Over the past two weeks I was given the opportunity to go to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Overall, it was a good experience to be surrounded by MPs and ministers both in the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet to get their views on important issues.
Before I tell you more about my experiences, I want to just put in a disclaimer that Let Us Learn is not affiliated with any political party and the views I express in this blog are my own.
The first conference I attended was the Labour Party’s and to be honest, given that this was my first party conference, I am not quite sure what I was expecting. I guess, after the event, I felt overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed because there were so many fringe events to go to (fringes give you a chance to discuss hot topics in more detail). For the most part I found myself running from one venue to the next hoping that I would not miss out on the discussion. This was also my experience at the Conservative party conference.
There are two important things that I wanted to share with you. The first is about the ‘security checks’ I had to endure and the second is that as a young person I was quite deflated at both conferences. This was because of the lack of leadership in dealing with pertinent issues that affect the BME community, in particular the hostile environment.
Prior to my arrival at the Labour conference I was sent an email about security and so I brought my passport as a form of ID and when I arrived I knew I had to undergo a security check. I thought this was for everyone and so I approached the front desk where I was told that I had to get interviewed. I waited an hour to get my pass; I had to go into a room with a lady who said ‘sorry this is something we have to do’. She took my passport and she entered details on a laptop. I was then told to wait for them to process this information.
In hindsight, I am upset as to why I did not ask why ‘everyone’ was not going through the same checks. I watched other non-white people wait but others would just go up to the normal counter and get their passes there and then. This experience was similar to that which I have experienced at airports; it didn’t feel like a security check it felt like an immigration check. Surprisingly, the security check I experienced in Manchester was completely different; all I had to do was show my passport to get my pass. It was surprising to me that Theresa May, our Prime Minister and the MP that coined the term ‘hostile environment’, did not have the same vetting at the Tory security checks, yet the Labour party, the progressive party made me experience an unnecessary ordeal.
At both conferences there were very good speeches with great punch lines such as ‘The Conservative Party has Human Rights in its DNA and it’s a party who believes in equal opportunities’. No one in that room questioned the statement and there were many heads which nodded. I don’t quite share these sentiments, as young people have been at the receiving end of the anti-migrant agenda spearheaded by our very own Prime Minister. I fidgeted awkwardly in my seat as I heard that statement amongst many others. It is strange that such statements can be said with confidence, yet on the ground I have witnessed myself and many other young migrants being barred from furthering their education, being subjected to high Home Office fees and not being given the ‘equal’ opportunity to move forward in life. It would be great if MPs really did give an ear to such issues.
Moreover, it was quite difficult to get a good understanding about the stance of both political parties when it came to certain issues such as BME votes and immigration policies. In particular, in terms of content it was alarming how vague the Labour Party were on where they stood in regards to immigration and plans to deal with the hostile environment. I went to one fringe event hosted by Liberty; the theme was ‘The Hostile environment and division’. On the panel a lot was spoken about the hostile environment in terms of data sharing with the Home Office and how the Labour Party should ensure a smooth process for EU migrants and that we should recall our migration history.
This was great but I got slightly frustrated so I raised the question: Why is the hostile environment being discussed as if it’s something new when for many years the hostile environment has been present and fed by government policy? Why are we only speaking about it now that it is relevant to EU migrants post-Brexit? I was told that this was a ‘good question’ but I got no solid responses from the MPs present on ways to move forward.
Of course, I would not want EU migrants to face the same hostile system as the one resident migrants have had to face for many years. However, after visiting many talks at both conferences, I see an opportunity for myself and other organisers to raise awareness about the woes that we have faced for many years. Brexit has forced our politicians to confront the hostile environment; now that we have their attention it would be good to get our messages across. Surely, if the hostile environment is no good for EU migrants then it should equally not be tolerated for all types of migrants.