Recent Immigration Articles
Last month, The Telegraph enthusiastically publicised a new bid to ‘tackle the growing number of offenders using the “right to family life” laws to avoid deportation.’
Theresa May has now promised to introduce legislation to achieve the same end.
However, a report published last week by my organisation, Bail for Immigration Detainees, shows that the separation of families by immigration control can have extremely serious consequences for children’s welfare, and that single parents can be separated from their children after committing a relatively minor offence, or no offence at all.
We looked at the cases of 111 parents who were separated from 200 children. Many, but by no means all, of these parents had committed offences and served sentences. Parents were held in immigration detention without time limit, for an average of 270 days, and in some cases for over two years. The decision to detain them was not made by a judge, but by an immigration officer. In 92 out of 111 cases, parents were eventually released, their detention having served no purpose. 15 parents were removed or deported without their children.
Children were left without their detained or deported parent, sometimes in frankly appalling situations. In 85 out of 200 cases, children didn’t have another parent to take care of them and were in care. Many of the children in the study were born and grew up in the UK, and were British Citizens.
One girl was seven when her mother was detained for 173 days. One of her foster carers said:
At times Hana would sit by herself and break down and cry.
When you asked her what is the matter, she say “when is my Mum coming I want to go home with her.”
In one case, the Home Office deported a single father leaving his nine and 12 year old sons with his ex-girlfriend. They did not do anything to find out if the children’s care arrangement was safe.
12 of the 15 parents in this study who were removed or deported without their children had been convicted of non-violent offences including possessing false documents, and one parent was not convicted of any offence. In some cases, where parents did not have the right to work or claim benefits, they committed offences to buy food for themselves and their children.
It is difficult to imagine any other situation where children in the UK could be separated from their parent and have such scant attention paid to their welfare.
Sarah Campbell is Research and Policy Manager at Bail for Immigration Detainees
by Jon Yates
The debate about the 600,000 white Brits who left London in the last decade shows how broken our thinking on integration is. The debate has been dominated by right-wing commentators in despair and left-wing commentators in denial. It is time for some new thinking.
The right-wing commentators have been predictable. For them, this ‘white flight’ is proof that multiculturalism is a terrible idea, immigration is all bad and the only answer is to close the borders. Even for someone who accepts the analysis, this is idealist nonsense.
Reducing immigration will never stop this country being diverse or becoming more so; my daughter is 3, a third of her peers are non-white. We are a multi-racial country – we need to deal with it, not deny it.
The left-wing comment is even more dispiriting. Commentators have competed to explain the exodus away. They tell us this has nothing to do with ethnicity. That it’s a story of ‘white families made good’: they’ve got some money and they’re heading to the seaside.
This makes sense – if you ignore all facts. How can a phenomenon that only applies to white people moving more white areas possibly be not about ethnicity.
It is time for those who care about living in a diverse, united country to speak up. For too long we have allowed our voices to be dominated by a right-wing that has nothing but a counsel of despair and a left that has no eyes to see what is happening. We need to start by admitting four self-evident truths.
One: We have a segregation problem. The OECD judges our schools to be amongst the most segregated. Our most ethnically diverse communities report the lowest levels of trust in others. And 600,000 people have just left London for a less diverse area. If you care about integration, let’s admit none of this is good news.
Two: It is about far more than ethnicity. It is also about the generational and income divisions that mark our country.
We can see this in an education system that places half the children who can’t afford lunch in just 20% of schools, a social care system that corrals the elderly together or isolates them at home, a lack of affordable housing that locates rich and poor in separate enclaves.
Three: It is a serious problem. Segregated societies are weak societies. Individuals have lower levels of well-being, communities have lower levels of trust and economies have less effective labour markets.
Four: The solution is integration. Activities that bond people together across boundaries are the key – not immigration policy. The National Citizen Service is a great example of how this can be done – through this, charities like my own have connected thousands of people across income and ethnicity and generational lines, built trust and helped to integrated communities.
