James O’Brien: ID cards cannot fix the ‘bottomless pit’ of xenophobia

8 November 2022, 14:46 | Updated: 8 November 2022, 14:56

James O'Brien says ID cards can not improve the 'bottomless pit' of xenophobia

By Phoebe Dampare Osei

"Facts" can't "dilute” people's feelings against asylum seekers, says James O’Brien amid the national conversation of migration.

James O’Brien explained why he believes ID cards for migrants cannot rectify the issues of xenophobia and racism in this country.

His comments come after an ongoing national conversation around migration, involving around 40,000 people crossing the Channel so far this year, which the Home Secretary Suella Braverman branded as an “invasion on our southern coast”.

“The Labour Party thinks that facts can help dilute feelings that aren’t built on facts. I think it’s really dangerous and quite frightening that they’re considering ID cards as a way of assuaging or addressing public concerns about so-called illegal immigration.”

He read out a quote from Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who said the cards would be helpful in reassuring the public that “we have control of our borders”.

“But it won’t, it doesn’t work like that.” James countered.

READ MORE: Shadow Home Secretary raises concern over lack of 'proper employment checks' on ID for migrants

“Even if we had ID cards you would find someone claiming that they’re being sold out the back of a dog and duck or that the person over there with dark skin can’t possibly be here legally because…”

James added: “When the Labour movement turns its attention to an issue like so-called illegal immigration, they think that they can assuage the fears of people by taking them seriously.

“I don’t know how many members of the public, who are currently frightened of asylum seekers, are assuageable.

“The only way you can extinguish these flames is by not fanning them...I think you can only extinguish them by denying them the oxygen which they need to burn.

“That involves essentially controlling the media, which is neither desirable…nor possible”, he conceded.

James also said the behaviour of “individual officers” and “institutional toxicity at the heart of many police services” don't "engender a great deal of confidence in their ability to use this new power responsibly and fairly”.

James O'Brien's heated exchange with caller about ID cards

He said he said he hopes he is wrong on ID cards not helping but explains that he sees xenophobia as a “bottomless pit”.

“I see xenophobia or racist rhetoric as a bottomless pit into which it doesn’t matter what you throw - what good people throw in, how much they throw in, it’s bottomless, it's not going to touch the sides,

"Because if your political attitude is built upon a hatred of people who don't look like you or sound like you, then as long as there are people who don't look like your or sound like you in this country you're going to be susceptible to the toxicity [of] some politicians.”

James said giving the example of an MP saying his constituents in Blackpool would "dream" of living in the same conditions as the migrants in the Manston processing centre.

"That's beyond stupid, that's disgustingly dangerous."

READ MORE: James O'Brien caller suggests government rhetoric on migration is misleading people

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