My responses to the questions provided by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement
1. Defend and extend free movement: opposing any reduction in the freedoms of UK and EU citizens to live, work, and access social security in each others’ countries, and any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps or targets.
I am the very embodiment of the benefits free movement has brought – my mother is Polish and was able to come to this country and make a life for herself here. Under the draconian new immigration policies being discussed by this Tory government, she might never have been able to do that.
Protecting and extending free movement is at the very heart of my internationalist Labour principles. I believe our country is stronger and better because of free movement. When I work shifts as an A&E doctor in my local hospital, I work with NHS staff from across Europe and it breaks my heart to see many of them feeling unwanted or undervalued because of Brexit.
As Deputy Leader, I pledge to do everything in my power to promote the core Labour values of internationalism and solidarity across borders, because I believe human life has the same value no matter where someone comes from. That means defending and extending free movement, and it means fighting to protect the human rights of migrants from this hostile Tory government.
2. Close every detention centre
Holding migrants in detention centres, often in substandard conditions, is incredibly cruel and degrading. These are often vulnerable people, fleeing from a variety of horrific circumstances such as war, trafficking and poverty. They have the right to be treated with dignity, as human beings, as we would want ourselves or our family to be treated in such horrendous circumstances. When working abroad as a humanitarian doctor, I’ve seen first-hand some of the terrible conditions people are forced to endure in detention centres and it horrified me.
We must fight back against the hostile environment the Tories have created for migrants – the Labour Party has always stood for international solidarity and openness to the world – we need a Labour government to bring those principles back into the core of our approach to immigration.
I would want to listen to expert opinion on how to do this in a responsible way, but I certainly would want to close as many detention centres as possible and make sure we have an overall approach to immigration that means a concept as cruel as detention centres are not required in the first place.
3. Unconditional rights to family reunion
Yes, I fully support this. The unconditional right to family reunion is a fundamental element of treating migrants as human beings with dignity and equal value, rather than the Tory approach of seeing migrants as a problem to be managed. When I’ve worked as a humanitarian doctor in conflict zones across the world, it was always horrendous to see so many families ripped apart or prevented from seeing each other again. When I visited Palestine on a humanitarian mission, I saw sick children alone in hospital because the permit system meant their parents weren’t allowed to visit them. I immediately began working on ways to resolve this.
It’s not enough to just talk about this – we need to be working every day to deliver a Labour government so we can fix these kinds of injustices. That’s what I’d do as Deputy Leader.
4. End “no recourse to public funds” policies
I support ending such policies, yes. This is another case of a Tory government treating migrants not as human beings with human dignity and equal value, but instead as a problem to be managed through cruelty.
I want to deliver a Labour government with internationalism at its core, which would allow us to change our entire approach to migration, and begin seeing human life as equally valuable and equally dignified no matter where that person was born or where they’ve come from.
5. Oppose all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access
The Tory Hostile Environment approach to immigration is a stain on the soul of their party, and they should be ashamed of it. Tragedies such as the Windrush scandal are a horrendous demonstration of where this approach leads, and I worry a similar scandal could occur with EU citizens who’ve made their lives in this country.
I want a Labour government so we can end the Hostile Environment immediately and start treating migrants with the human dignity and respect they deserve.
6. Equal voting rights for all UK residents
I am certainly interested in all ideas for how to revitalise our democracy and increase the level of engagement with our political process. Indeed, prior to the General Election in 2019, I publicly called for EU citizens to get the right to vote. Our Labour values of openness and internationalism must be at the core of everything we do.
7. Please share your thoughts on these wider issues that our supporters also feel strongly about:
Even after Brexit, the UK government looks set to participate in Frontex (the European border agency) and its “Fortress Europe” policies. Will you challenge these policies?
I certainly think the EU has often failed dismally to strike the right balance between border security and solidarity with people fleeing from war, poverty and the effects of global climate change. I am a proud pro-European, but that doesn’t mean my view of the EU is uncritical and I’ve never been afraid to say so. My values of international solidarity and openness don’t stop at the borders of Europe – they extend across the whole world. Human life always has equal value, no matter where that person comes from.
Will you support an amnesty for undocumented migrants resident in the UK?
We should always treat people with compassion and dignity, and we must place those values at the heart of everything we do when it comes to immigration. People in this country without documentation are often asylum seekers fleeing from horrific conditions and I want to see them treated with the human dignity they deserve. I would want to listen in more detail to expert opinion and feedback on the specific question of whether an amnesty is the right approach, but the principles of human dignity and compassion must always guide everything we do.
Anything else you’d like Labour members, supporters and affiliates to know about what your leadership/deputy leadership would mean for migrants and migration policy?
I am the living, breathing proof that free movement is a wonderful benefit to our country. My Polish mother was able to come to this country and make a life for herself here. Working on the frontlines of the NHS as an A&E doctor, I work alongside colleagues from across Europe and the rest of the world, and they are a credit to our country. It makes me proud to be British. But years of Tory government has created a literal Hostile Environment for migrants in this country. The drawbridge is being pulled up, and the rights of a whole generation of people to travel freely and live, love and work across Europe is being taken away. That is a tragedy, but it also means those of us who are proud of our outward-looking, progressive, internationalist values must fight even harder to protect and extend them. The fight starts now, and as your Deputy Leader (or even if I’m not!), I promise I will always be there fighting alongside you for those values with everything I’ve got.