Our debate should be about how we connect people together. It should be about building institutions where people will meet. It should be about how we transform our public services so people connect. It should be about how we all find ways to form friendships across boundaries.
We have had enough of despair and denial. It is time for action.
Jon Yates is the Co-founder and Strategy Director of The Challenge Network, the national charity for integration that connects 15,000 people a year from all income brackets, ethnicities and generations. The Challenge Network also blogs here.
“Most of what we’ve been saying about immigration for the last 40 years has backfired, and not worked for us,” said our American host quite bluntly. We were sitting around a table where the new offices of British Future would later be.
A group of Americans campaigners had come over to explain why, despite millions of dollars worth of lobbying, their debate on immigration remained negative and unfruitful. Our quest was to learn how we could avoid making the same mistakes, though it quickly became obvious we were in fact making the same mistakes as them.
There were three common responses to discussions on immigration that didn’t really work, our hosts said. In some cases they actually made people more resentful of immigrants and made the situation worse.
1) When we automatically brand people who want to talk about immigration as ‘racist’.
This response didn’t just fail to convince people, but drove up resentment and therefore led to more anger against immigrants. No doubt some people who oppose immigration are racist but there’s a spectrum here and some knee-jerk reactions are very counter-productive.
2) Telling people they don’t know the facts.
That the public is woefully uninformed on immigration is simply a fact. But there are two problems with this approach: first, people easily forget statistics that are quoted at them. They are more likely to remember narratives and stories (that the tabloid press use effectively). Secondly, the implication is that people are stupid. And when you call someone stupid they become less likely to want to listen.
3) We say immigration benefits us all economically, overall.
The overall impact of immigration may be positive but it won’t be uniform – some will see a positive effect and others negative. It goes without saying that those negatively affected (mostly poorer unskilled workers) will effectively hear us saying they should suck it up because the overall impact is positive.
There will be caveats for all these points above, but what unites everyone on this list above (with many on the left) is that no one likes their beliefs being challenged. If presented with evidence that proves them wrong, people make excuses. Or they reach for explanations that will justify their views. This is common human behaviour.
This is also why we keep losing the debate on immigration – we think people are misinformed, need to be taught facts and should not be listened to. That just makes them want to ignore us.
Why doesn’t Labour change the narrative?
This is the question almost every leftie asks. But probe it further and it quickly falls apart, because it is much easier said than done.
Labour is an opposition party which already struggles to get attention. Even if Ed Miliband said everything that lefties wanted, the media would distort it and re-interpret it for their audiences. And how many times would he have to say it before it got through to people?
Furthermore, people hostile to immigration would just ignore the speech and explain away the facts. This is how people react. This is how the world works. Just making a speech on immigration facts, even repeatedly, just wouldn’t do much to change the narrative.
I’m not saying Labour should pander and I’m not saying Labour should bring back the odious Phil Woolas and triangulate. I’m just pointing out that there are practical limitations to how much Labour can do.
So what is Labour doing then?
Ed Miliband understands that New Labour triangulation won’t work any more. His view has always been that immigration needs to be re-framed as an economic issue (‘a class issue’ – he called it), to help poorer workers at the bottom. He has thus far resolutely stuck to that view.
But you simply cannot take the public with you unless they trust you and think you understand their concerns. This is also basic psychology. So, first, Miliband has to gain their trust with a bit of humility and apologies. Once enough people think he’s trying to solve a difficult issue, only then will they start listening to his solutions.
But there’s another question too – what can left organisations do from the outside to change the debate? As the guys from America pointed out even this has been counter-productive in many ways. This should be the topic of another article.
In the meantime, have heart. Immigration has become a less poisoned debate in America recently only because minorities flexed their muscles and got President Obama elected twice. Though they are a smaller proportion of the British population here cannot exercise the same power, several key Tory commentators (esp. Lord Ashcroft) have noted that Tory hostility to immigration did cost them votes too.
We are a long way away from the days when Tories campaigned on immigration by saying ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour‘. There is plenty of reason to be positive about the future.
The Labour party is to air a party political broadcast (above) tonight dedicated solely to tackling the thorny issue of immigration.
