Labour needs to become a party of progressive internationalism once againLast Tuesday, a boat capsized and sank in the Bay of Bengal. There were 138 Rohingya refugees crammed on the boat, fleeing from camps in Bangladesh. At least 15 bodies were found, including four children, with 50 more missing.
I’ve been campaigning for the rights of the Rohingya since the recent crisis unfolded in 2017. I’ve been involved in humanitarian matters long before entering politics and standing to be Labour deputy leader.
Stories such as those of the Rohingya do not often have a light shined upon them here in the UK. They happen far away and it feels as if they’re outside of our control. The UK has a proud history of humanitarian assistance and we must ensure that this continues. We must never allow ourselves to turn a blind eye. Every single human life has equal value, no matter where that person was born, what language they speak or what they look like. Humanity has no borders.
This isn’t just something I believe in principle — I act on it. My work as a humanitarian doctor has taken me to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, where grieving mothers told me accounts of their babies being ripped from their arms and murdered before their eyes. The guilt of coming home to my own three- and five-year-olds left me unable to sleep at night. Why should their lives be of more value to the world than those of the Rohingya children who are slaughtered without a dignified burial?
I have seen how human life is not valued equally around the world. It lit a fire in my belly to continue fighting such injustice, no matter where it takes place.
At the very heart of my Labour principles is internationalism. I believe this spirit of internationalism must drive everything we do as a party. We must always stand in unwavering opposition to any effort to restrict freedoms, whether here or globally. We’ve seen where this mentality leads — whether it is the tragedy of Windrush, the cruelty of detention centres like Yarl’s Wood, or the inhumanity of a government that votes against protection for vulnerable child refugees. Now is the time for all of us who believe in progressive, internationalist values to fight back. It is our duty to ensure that the Rohingya and other victims are not forgotten by the world.
One of the reasons I decided to stand to become the next deputy leader of Labour is because I believe our party has a unique chance to become a global beacon of internationalism, as it has been before. We have arguably the largest grassroots membership of any political party in Europe. If we are able to unite behind a truly internationalist vision for our party and our country, we could be a force for change on a global scale.
We have a wonderful society, which has welcomed so many people from across the world, but this government’s hostile environment is diminishing hope — hope for a brighter future, hope for a tolerant society.
I first entered politics in order to shed light on humanitarian efforts around the world and give a voice to the voiceless. I still believe we can, and I want to help rebuild the Labour Party so that it becomes a powerful force for good. As a party we need to rebuild trust with our communities, with the British people and the international community. Let’s do this together.
Rosena Allin-Khan is Labour MP for Tooting and candidate for the deputy leadership