imagine me and eu

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Midsummer garden party under the auspices of an EU flag | Photo: probably my colleague Thomas

Here’s a secret: I’m obsessed with Facebook’s On This Day blasts to the past. It’s narcissism, but so is reading old diaries, right? So seven years ago last week I was in Germany for the first time and my 20-year-old self was blown away by the ultra-coolness that was Berlin. I’m not going to romanticise it into a “and at that moment I knew I would be back” thing, but it sure was the perfect icing on my exchange semester cake. (Carrot cake. Obviously.)

Many years ago a Canadian friend opined, with innocent gravity after his cliche of a summer trip backpacking through Europe:

Europe changes lives.

The statement itself is a cliche as well but it keeps cropping up, even among my friends now who are 30 rather than 20 years old who are on the continent for the first time. Because it’s true! I don’t know if Europeans can appreciate what a special place this is.Read More »

warsi resigns over gaza

I think for me it’s morally indefensible where after four weeks of a conflict more than a quarter of the Gazan population displaced, more than 2,000 people killed, more than 400 innocent children killed, we still cannot find the words to say, we condemn this and we feel this action has been disproportionate.

Sayeeda Warsi, former Foreign Office minister

AMEN. I know I’m not the only one appalled by the utter lack of condemnation of Israel by Western governments. It’s therefore a HUGE relief seeing a senior government official take action – ANY action – indicating not only that Israel’s killing of children and civilians is unacceptable but also that the silence of governments around the world is wrong. Having someone break the silence lets the rest of us know we’re not going crazy, that this isn’t normal.

I don’t care if this was a politically strategic move on her part or whether policy is a false pretense on which she based her resignation. I can also set aside her past remarks on homosexuality, lowering the age of consent, Muslim men and the BNP. I couldn’t care less that she has no real political skills/merit or policy positions, or that she had nothing to lose.

I only care that someone, finally, broke the silence. Bravo, Warsi.

PS. Over 4000 comments in 12 hours?! This struck a chord with the public.

it’s the integration, stupid

What with local UK and European elections next week, there’s been a lot of talk on immigration. Farage/UKIP, following a string of racism scandals, continues its racist rhetoric and pressures Miliband/Labour into following suit with some xenophobic pandering of its own in the hopes of holding on to the blue-collar vote.

They remind me – once again – that we urgently need to change the public and policy discourse from immigration to integration.

Not a single person in the entire history of the human species has ever chosen which country to be born in, and yet this accident of birth has a tremendous influence in determining how one’s life will pan out. Immigration – the movement of people – is hence about justice and equality. The actual movement of humans across a national border causes no problems. A failure to integrate them into their new communities and societies, however, will.

Academic findings by Oxford and UCL show that immigrants make a positive net contribution to the UK economy and are less likely than native-born Brits to receive state benefits or live in social housing. The same story holds true for  New Zealand and other countries. In other words, immigrants are good for the economy – so let’s redirect our efforts towards making everyone more relaxed about them. Let’s introduce better integration policy! Because people should have the right to move where they want to be and to be able to call that new place ‘home’.

finally finished transcribing 1000+ min of interview!

The Scottish Highlands are breathtaking
The Scottish Highlands are breathtaking

MOMENTOUS MOMENT!

It is April 2nd right now. There has not been a single weekend yet this year when I wasn’t with my laptop at home, transcribing interview. There have been many evenings after work spent doing the same thing. And now I’m finally done. DONE!!!! FREE, PRECIOUS! *gollum dance*

It’s a big moment… kind of emotional. The transcripts had been plaguing me for three. solid. months! The inflections of the Scottish accent were difficult sometimes. Worse were the mumblers. Worse still was the audio quality and background voices (sometimes background voices in the foreground!). I also struggled with place, people and organisation names and acronyms; many hours were spent poring over online maps of Scotland in the desperate hope of stumbling across a village with a name that looks vaguely as how it might sound and how it sounded in the interview (Ullapool didn’t take too long. Auchingarrich did).

But… it was absolutely awesome. I learned so so much. I feel like a part of the story – I feel like I was there, as if I undertook the journeys taken by the interviewees. And most importantly, I feel encouraged by what I heard. I feel like there is hope.

That is beyond reward enough for the time and effort I put in. I’m glad (well of course I can say this now that it’s over) I was asked and glad I did it.

immigration minister goes home

The Tories' GO HOME van campaign
The Tories’ highly controversial  and ineffective GO HOME van campaign

The UK immigration minister Mark Harper resigned today, apparently after discovering that he was employing an illegal immigrant as his cleaner. He’s the one who launched the GO HOME van campaign last summer, which placed ads in immigration offices and drove around billboards like the one above.

The campaign was executed quite enthusiastically by home secretary Theresa May, who wants to make Britain a “hostile environment” in an immigration bill now being debated in parliament. Reacting to the resignation, she said: “Mark has been an excellent minister and he can be proud of the role he has played in sharply reducing immigration to Britain.” Classic Theresa May.

My friend Logan summed the story up with ‘hoisted by his own petard’.

But I have some questions – namely, what’s going to happen to the minister’s cleaner? Is she going to be deported?

‘go home’ is not an immigration policy

The Guardian’s recent news story on the immigration bill by UK home secretary Theresa May has drawn 1000+ comments in 36 hours.

It’s clear that I care deeply about immigration policy and political rhetoric around immigration and integration. I draw this conclusion based on two facts:

  1. The rate at and length to which I comment on the topic whenever it crops up in the news or conversations
  2. The ease awith which I accomplish 1.

Read More »

[update] marriage equality legislation is here to stay

[UPDATE 21/5/13] Quick congrats to England and Wales for passing marriage equality legislation! Despite this Tim Loughton “wrecking amendment” regarding civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. Frig, the bill doesn’t need to be any more complicated than it already is.  So now we can consider scrapping civil partnerships altogether, as they were artificially introduced as a consolation prize to same-sex couples who were excluded from the (civil) institution of marriage.

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A quick congrats to Minnesota for passing marriage equality legislation less than an hour ago! Minnesota joins 11 other states + D.C. I am now taking bets as to how many states will pass such legislation before the federal government jumps on the bandwagon. My own bet? 50. When it comes to the US federal government I keep my expectations loooooooooow.

April 2013 was whirlwind month for marriage equality worldwide, with 3 new countries (+ 1 US state) joining the club of sanity. Current club members are the Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand. Point of clarification: there is no actual club!