Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004

Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004

Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004

Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004

Excerpt

There can be few issues in the United Kingdom and elsewhere that are in greater need of intelligent and humane analysis than those relating to the 'strangers' case'. The quotation from Sir Thomas More, which serves as an epigraph to this book, has particularly powerful resonances today. Set on May Day 1517, when London witnessed anti-immigrant riots, we hear the broker, Lincoln, and an unnamed apprentice protesting that the King of England has been too merciful to the strangers. Their words bring to mind the complaints constantly voiced by the British tabloid press and by increasingly large numbers of politicians that the UK is a 'soft touch' for asylum-seekers and economic migrants. And as Lincoln and the prentice complain about the threat to England posed by the strangers—how much they will push up prices, what they eat (the choice of root vegetables—parsnips and pumpions!— allowing for a pun on the immigrants' own 'strange roots') and the diseases they carry (palsy, sore eyes)—we cannot help but recall the contemporary media's claims that asylumseekers are all infested with HIV-Aids and that they ate the Queen's swans (a fantastical tale of lèse-majesté). In this climate, voices like that of More (presented here as a tolerant man and not the persecutor of Protestants that he really was) are essential.

There can be little doubt that the most significant phenomenon of the last thirty years has been the vast human . . .

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