Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah: Pardeep's Abuse Exposes Reality Of UK Government's Hostile Immigration Policies
"The violent exploitation of Pardeep and many more like him stems from a government that prioritises hostile immigration policy over the safety and well-being of students and workers."
Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah
November 11, 2022 | 3 min. read | Opinion
From the building of the Sikh Empire to the murderous partition that tore Punjab in half and led to the largest population movement in modern history to the migration of the 1960s and beyond which fuelled the post-war rebuilding of the West - migration has strong roots in Punjabi history and culture.
This migration and forced migration of our past have come with pain, and now again we find ourselves facing new battle lines.
The video of an international student, Pardeep Singh in Wolverhampton, who was violently beaten by his employer for demanding to be paid his wages exposed the abusive employment that many international students and new migrants are facing in the UK. Not only was Pardeep physically assaulted, but his employer felt so comfortable he would not face any legal repercussions that he recorded the assault.
The violent exploitation of Pardeep and many more like him stems from a government that prioritises hostile immigration policy over the safety and well-being of students and workers.
Migrant workers like Pardeep hold our society and communities together but they have limited protection from the government against abusive employers. Employers get away with abuse because of the lack of workplace protections for migrant workers and workers are worried about reporting abuse to the police out of fear they will face deportation or their visa not being extended. These fears are justified because on the rare occasions that migrants do report abuse the police often treat them as offenders, rather than victims.
To make matters worse, the reappointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary should signal alarm bells across our community. As well as boasting that she dreams of deporting refugees to Rwanda for Christmas, Braverman recently took time to specifically criticise Indian migrants, saying she wanted to reduce the number of international students entering the UK. Her hostile rhetoric and policy-making will only lead to more abuse from the state and employers.
Many of the migrant workers being targeted by this government fought for us on the frontlines of the pandemic to ensure that none of us were left behind. But the reward for our pandemic heroes has been abusive bosses and a massive uptick in immigration raids since lockdown measures came to an end. Families are woken up in the middle of the night by immigration officers, parents are taken away in front of their children, while others receive as little as 24 hours notice of removal from the UK. We must make sure we do not leave them behind, as the government aims its blame game straight at them.
Where migration creates opportunity and dynamism, our immigration system creates dysfunction and vulnerability. It hampers graduates’ ability to use their skills in the UK once they have finished studying. It ties workers to employers, putting them at risk of exploitation and short-term visas prevent workers from integrating into their community. Entire families are driven into modern-day slavery because undocumented migrants do not have the right to work.
This government is hounding migrant workers and their families more than ever before and Britain’s hostile immigration policies are directly affecting the UK’s Punjabi migrants. As a community, we have a history of mobilisation as displayed by the rapidly organised Justice for Pardeep demonstration and we must continue to show solidarity with Pardeep and all the people that continue to face the same exploitation and abuse.
But while we must continue to speak up against abusive employers on a case-by-case basis, this exploitation will continue to happen unless we defeat the hostile environment and the immigration system that enables it.
The hostile environment is yet another great battle for our community to overcome, whether it is resisting immigration raids by the Home Office or standing side by side with Pardeep Singh and other international students who are forced into precarious labour conditions because of the government’s policies. We must unite and fight back. By joining up with other communities we can build an even stronger movement and push back against this abuse. We must fight for safer, fairer and more sensible rules that encourage long-term settlement and provide workers with flexibility and freedom from fear and exploitation. Strengthening workplace protections for migrant workers creates better fairer conditions for all workers.
None of us are free until all of us are free.
Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah is the Communications Director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI). Rav previously led record-breaking campaigns at the Labour Party and won campaigns against corporate giants at Greenpeace UK and Small Axe. JCWI is a movement of people that has been fighting for justice in immigration, asylum and nationality law in the UK for over 55 years. You can find Rav on Twitter @RavSRM and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants on Twitter @JCWI_UK.
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