Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury and Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary
Published: 6 February, 2017
by EMILY THORNBERRY
IN Islington, 36 per cent of residents were born outside the UK, double the national average.
We are a borough that has always had thriving immigrant populations, each of them bringing something new and distinct to our community and our culture.
I think that is part of the reason Islington residents have made clear in such large numbers their disgust at President Trump’s executive order barring people from seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Syria – from entering the United States.
Almost 20,000 Islington residents have signed the petition calling for the cancellation of President Trump’s planned state visit to Britain.
Even the title of the executive order was calculatedly offensive: “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” As though anyone from those seven countries – man, woman or child – is automatically deemed a terrorist suspect.
To add insult to injury, the order was issued on Holocaust Memorial Day, a time when we remember with horror what happens when whole sections of a community are demonised and persecuted because of their religion.
The Tory government’s response to the ban was pathetic, first saying they had no comment, a day later saying they would look into the implications, and a full 48 hours after the executive order was issued, announcing an exemption for British nationals and dual-nationals.
But it is not good enough to say this issue is resolved for holders of British passports, so we can stop protesting about it.
There are also tens of thousands of people living, working, and paying their taxes here in the UK who still hold the nationality they arrived with, amongst them members of the large Somali community here in Islington.
Many of them came here fleeing exactly the kind of terror which Donald Trump claims he is trying to tackle.
But as things stand, those friends, neighbours and co-workers of ours are still barred from travelling to America, because of where they were born.
That discrimination is not something any of us should accept, and that is why I have been urging the UK government not just to obtain exemptions from this travel ban, but to push for its total removal, and tell President Trump that he will not be welcome here until it is.
We are barely two weeks into his presidency, and already many of our worst fears are starting to come true, both in terms of his decisions and his behaviour. We urgently need a government who will stand up to both.
When she stood alongside President Trump on the day he signed this executive order, Theresa May described a “special relationship” between America and Britain based on shared history and interests.
But she has to realise, and needs to make President Trump realise, that it is also a relationship based on shared values. And if he is going to discard those values, by demonising people as terrorists based simply on their religion and nationality, then she must tell him our relationship will not remain special for long.