Recent Immigration Articles
Labour MP Tom Harris has an article today in the Telegraph titled ‘Object to mass immigration from the EU? Join the Romaphobe club!‘.
You know what the article is going to say before you even read the first line. It will appeal to and be detested by the usual suspects. Although, in this case, Harris is attracting criticism even from the right.
I won’t go over the entire piece. There are the usual stereotypes…
But a consistent pattern of complaints took shape quite early on: filthy and vastly overcrowded living arrangements, organised aggressive begging, the ghetto-isation of local streets where women no longer feel safe to walk due to the presence of large groups of (workless) men, the rifling through domestic wheelie bins by groups of women pushing oddly child-free prams, and a worrying increase in the reporting of aggressive and violent behavior in local schools.
…and the usual straw man:
It’s simply not good enough for our leaders to say that it’s all right to talk about immigration, and then when they do exactly that, to call them bigots when they think no one’s listening.
Memo: the problem isn’t talking about immigration, the problem is the deliberately negative stereotypes.
There’s nothing new about how Tom Harris MP scapegoats and scaremongers about immigrants.
I took part in a debate recently on media portrayals of Asian immigration from Uganda during the 70s.
Guess what – the stereotypes are astonishingly similar.
(images courtesy of the National Archive).
The funny thing is, these days the Tories are always hailing the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of Ugandan Asians.
There was a similar gaggle of Labour MPs then too arguing for a race to the bottom on the subject.
How quickly people forget history.
by Anita Hurrell
The government’s new Immigration Bill is about two things: making it easier for the Home Office to forcibly remove and deport people, and creating a ‘really hostile environment’ in the belief that people will leave the UK if their existence here is made impossible.
If the Bill goes through, legal rights to appeal wrong decisions for all migrants, including the sought-after Brightest and Best, will be severely restricted. This is happening at the same time as the government is cutting off access to the courts through changes to legal aid and judicial review.
Will there be any opposition? The Lib Dems broadly support the Bill, claiming ‘the worst of the Tory excesses have been stripped out’.
And what about Labour? There are some predictable lines: the Tories are still failing on immigration; government is missing its own target; the Bill won’t tackle biggest problems; ‘illegal immigration’ is up and deportation numbers down; The Bill does nothing about exploitation in the labour market. And Yvette Cooper said ‘checks on driving licences and bank accounts sound sensible and build on changes Labour made before the election’ and ‘landlord checks are sensible in principle’.
But this Bill shouldn’t be allowed to pass unopposed for many reasons – here are a few.
1. Stripping people of appeal rights will lead to more bureaucratic chaos
People will no longer be able to appeal on the basis that the Home Office got its decision wrong. Independent scrutiny of many of the decisions that determine people’s lives will go. A person will only have an internal administrative review, which will be ineffective and is a recipe for even more backlogs and delays.
2. Cutting appeal rights will shift costs
Cutting down the decisions which give rise to a right of appeal will lead to more judicial reviews, displacing what were simple fact-finding hearings in the First-Tier Tribunal to the more expensive and time-consuming JR jurisdiction of the Upper Tribunal.
3. The Bill will hit highly skilled migrants
A Tier 1 entrepreneur wrongly denied an extension of her/his visa won’t get the chance to have the decision examined by the independent Tribunal. Yet there is no evidence that appeals are currently meritless: in 2012/13 49% of Managed Migration appeals were allowed.
4. The government’s approach to Article 8 and children’s rights is wrong
The government had a go in the Immigration Rules at dictating to the courts how to interpret Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the qualified right to respect for private and family life. It is now trying to do it in statute. But its approach does not reflect the law on Article 8 or on children’s best interests, and its attempt should concern those who want to defend the Human Rights Act and the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
5. Immigration enforcement must not come at the expense of children’s welfare
Labour should be proud of lifting the reservation on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that said foreign children didn’t count. The proposals in the Bill totally undermine that progress and fly in the face of case law on children’s best interests.
6. Casual with civil liberties.
Can anyone who wants to be able to talk about civil liberties really allow further restrictions on bail applications in a country where the government can detain people indefinitely with no automatic judicial oversight? HM Inspectorate of Prisons last year found someone in who had been in immigration detention for nine years.
7. Landlord checks cannot work.
Landlord checks are illiberal, authoritarian and likely to lead to discrimination for anyone whom a letting agent thinks looks a bit foreign. They will place a massive regulatory burden on individual landlords (most of whom only let one property), push vulnerable people further underground and manufacture homelessness, which will increase costs on local government due to statutory homelessness and community care duties.
