Column: Of Jingoism and Illegal Migrants

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Democracy notwithstanding extreme right wing racists are active in parts of Britain. Fringe groups like Britain First are patrolling the country’s beaches to hunt down desperate migrants. Branded ‘racist vigilantes’ members of the group, armed with binoculars, have been scanning the south coast looking for asylum-seekers crossing from France in little dinghies.

The group’s ‘ Operation White Cliffs’ is going to be stepped up in the coming weeks as most of the migrant families undertake the perilous journey to the shores of Britain before the onset of winter which is already knocking on the door.

According to British newspapers hundreds of people have crossed the English channel this year in small boats under extremely perilous circumstances. Among those rescued last month was a young girl.

But more than rescue Operation White Cliffs headed by Paul Golding, a former convict, believes in hunting down illegal migrants. The group plans to station its members on piers to spot migrants at the earliest opportunity.

Britain First claims that its volunteers would spot migrants and call the police. “ Until this situation is dealt with decisively by the authorities, we will continue and escalate these patrols,” said the group which calls itself a ‘ patriotic political party and street movement.’

However, the group formed in 2011 by ex-British National Party members is widely condemned as racist because of its anti-Muslim stance and opposition to multi-culturalism. An activist of Stand Upto Racism, a group fighting discrimination based on the colour of the skin, said of Britain First, “ Given the hateful politics of this group, the name of their vile stunt-Operation White Cliffs—suggests a chilling echo of the ideologies of Germany of 1930s. It aims to champion the hunting of the most desperate people who are only doing what any of us would do in embarking on the most horrendous and dangerous journeys to find a better life for their families.”

Reading about the group I was reminded of the problem of illegal migrants, especially the Bangladeshi migrants, in our own country and state. Right now there is a roiling controversy over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam which has been facing the problem of infiltration for a long long time.

There have been suggestions that states like Odisha, which continue to fight the threat of illegal immigrants, should also engage in an NRC like exercise to weed out the infiltrators. While there is no denying the need for checking infiltration as it strains state’s financial resources the government should go about the task in a humane manner.

As it is the immigrants coming from Bangladesh are extremely poor with their own unable to guarantee them an honourable living. Landing on the Odisha coast mostly in the dead of the night they are a desperate lot and must be dealt with in a sympathetic manner though certainly not patronized. While taking steps for their identification and deportation we should desist from treating them as criminals. Law must take its course in all such matters but we should refrain from being jingoistic about it.

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