patrice on Sun, 13 Sep 2015 18:15:58 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Vivek Menezes: From Refugees to Parliament: The Goan Experience

Bwo Goa-Research Net

Original to:

Suella Fernandes knew exactly how she wanted to start her British
Parliamentary career. The newly-elected 35-year-old Conservative MP
for Fareham began her maiden speech recalling "a cold February morning
in 1968" when "a young man, not yet 21, stepped off a plane at
Heathrow airport, nervously folding away his one-way ticket from
Kenya. He had no family, no friends... his homeland was in political
turmoil. Kenya had kicked him out..." Christie Fernandes of Nairobi
(and Assagao) was part of a wave of Goans and other Indians forced out
of Africa to begin life again in an unfamiliar country.

Echoes of that wrenching refugee experience are reverberating now, as
the world reels horrified from an onslaught of images from the borders
of Europe, where hundreds of thousands of desperate families (mainly
from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) overwhelm the barricades to get to
Germany and a handful of other countries which have promised refuge.
Huge numbers are walking in caravans across Hungary and Austria,
others are crossing the Mediterranean Sea in dangerously unsafe boats.
Many are dying along the way.

While international agencies and the European Union are scrambling to
come up with something like an adequate response to the challenges
posed by this explosive crisis -- easily the most severe refugee exodus
since World War II -- there are also some obvious lessons to be learned
from this unfolding situation that can be immediately registered to
help cope with the challenges that will continue to develop throughout
the 21st century.

First, the world is now too interlinked for the impact of failed
states to remain localized. When the disastrous American-sponsored war
made Iraq unlivable, millions of Iraqis moved to Syria. When a
collective failure of leadership (led by Assad, but fuelled by
drought) the compelled Syria to implode, many of those people waited
for a while in Lebanon and Turkey, then -- quite logically -- decided to
head for Germany, where Chancellor Merkel basically said they would be
welcome, deciding to brave hostilities along the way.

Another lesson, instead of becoming fearful about potential "threats"
from refugees, it should be noted that societies usually benefit from
dynamic influxes. As the increasingly invaluable Nigerian-American
writer (and son-in-law of Goa) Teju Cole wrote, earlier this week,
"more than 'refugee' or 'migrant', I say 'people' and say it with
compassion because everyone I love, and everyone they love has at some
point said tearful goodbyes and moved from place to place to seek new
opportunities, and almost all of them have by their movement improved
those new places".

That sentiment makes straightforward economic sense, according to the
star economist Thomas Piketty, who argued "for an open Europe" a few
days ago, reckoning a huge refugee influx into the continent is
actually a gift, "an opportunity to jump-start the continent's
economy" where it "can and must become a great land of immigration in
the 21st century" in order to sustain the kind of marketplace activity
it requires to maintain its standard of living.

That is exactly the lesson learned from the painful experience of the
same generation as Suella's father in the UK. A few weeks after
Christie arrived in London, Enoch Powell (representing the same
Conservative Party as Suella) delivered his famous "Rivers of Blood"
speech warning of "whole areas, towns and parts of towns...occupied by
sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population". By
then, the British government had already betrayed its "citizens" in
the East African colonies with the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act,
divesting them of full UK passports, a law described in its own
Parliament as "cruel and brutal anti-colour legislation".

Later in 1968, Parliament passed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act
specifically to deter Kenyan Asians from fleeing to Britain. Christie
had made it in by just a hair. By now, there was a full-scale scare
against refugees. Soon, the City Council of Leicester would take out
full-page advertisements in newspapers in Kampala, Uganda, advising,
"In your own interests and those of your family, you should not come
to Leicester."

But what's the moral of the story? Leicester survives and thrives
today because the refugees came, and braved the hostility. Enoch
Powell would hate it, because there are 1,00,000 British Indians
resident in the city, and Aden-born Goan Keith Vaz has represented
them in Parliament since 1987. The Goans who were expelled under
difficult circumstances from Africa have added great value to every
country where they have settled -- not least of all back home in Goa.

Today's refugees crisis is tomorrow's dividend.

Posted by: V M <>

ïResearchï is not bias-free, but we can try to make it emotion-free! 

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