Shawcross’s recommendation to apply to Prevent in immigration relies upon one flawed assumption among many that he makes in his review: that the individuals who committed violence in the UK, were from immigrant communities, and that this background was somehow a contributing factor.
Whether or not they were first-generation born in the UK, or their families migrated to the UK generations ago, Shawcross – and the latest version of Prevent – assumes that being from a community deemed to be ‘foreign’ by the state is of some significance.
We have not seen how this particular recommendation from Shawcross will play out.
Despotic regimes call civil rights activists ‘extremists’
However, we do know that individuals can be deemed “extremist” in many migrant home countries, and that many governments in countries where civil society struggles to survive free from harm, will use this label even more liberally than the UK does
In fact, the word “extremist” is recorded as being applied by governments to a wide range of political and civic activities, under the guise of CVE (countering violent extremism).
The question then arises: where will people deemed “extremist” in their home countries, find home?
Prevent in immigration increases harms of securitisation
This recommendation to implant Prevent in immigration also ignores current realities. Firstly, there is already a large amount of data sharing at borders, thanks to the Schedule 7 policy.
This policy allows a border patrol officer to question an incoming individual under similar logic to Prevent, and Schedule 7 is linked to Prevent in that people questioned under this policy at borders, often find themselves head-to-head with Prevent later on.
Secondly, there is already a frame drawn around migrants, asylum and national security in this country that continues to be extremely divisive and damaging.
For example, a individual is a subject of the national security system the moment they arrive here, through a tagging system and the bureaucratic treatment they receive.
Prevent leverages this anti-migrant bias in the same way it leverages anti-Muslim bias, and could make it even harder for migrant communities already seen as ‘other’ and ‘dangerous’ by the public, to earn a living, study and participate in society free from suspicion.
Othering communities causes a divided, unstable society
It is necessary for politicians to stop using the language of othering when they speak about the UK’s different communities, and in turn to refrain from policies that do the same.
Although there is a lack of dialogue between diverse communities, there is a top-down responsibility that needs to be called out. These attitude continually reinforces dangerous policies like Prevent and the broader unjust national security complex around immigration.
States should be reminded that they all have obligations under international law, and their hypocrisy should be directly challenged.
For example, the Home Office has front-lined with the fact that since there are more referrals for “far-right extremism”, this “proves Prevent is not racist”. And yet many politicians are adopting far-right positions at the moment, or at least courting think tanks and others who are.
The best way to tackle this ‘othering’ of targeted communities – whether overt or covert – is under international human rights law, and more anti-racist education.
This should be coupled with awareness that it is a fearful government that uses a divide-and-rule approach that often scapegoats migrants and Muslims – to the point that we even become suspicious of one another.
Understanding that “my struggle is also my neighbour’s struggle” – and working with this approach is the only way to counter this type of society, if we want change. The fact that the United Nations has underlined solidarity as part of public security is an encouraging first step.
Picture by Mitchel Lensink/Unsplash.
- Prevent and Immigration: Shared concerns of Islamophobia and Racism (Expert View, 2023)
- The People’s Review of Prevent: A Response to the Shawcross Review (Report, 2023)
- How the Shawcross Recommendations Ignore the Manchester Enquiry (Expert View, 2023)