Sounds Familiar? Making connections between migrants and ordinary working people
OpenBordersScotland (OBS) operates on the working assumption that ideas shape actions. We can see the way in which ideas shape actions in, for example, support for refugees on the basis that they are vulnerable victims (e.g. as victims of human trafficking). Viewing migrants as victims leads to proposed actions geared towards helping tackle their vulnerability (through, for example, counselling or prosecuting traffickers). If, however, migrants appear to be aggressors (as Syrian asylum-seekers in Cologne were being portrayed in January 2016) then calls for restriction inevitably follow.
The victim/aggressor dichotomy is one of the most common ways in which the issue of migration is presented in public discussions. We can, for example, see this on both sides of the Brexit discussion on immigration. Some in the Brexit camp routinely present immigrants as a threat to the British-Way-Of-Life, (a dichotomy of predatory immigrants (stealing jobs, taking benefits) versus put-upon Brits (who want to ‘take back control’)). Some in the Remain camp simply reverse the polarity. In this view the issue is vulnerable immigrants versus racist xenophobes. Both of these ways of looking at the issue are a barrier to making connections between immigrants and ordinary working people.
OBS stands for a human-centred approach to migration. In our first public meeting on 24th June 2016 one of the issues raised as a problem for building an open borders movement was the fear that ordinary working people have of open borders.
OBS want to understand and challenge the systemic causes of fear of migrants. We believe that by focusing on the systemic causes – rather than individual prejudices – we can start to challenge the idea that ordinary working people should fear migrants. The Sounds Familiar? column is a space for writing which draws connections between the lives of migrants and the lives of ordinary working people by pointing to commonalities in the way that capitalist society is dehumanising for both migrants and ordinary working people.