The PPB will precede a speech tomorrow by the shadow home secetary Yvette Cooper, who will give a speech with more specifics on what a Labour party would go on immigration if in government.
Miliband will talk about how Britain’s diversity is a source of our great strength as a country, but that migration needs to work for all and not just for some.
In the broadcast, Ed Miliband will say:
- Labour were wrong in the past to dismiss people’s concerns about immigration;
- Low-skill migration is too high and we need to bring it down;
- One Nation Labour would make English-language teaching a priority.
In the broadcast, Ed Miliband says:
I’m going to tell people what I believe. And I believe that diversity is good for Britain. But it’s got to be made to work for all and not just for some. And that means everybody taking responsibility, everybody playing their part and contributing to the country. That is what One Nation is all about, and that’s the Britain I want to build.
The Party Political Broadcast will air on Wednesday night in England only, on BBC2 (17:55), ITV1 (18:25) and BBC1 (18:55).
You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at the Eastleigh result. The coalition parties viciously tore strips off each other in the campaign (for a party normally opposed to employee protection laws, the Conservatives are remarkably and creditably concerned about workplace sexual harassment all of a sudden).
The biggest winner, despite only nabbing second place, was a party resembling a mad scientist’s chimera of the Tea Party and the Five Star Movement. The Tories were an dismal failure. And Milibandian Labour continued its trend of doing absolutely nothing exceptional by doing absolutely nothing exceptional.
However, it would be deeply unwise to take the raw numbers from Eastleigh and conclude that David Cameron is buggered, that the Lib Dem vote will hold up at the next election, that anyone really cares very much about Europe, that the Tories need to tack to the right in general, or that Labour can’t win in the South. How do we know all this? Weirdly, thanks to renowned philanthropist and psephologist Lord Ashcroft.
This raises the question: what if anything can be done to change this?
One possibility is to appeal not merely to the facts, but to the evidence of people's own eyes.
A poll (pdf) by Ipsos Mori has found that although 76% of people think immigration is a big problem in Britain, only 18% think it a big problem in their own area, and twice as many say it is not a problem at all.
However, several things make me fear that an evidence-based approach won't suffice to change people's minds:
» Hostility to immigration does not come merely from the minority who lose out in the labour market. People from higher social classes and the retired are as opposed to immigration as others. And even in the 60s, when we had as full employment as we're likely to get, there was widespread anti-immigration feeling. This suggests we can't rely upon improving labour market conditions to improve attitudes to immigration.
» There's little hope of attitudes changing as older "bigots" die off. The Yougov poll found that 68% of 18-24 year-olds support the Tories' immigration cap.
» Antipathy to immigration has been pretty stable (in terms of polling if not the violence of its expression) since at least the 1960s. This suggests there are deep long-lasting motives for it; I'd call these cognitive biases such as the status quo and ingroup biases.
» There's an echo mechanism which helps stabilize opinion at a hostile level. Politicians and the media, knowing the public are opposed to immigration, tell them what they want to hear and – a few bromides aside – don't challenge their opinion; one of the many appalling features of "Duffygate" was Gordon Brown's abject failure to challenge Mrs Duffy's hostility to immigration. (The BBC is also guilty here: "impartial" debates about immigration often seem to consist of the two main parties arguing about how to control it.)
All this makes me ambivalent about "calls for a debate" about immigration. Part of me thinks: bring it on – let's talk about the facts. But another part of me thinks that rightists just want to raise the salience of an issue on which public opinion is on their side.
There is, though, a deeper issue here. The fact that public opinion is hugely and stably opposed to immigration suggests that there is a tension between liberty – immigration is an issue of freedom – and democracy.
YouGov did some polling for the Sunday Times on the issue of immigration.
Here is what they found.
The full commentary on these polls by YouGov is here.
Nigel Farage must think Christmas has come a month early. The extraordinary decision by Rotherham Social Services to apparently rip apart a thriving foster family because the parents were members of UKIP has delivered the PR goal of the season to Mr Farage.
