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How many Namibians is too many for Suella? 935

Home secretary claims residents of Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu are ‘abusing’ visa-free travel

Beauty Dhlamini
24 July 2023, 3.14pm

Suella Braverman speaks at the National Conservatism Conference in London, May 2023


Leon Neal / Getty Images

The last week of Parliament is famously a good time to bury bad news – but Suella Braverman has made little attempt to hide her latest attack on Black and Brown people.

The UK home secretary announced changes to the Immigration Rules on Wednesday that appeared to serve one purpose only – revoking visa-free travel for residents of a handful of small Black and Brown majority countries. Making the announcement, Braverman claimed people from Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu were “abusing” visa-free travel, which is one of the only remaining legal routes to claim asylum in Britain.

The UK had previously permitted passport-holders of these countries to stay in the UK for six months at a time. Now, Braverman has revoked this right, saying Namibians and Hondurans rank first among non-visa nationals for asylum claims.

While this may be true, the figures in question are tiny: Namibia was responsible for 935 asylum applications in the year to March 2023, compared with 214 in the year to March 2022, while Honduras had 919 for the year to March 2023, up from 417. Home Office data also appears to show just 149 rejected asylum claims from Namibia for the whole of 2022 and just 70 rejections the same year from Honduras.

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My mother, a Namibian citizen, came to the UK twice in 2019: once to be present for my undergraduate graduation, and again to spend the Christmas holidays with me. She did not overstay her welcome and simply returned to her life after visiting me. We had been apart for six years. Had she needed to pay for a visa, I would have been unable to share one of the most significant days of my life with her.

The only thing this imposition guarantees now is removing the chance for people to be reunited safely with their loved ones. The populations of these countries are small compared to the UK, with only Honduras topping ten million and the rest totalling a little over four million between them.

It is laughable that Braverman claims there has been abuse of the migration system when the diasporic presence of people from these communities is incredibly small in the UK: figures from the 2015 UN international migration stock estimate the places of birth of UK residents of Dominica, Honduras and Namibia as 6,851, 683 and 2,649 people, respectively. No exact figure exists on the population size of Timorese people living in the UK, but estimates range between 5,000 and 20,000, with Oxford home to the largest single community.

They have already been subject to second-class citizen status in the UK as a result of Brexit. What evidence is the home secretary using to support the claims of abuse of the migration system?

Normalising anti-migrant sentiment

These changes exist as part of a much larger shift in UK society, normalising anti-migrant sentiments to distract from the government’s failing of its own people during mass public-sector strikes and a cost-of-living crisis. Most recently, this was seen in the forcing through of the Illegal Migration Bill – which Braverman claimed was necessary because there was an “invasion” of people claiming asylum in the UK by those risking their lives to cross the Channel.

This was a lie. The estimated number of migrant crossings for 2023 so far is just over 14,500, short of the 15,280 arrivals recorded this time last year. Overall, 45,755 people made the journey in 2022. But none of these numbers matter because no one is illegal. The idea that someone’s ability to move across borders, access and participate in the sociopolitical, economic and cultural realms of society, that someone needs to prove their legality through documentation, jump through hoops and qualifiers to verify their citizenship and justify their humanity, is absurd.

Even though the government has previously claimed to support ‘safe and legal routes’ for those seeking asylum here, it has made these reforms to embolden the UK’s status as a nation with oppressive borders. As many of us as migrant organisers have been screaming for years, it has never been about safety or legality, but about the power to stop people exercising their rights to travel freely, regardless of whether they face persecution or are indeed rightfully seeking asylum.

In the coming years, we will witness the horrific and preventable impacts of these callous, racist and nonsensical immigration laws. More will be forced into precarity, using smugglers to get themselves here, travelling through even more unsafe and unpredictable routes, and dying needlessly. As more people wake up to the lies they have been sold by this government, we will be here to remind the government that the blood of all the migrants with rights to exist without the oppression of borders is on their hands.

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