17 April 2018

State racism against the Windrush generation

What has been happening to the Windrush generation of elderly people from the Caribbean and some former British colonies elsewhere is the most appalling racism, propelled by xenophobic nationalism.

Until the 1971 Immigration Act came into force, British ‘colonial’ citizens (i.e. those British citizens without parents and grandparents born in the UK) could migrate to Britain. And many did so to take up mainly low paid jobs in the Post War boom. The 1971 Immigration Act closed the gate, but those already in the UK in 1973 were given indefinite leave to remain; they were British citizens and had no need to naturalise. They had no papers to prove their citizenship; they simply didn’t need them. They built up their lives in the UK and by now many are mostly grandparents.

Until the second decade of the twenty-first century, one generally didn’t need proof of citizenship to go about one’s life in the UK (to take up employment, rent a flat, etc). The Windrush generation were like everyone else, British citizens living in Britain where one did not have to prove one's citizenship. If a person were in the UK illegally, it was up to the authorities to prove that.

Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment for illegal immigrants’ changed all that. In Britain, there are no identity cards, so it is now hard to function in daily life without a passport, as proof of British citizenship. This expensive document, originally intended only for travelling abroad, has became a necessity of life, even if you don’t ever plan to use it for its original purpose.

Simply because they can’t prove their citizenship status (ie. when they took up permanent residence in the UK decades after the event), thousands of elderly black British citizens are actually or potentially denied health care, the ability of take up jobs, rent a flat or are detained and threatened with deportation (or actually deported) to countries which they last saw as young children. Why is the onus on them to prove anything? As British citizens they broke no law in being unable to prove their citizenship. And just to prove the racist intent of the Home Office, even a casual official interview could establish that these people have lived in the UK for decades.

The Windrush generation, many of them vulnerable, were targeted for persecution on racial grounds to serve the appetites of a racist nationalist-xenophobia. The fact that to this end British citizens have been denied medical treatment and sacked from their jobs - and even in some cases deported from the country - through no fault of their own is an outrageous violation of human rights.

Use Tutanota as well as Google

The Tutanota email service provides end-to-end encrypted email. Gmail is super efficient in what it does. Use both.

Today, post Snowden, the major email service providers, Google, Yahoo, Outlook, etc. all encrypt the content of our email between their servers and our browsers, even if some of the smaller providers don’t. But, despite that security, the Internet giants themselves still have access to everything passing through their servers, so they could potentially do anything they wished with our private data. Here are the main problems;

1. Advertising: the content of our mail can be trawled though, so that targeted advertising can directed at us. Discuss a death in the family and you will receive funeral related advertising. Or the information can be used for other commercial purposes (e.g. pricing car or medical insurance).

2. State snooping: The police and security services can obtain access to the content of an account. Worse still, there is periodic, if not perennial, mass surveillance: Recently, a copy of all email passing through Yahoo's servers was made available to the NSA. State surveillance is secret, so we cannot know its extent, nor how the acquired information is used. But the information can be used to prosecute us, discriminate against us, or interfere with the causes we support.

3. Mass hacking: the servers of the email providers, and also any organisation which receives copies of our emails, can be hacked, with the email content of millions of people stolen. Criminals can use the data for a variety of purposes (e.g. identity theft), or the content can be simply put up on the net for its embarrassment value.

The solution is end-to-end encryption, so that the encryption takes place on the sender's device and decryption on the recipient's. Anybody in between is shut out.

The Tutanota email provider, based in Hannover in Germany, has implemented end-to-end encryption, so email content flowing through Tutanota's servers is encrypted in transit and is inaccessible even to Tutanota itself. But end-to-end encryption can only take place if both parties use Tutanota. So with those contacts not using Tutanota, you might as well continue using your gmail account.

Tutanota does not rely on advertising. A free account is adequate for most purposes; a premium account, including a few more features, costs EUR 12 a year. I’m neither a technical specialist, nor a salesman for Tutanota, so please google “Tutanota” and find out more for yourself. Tutanota can accessed here.

There is no need to abandon your Google Account: but give yourself and your contacts the option of choosing between Gmail and Tutanota.