IT must always give us cause to stop and think when the two main political parties in Westminster agree.

Such consensus, more often than not (especially since New Labour), means a coalescence around reactionary, conservative or right-wing views. And this is exactly what we’ve seen following the publication of the annual immigration figures – it has brought out the worst in both of them.

There have been all of the usual levels of pantomime and finger-pointing, but the nature of the “debate” has made the ritualistic political knockabout even more distasteful than usual.

Both Labour and the Tories now agree that the main thing we need is less immigration and that the way to achieve this is to introduce even more of the hurdles and barriers that have already made life intolerably hard for many who have sought to make their lives here.

The Tories have acted as they always do – promising “tough” action against refugees and migrant communities. Meanwhile, Labour, supposedly the party of socialism and solidarity, has tried to match them in a shameful and racist race to the bottom.

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“They’ve lost control of immigration” sneered Keir Starmer at Prime Ministers Questions this week to a chorus of whoops and cheers from his own backbenchers.

It was full of contempt and one-upmanship and was coming from the same usual starting point that migrant communities are a burden and something to be afraid of and angry about. It summed up everything that’s wrong with the debate and with the politics of immigration in Westminster.

The leader of the opposition’s transformation has been pretty stunning, even for him. When running to be Labour leader, he put his avowed support for free movement in Europe at the heart of his campaign and his vision.

A mere three years later, he is all in favour of maintaining a failed Tory Brexit and increasing constraints and barriers in order to end what he calls our “immigration dependency.”

I am a part of the statistics that both leaders were lambasting and criticising

I grew up in Zimbabwe and was 19 when I moved to Scotland. Zim will always be part of me. My mother is still in Harare, the capital city. In fact, she still lives in the home I was born in.

On the day I was sworn in as an MSP, I took my affirmation in Shona. I am not a native speaker, but it is the language of Zimbabwe and I was proud to be the first to use it in our Chamber.

It’s not all been plain sailing. I’ve been on the receiving end of xenophobia and abuse, particularly on social media. But I’m also aware that as a white English-speaking woman, I have been in a position to ignore a lot of it and laugh some of it off in a way that is simply not open to others.

I’m also aware that I am not racialised by politicians or the media in the same way as so many others.

Leaving Zimbabwe, I was never met with the same repressive restrictions and hostility that is being rolled out and implemented against so many by Downing Street. I’ve never been locked up in a so-called processing centre, threatened with deportation or treated worse than cattle.

The fear machine was already running into overdrive long before yesterday’s stats were published.

The apparatus of state violence and repression was built long ago with successive Labour governments contributing almost as much to it as their Tory counterparts.

Suella Braverman is not the first to use it, but she is threatening to take it even further, with more detentions, racist deportation flights and an anti-migrant bill that would effectively abolish asylum.

This week, the Home Secretary has been desperately trying to find anything she could to distract from the endless array of controversies that she has stumbled into.

Most recently, she is gleefully using international students and their families as her human shield, announcing a whole new round of draconian, immoral and totally counterproductive policies to stop them travelling with their families.

Immigration is not something to be worried about. It is something to be embraced. Whether it is refugees, students or people who are moving for love, work or a desire to see new places, I believe in free movement and want to see it extended.

There are significant and clear social benefits to immigration, and there are economic ones too, not least in rural communities across Scotland that desperately need inward migration to boost their working-age populations.

As long as humans have existed, we have travelled about. I was able to do so safely and relatively freely. I have been able to establish a life here with friends and loved ones and privileged enough to build a career and a platform. And I have made contributions to my communities.

I want other people to have all of these same freedoms, regardless of the country they are from, the money they are travelling with, or the colour of their skin. Immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees are our friends, neighbours and communities. They are welcome here.