Lea Ypi on mothers, the motherland and the cruelties of UK immigration


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In November 2022 Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, told parliament that the south coast of England faced “an invasion” of small boats. “If Labour were in charge,” she said, “they would be allowing all the Albanian criminals to come to this country.” Since then, others have suggested that the nearly 200 unaccompanied children found to have gone missing in the UK were Albanians “willingly joining” organised gangs.

In this moving and often funny personal piece, Lea Ypi reflects on life as an Albanian in the UK and the everyday cruelties of the country’s immigration system – from having to share romantic letters to her husband with officials, to the fact her brother has never been allowed to visit. But it was when her mother was denied a visa soon after she gave birth that the cruelties hit home hardest. “The UK’s immigration system does not find criminals,” she writes, “it creates them. It projects criminal intent well before any criminal act has occurred.”

Lea Ypi is professor of political theory at the LSE. Her book “Free: Coming of Age at the End of History” (Allen Lane) won this year’s Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

This article was originally published in the magazine on 7 December; you can read the text version here.

Read by Rachel Cunliffe.

If you enjoyed listening to this you might enjoy Operation warm welcome: the hotel that became home to 100 refugees

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