When it comes to immigration, Donald Trump and Theresa May have a lot in common.
When I started planning this column, I knew I wanted to write about the biggest global story of the week – the separation of children from their parents in US detention centres. But I’ve really struggled to know where to start.
The images and audio of children being separated from their parents and kept in cages are deeply distressing. For this policy to come from the so-called “leader of the free world”, and one of the UK’s supposedly greatest allies, is hard to grasp.
At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, our SNP Leader Ian Blackford asked the question Jeremy Corbyn should have: Is the Prime Minister still intending to roll out the red carpet for Trump?
The US president is due to visit the UK next month, and the fact he will be given the gold standard in treatment by our Prime Minister and have a visit with the Queen makes my stomach churn.
Ian forced May to openly condemn the US administration for separating children from their parents and caging them like animals. Later that day, Donald Trump announced he would be signing an executive order to perform a U-turn and keep families together. But this isn’t over, because thousands of children have been ripped away from their families. Trump has plans for detention camps for families – where they face indefinite imprisonment.
It may not make the headlines here but this is something we should be familiar with, because the UK government already detains families indefinitely – in fact, we are the only EU country to do this.
It is inhumane, ineffective and also hugely expensive. You may even be reading this within commuting distance of Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire, an old building surrounded by barbed wire, where people are held in desperate situations, unaware of their own fate.
But then, immigration policy comes from the Tories – the same party who brought us the “go home” vans, dawn raids and who wrongly deported people of the Windrush generation.
When May was grilled about the caged children in the US last week, the Tory benches erupted with jeers and braying. There’s not a whole lot of difference between Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and Theresa May’s “hostile environment”. We need a move away from routine use of immigration detention to make it a rare exception, rather than the norm.
The UK government need a new approach which priorities compassion and fairness over punishment and isolation. Scotland could be doing it so much better if only we had the powers at Holyrood to deal with immigration. Independence can’t come soon enough.
This column previously appeared in the Daily Record.
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