the General Election: Words Matter

Migrants' Rights Network's graphic for their 'Words Matter' pledge in the lead-up to the general election.

In the knowledge that immigration will be one of the key issues of the upcoming general election, we wanted to platform the great work being done by our friends at Migrants’ Rights Network. Their Words Matter Manifesto sets out steps we must all take to defy hostile narratives around people seeking safety or a new life in the UK. We’ve summarised their 5 key actions below.

1. Hold the powerful to account

Politicians and the media have the power to shape and define the way we see marginalised groups. As cross-party debates on immigration intensify, now is the time to hold representatives to account. Familiarise yourself with commonly used divisive language by reading the Words Matter Manifesto. Write to news outlets and candidates calling out any harmful rhetoric you see throughout general election campaigns.

2. Compassionate language

Debates around immigration are likely to be frequent during the lead-up to the general election. Shift away from divisive language that frames migrants as a threat, such as ‘invasion’ or ‘illegal’.  Challenge the expectations that migrants must ‘contribute’ or ‘integrate’ – no one should be expected to give up fundamental aspects of who they are to be accepted or deemed worthy of rights. Be open to evolving your language and be willing to stand up against hostile language.

3. Expose prejudice & division

Promoting new, compassionate language is only effective if we expose the systems of oppression and the ideologies that form the foundation of anti-migrant policies. We must challenge the racism in which divisive languge is rooted. Call out hate and division directed at all marginalised and minoritised communities. Of course, this should never be exclusive to a general election, but with campaigns likely to stoke division, now is the time to be particularly aware.

4. Power to migrants

People are not voiceless, but some are denied the resources and platforms to make their voices heard. We must use our platforms and resources to amplify migrant voices, as they are those whose sense of belonging is affected most by divisive narratives. It’s time to give migrants the power. Dedicate your time and resources to migrant communities so they can create the change they want to see.

5. Meaningful conversations

Creating the society we want to see won’t happen unless we start having conversations about how racism shapes border systems. We can only create safe, constructive spaces for marginalised and minoritised people if we are willing to identify our privileges, recognise our ignorance, accept silenced histories, and acknowledge the persistence of racism and other systems of oppression.

“I believe that especially this year, everybody has gone through a hard time, but holding hands to those in need, who come from abroad and take shelter in this country, like us, makes us feel more hopeful by reducing our troubles to some extent. Completely new clothes from your last event gave the support that we can be like everybody even if our financial strength is not enough.”

Nilufar, 2023 Thread Ahead Visitor

A Thread Ahead volunteer helps a visiting refugee choose clothes.

To learn more about Thread Ahead’s work supporting people with insecure immigration status, click here.