigrants cause, Labour and Conservatives in a bid not to lose voters to them, seem to be competing as to who can come up with the most offensive statements to win their voters.
We have recently seen some outrageous claims by politicians that sound like they come out of the mouths of members of the EDL (if any of the members could actually speak properly.) These statements are causing division and suspicion amongst ordinary citizens. Chris Bryant of Labour recently accused Next and Tesco of deliberately targeting cheap migrant workers instead of giving jobs to British people. The retail giants have both hit back refuting these claims.
In conjunction with the ‘racist van’ the Conservatives have recently instructed staff from UK Border Agency (UKBA) out on to the streets in order to try and catch these illegal immigrants red-handed. They are seen at various train stations early in the mornings at areas with high BME populations, stopping and questioning people that they suspect have ‘stolen’ a job from a British person. Many have witnessed these incidents and have confirmed that the people stopped are overwhelmingly black and Asian. They are causing even more tensions in communities that have recently seen a surge in the amount of racist and Islamophobic attacks against them. There has been an attempt to make public workers such as GP’s, teachers, health workers and teachers to question people’s immigration status and report those that they believe to be here illegally. Even more disturbing, there have been accusations stating women reporting incidents of domestic violence to the police are being asked about their own immigration status.
After the tragic killing of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich it has felt as though it is open season on minorities in the UK. After the murder the government immediately called a meeting of COBRA the organisation set up to respond to incidents of national and regional crisis to discuss what could be done to combat what was seen as this new threat from Islamic extremists. Mosques were attacked in the wake of this incident including one in Muswell Hill being burnt to the ground. Tell Mama UK reported that Islamophbic attacks had skyrocketed from an average of 8 per day to 221 per day. Yet not one COBRA meeting has been held in response to these attacks. This has led to many from the affected communities to feel even more alienated.
It is getting very confusing as people don’t seem to know who to hate most at the moment. Is it Muslims, illegal immigrants, migrant workers or those with darker skin that are causing the problem? Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg recently dined with a group called Traditional Britain that wants all ‘non-indigenous’ Britons repatriated to their places of origin.
So what can we do to combat this nasty atmosphere that has been created by our political parties using the most vulnerable in society as scapegoats? Well it has not been all bad. As with most tense situations, the British public have been showcasing the sense of humour that they have become famous for. Many internet memes have popped up taking the mickey out of the racist van.
People have also been texting the number provided by the Home Office to see if they will provide cab fare between various destinations in England. Anti-racist and equality campaigner Stafford Scott asked to be returned from Stamford Hill to Tottenham for instance and they very rudely hung up on him.
There have also been groups that are handing out practical legal advice for those that may be targeted by UKBA officials such as this offered by Arona Sarwar solicitors. The civil liberties group ‘Liberty’ recently drove around London in a van of their own with a message to those at The Home Office.
A group of activists plan to go a step further on August 31st. They intend to lead a procession of anti-racist vans through London to restore good will and let know minorities being targeted that they stand in solidarity with them. The vans will have various messages on them ranging from anti-racist slogans on some to those highlighting the positive contributions that immigrants have made to the UK. Futher details to follow. BREAKING: 'Racist' Home Office vans grounded after legal battle