Another reason to remain in the EU

Picture of Firas al-Rawi (centre) and his wife and childrenA Twitter friend just flagged up this story from a Canadian newspaper. It’s about a Muslim family who are Canadian citizens being barred from boarding a flight to Florida so they could go to Disneyland and be together while the father, a doctor of Iraqi origin, attended a professional conference in Orlando. Firas al-Rawi and his wife and three children were stopped by US customs at Pearson airport in Toronto, and during a “security inspection”, officials demanded they hand over passwords to their computers and tablets, which they refused to do as it contained personal files such as pictures of the women without hijab. They were then refused entry, and a stamp was put in their passports saying they had “withdrawn”, and their computers have yet to be returned.

Canadians do not have an automatic right to enter the United States. British Citizens have an automatic right to enter the surrounding countries, because we are part of the European Union. I have always said that we should also be part of the Schengen agreement, which would enable us to travel without a passport to the neighbouring countries; we remain out of it largely because governments are afraid of a tabloid-led backlash. There are those who want us to withdraw from the EU, peddling stories of nuisance legislation and unchecked immigration (in the case of eastern Europe, this is something we did not have to agree to when those countries joined, and other member states refused); many of these people travel on the Continent on a regular basis and some have holiday homes in France and Spain. These people, being white and middle-class, are extremely unlikely to have their travel plans disrupted.

Withdrawing from the EU will make it more difficult for ordinary people to travel — it will mean foreign holidays are more involved and expensive, and take longer because of delays at the ports and customs inspections. (In the 50s and 60s, there were restrictions on what British citizens could take out of the country; you could only take a small amount of money in banknotes, for example.) It will mean jobs for young people on the Continent, which enables them to learn foreign languages, become harder to come by. But the biggest losers will be members of minorities with families on the Continent — Somalis with family in the Netherlands or Sweden, Africans (north and west) with family in France, as well as those in professional jobs or businessmen who need to travel to neighbouring countries for work. They will have to run the gauntlet of racist and ignorant immigration officials who will assume that a Muslim name means a terrorist, or at the very least a troublemaker. As whites in the same professional roles would not, it would amount to racial discrimination and a hindrance to the ambitions of anyone from these minorities.

Taking down barriers means we provide fewer opportunities for the harassment of travellers by the kind of bigoted morons who are attracted to the immigration service both here and abroad. As with human rights laws, those who want to scrap freedom to travel sell their policies on the basis that only dark-skinned people and troublemakers need such things, and that white privilege is as good as any charter. The English Channel is not the same width as the Atlantic and the United States is too powerful and aggressive and its dominant class too stupid and vicious for it to be anyone’s friend.

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