Public sympathy for Farage must be at an all time high. He can also thank the car crash interviews of Rotherham’s Director of Children’s Services Joyce Thacker who explained that the “strong views” of UKIP members were incompatible with looking after kids who are “not indigenous white”.
Social workers had apparently gone further and told the foster mum that UKIP has racist policies, implying that she and her husband were also racists. Putting aside the rights and wrongs of UKIP’s stated policy of ending mass immigration, surely the very fact that these people, who had been “exemplary” foster parents for nearly 7 years, took on these children undermines the council’s own argument.
One possibility behind the curious decision is that social workers may have been guilty of confusing UKIP with the BNP. Maybe they had seen the ComRes poll last week which showed around 12% of UKIP supporters would seriously consider voting BNP at the next election. (5% of Labour supporters would do the same.) Or maybe they were too closely studying David Cameron’s now infamous description of UKIP in 2006 as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. This statement was denied yesterday, then hastily un-denied.
The overlooked political aspect of this affair though is why are former Labour voters turning to UKIP? The foster parents apparently used to be Labour supporters but switched to UKIP a couple of years ago. Ed Miliband has called for an urgent investigation into Rotherham council’s actions.
Maybe what he needs to call for is an urgent investigation into whether this anecdotal evidence is part of a wider picture. There are endless polls on how many Tory voters might put their cross in the UKIP box. Last week’s ComRes poll showed 26% of Tory voters would “seriously consider” voting for UKIP. But I can’t recall any that look at the UKIP threat to Labour. Is this because there is no perceived threat?
Certainly the Labour candidate in the Rotherham by-election may now be feeling the heat from the UKIP scandal, given the decision to remove the foster children was made by a Labour-led council and she could find votes slipping away because of it.
Interestingly, Nigel Farage admitted on LBC yesterday that he would be prepared to deal with Labour in the event of a hung parliament. He also said he was even prepared to deal with the devil. Form the time being though, Mr Farage must be counting his blessings.
Giselle Green ran Siobhan Benita’s media campaign in the London Mayoral election
Protests were held in Boston earlier this week, in response to an estimated 9,000 foreign workers arriving in the small Lincolnshire town during recent years. On Tuesday, protestors announced plans to hold further demonstrations.
The people of Boston have real concerns that need to be taken seriously by politicians and government and their protest was peaceful, unlike many in East London and Luton in recent years.
Expressions of frustration like this go deeper than national debates about population or economic growth suggest. Politicians should question both how immigration impacts on our national identity, and whether communities can cope with the levels of immigration we have seen in recent years. Ed Miliband’s mea culpa on immigration earlier in the year was an acknowledgement of this.
The flows of migration from Eastern Europe after 2004 were unprecedented and sudden, and the pace of change was, in some areas (Boston included), extremely challenging for communities to manage. Nevertheless, we need immigration for a successful, thriving economy and we should accept that more and more people have both the desire and ability to migrate across borders.
In order to create a successful immigration policy the government needs to take action in three areas.
Firstly, they must enforce immigration rules and police our borders competently.
Then, they should harness the benefits that immigration brings to our economy with a flexible approach to work visas.
And finally, they need to help people to manage the impacts that immigration has on their particular local communities.
Action in all three of these areas is required. Labour in government focused on border controls and proposed a point-based system for work visas but failed to address people’s local concerns.
The Coalition has focused on the first, at the expense of the second. While the far right speaks to local concerns but disregards economic growth.
Politicians need to work harder at listening to communities and responding to people’s local concerns. The peaceful protestors of Boston deserve to be listened to, not fobbed off with empty promises about a net migration target.
Alice Sachrajda is Research Fellow at IPPR think-tank
Much has been made of the decision by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to strip London Metropolitan University of the right to sponsor students from outside the EU.
The UKBA says that students are not having their attendance monitored, that many of them have not demonstrated their competence in the English language, and that many did not have valid visas to be in the UK.
The University, not surprisingly, disputes the conclusions, but if students cannot find alternative sponsors within 60 days then they face deportation, which is not going to help their studies.
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