‘Stop the boats’ does echo the language of the 30s – but those words were English
Kenan Malik / The Guardian:
It has become a familiar political pas de deux. One side draws an analogy between some current policy or practice and 1930s Germany, as if Nazis provide the only measure of moral degradation. The other side uses outrage at the analogy as a shield to protect itself from having to justify that policy’s immorality in its own terms. And so it has been with the Gary Lineker controversy. A striking aspect of the debate over his tweet that the government’s “stop the boats” policy deploys “language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s” is that defenders of the policy seem to imagine that Lineker’s well-meant but ill-judged words are more disturbing than the policy he was criticising. It reveals how far the moral dial has slipped, that so many are willing to countenance, or at least not condemn, the mass detention and deportation of people without proper papers to countries to which none of them have been, or want to go, and the effective shutting down of asylum possibilities. The Channel crossings are a major problem for those making them. Yet, despite the panic about the numbers coming in small boats, asylum claims today are fewer than they were two decades ago. The reason asylum seekers use small boats is that all other routes have been cut off. The government insists that it will open safe legal routes for refugees only once the “boats have been stopped”.
This suggests both a recognition of the real issue – the lack of legal routes – and a greater desire to score political points than to ensure the safety of those making the crossing or to pursue practical solutions. For all the furore over the Lineker tweet, there is an echbetween the debate now and that in the 1930s. An echo not of Nazi policy but of Britain’s shameful response to Jewish refugees; and an echo not just of the response in the 1930s, but over a much longer period. At the turn of the 20th century, a panic about Jews fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe led to Britain’s first immigration law, the Aliens Act 1905 . Much of the debate is eerily familiar.