The Home Office: Racism, Homophobia and Theresa May

Image Courtesy of The Daily Beast

By Amelia A J Foy

The Home Office is the part of the British Government that oversees, amongst the police and counter-terrorism, immigration. This involves governing immigration detention centres, deportations and laws regarding who can or can’t enter the country.

Recently, the Home Office deported a 52-year-old grandmother who had lived in the UK for 30 years, leaving behind her husband, children and grandchildren, along with all her possessions. Irene Clennell had £12 in her pocket and no opportunity to say goodbye to her family. The reasoning behind this was that she hadn’t spent a long enough, uninterrupted time in the UK – because she was caring for her dying parents in Singapore.

In addition to Irene, a man in Manchester who saved children from a house fire has been told he is to be deported, and been given 12 days to leave his home. Robert Chilowa found this out in a letter from Serco (a company who also govern Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre) he received on returning home from being treated for smoke inhalation. He was informed he would not have access to the NHS or benefits anymore, and should instead reach out to organisations like the Salvation Army. This is just days after being commended for his bravery by the police.

Also recently, the Home Office released new guidelines whereby gay Afghan asylum seekers living in the UK could be deported to Kabul, despite homosexuality being illegal and taboo in Afghanistan at-large. These guidelines state:

“While space for being openly gay is limited, subject to individual factors, a practising gay man who, on return to Kabul, would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution.”

The Home Office believes that deporting gay Afghan people to Kabul is a fine idea, despite the risk of violence from both society and family, and threats of Taliban insurgency (who believe homosexuality is punishable by death), as long as they don’t attract attention. In other words, as long as they stay in the closet and pretend they’re straight.
Unfortunately though, these events are unsurprising when one considers the Home Office’s track-record. Their disregard for migrants’ safety is not anything new. Immigration detention centres are notoriously inhumane. Centres such as Yarl’s Wood clearly exhibit this, where a woman has been detained for over two years away from her child and a Polish woman hospitalised by guards ordered by Home Office after resisting deportation. The UK itself only committed to accommodating 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, and the passing of Brexit also highlighted the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the country.

To top it all off, the woman who oversaw all these anti-immigration actions is now our Prime Minister. Theresa May, who was elected by the Conservative Party as PM following David Cameron’s resignation, was previously our Home Secretary. She governed the funding of detention centres and called for tighter immigration laws – and even echoed the rhetoric of “they’re coming here and stealing our jobs!” in a speech she gave in 2015. Considering these factors, the recent anti-immigrant events aren’t unexpected, but they are nonetheless unjust and dangerous for the people involved.
The parallel of May and Donald Trump is not something to be overlooked. Racism and queerphobia has manifested itself in Parliament as it has the White House. In the same way that the United States and the world protests Trump, we all must also protest May. Sign here to fight back against the Home Office guidelines endangering queer Afghans, here to protest Robert’s deportation, and donate here to assist Irene in an out-of-country appeal to help her return home to the UK.