8. Neither will cutting off access to healthcare
The evidence of health tourism isn’t there. The British Medical Association said: ‘The reality is people don’t come to the UK to use the NHS, they’re more likely to come to work in the NHS.’ And there are public health risks: the proposals are ‘as disastrous for community health as they are financially moronic’.
9. Identity checks for all.
The system being proposed is one of identity checks for all. We will all have to prove our status to access services, and for some this will be easier than others.
This Bill is the nastiest piece of legislation in a long time, even compared to the depths to which New Labour sank in the early-2000s anti-asylum hysteria. It’s Lynton Crosby politics. What have we come to if this kind of legislation passes unopposed?
Tory peer Lord Ashcroft has published some big research on immigration today, trailed in the Sunday Times and Conservative Home. He says:
In a poll of more than 20,000 people I found that six in ten thought immigration had produced more disadvantages than advantages for the country as a whole; only 17 per cent thought the pros outweighed the cons. The biggest concerns were the idea of migrants claiming benefits or using public services without having contributed in return, and added pressure on schools and hospitals.
On the positive side, the idea of migrants doing jobs that British people are not prepared to do, and being prepared to work harder for lower wages, were seen as the biggest advantages.
Public opinion on immigration, then, is more varied, and certainly more nuanced, than is sometimes supposed. Those who take the most favourable view often regard opponents as backward-looking and fearful of change. Those who are most concerned think supporters of immigration are insulated from its more challenging consequences.
Lord Ashcroft has segmented Britons into groups depending on how they react to immigration and why they fear it. This is useful if you want to convince them, as myself and people like British Future do. There is a danger that left-wing responses to anti-immigration rhetoric lump people together and tar them with the same brush. The aim of people who want to change minds on immigration should be to understand what Britons think, understand where they stand on the issue, and take that as a starting point to convince them. And each group (except the hardcore racists) will have to be spoken to in different ways.
Anyway, I have two points to make in response to Lord Ashcroft.
1) The public are far more nuanced (confused?) on immigration than even Lord Ashcroft lets on. For example, he finds that 60% of Britons think immigration has made produced more disadvantages for the country than not. BUT – an earlier poll by Lord Ashcorft found that 70% of all Britons think becoming a multicultural country was a good thing for the UK. Confused? You shouldn’t be – people come out with wildly contradictory answers depending on what you ask them. So all is not lost.
2) He says that voters don’t trust even the Tories on immigration. I’ve repeatedly referred to this as the Immigration Frankenstein Monster, and this graph illustrates the problem for the Tories.
Even as immigration is falling – Britons trust the Tories less on dealing with it. Essentially, the Tories went so far in creating a conspiracy-like fear of immigration that the public don’t believe any politician can deal with it. They don’t trust most politicians and plainly believe immigration is rising not falling.
There is a point here for Labour: trying to ape the Conservatives doesn’t get you anywhere either, because the public don’t believe you’re being serious and are just pandering. Plus, you just feed the monster and make life even more difficult for yourself further down the line. This is why I think Ed Miliband’s direction (to deal with it as an issue of exploitation of low wage workers) is more credible and likely to work.
There is a point here for the Tories: You created this monster and now it’s devouring you. Tough luck.
Yesterday, YouGov published the results of its survey into attitudes towards the Home Office’s recent “Go Home” poster campaign, known disaffectionately in these parts as the #racistvan. The poll’s results weren’t particularly surprising; Conservative and UKIP voters tended to be strongly in favour, Labour and Lib Dem voters were more evenly split, with more agreeing the campaign was racist than not. There was a bit of regional variation, with Londoners less in favour of the Home Office’s actions than other parts of the country, and variation by age, with older people somewhat more likely to support it than younger people. So far, so unsurprising.
I would have liked to see more probing of the data, particularly breaking it down by ethnic group and by nationality or country of birth. I would put good money on the supposition that many people (not all!) from minority ethnic groups, the majority of first- and second-generation immigrants and the bulk of Britons born abroad would be significantly more concerned about the Home Office campaign than the rest of the population. It would be useful to hear the voices of those whose families and friends the campaign is aimed at more strongly. Unfortunately, given the comparatively small sample size of 1660 (fuelled by the need for current information on public attitudes), it’s unlikely that the breakdowns suggested above would yield statistically significant results in each region. Let’s hope someone commissions a more in-depth survey soon.
For me, the glaring omission from this polling was the total focus on the poster campaign, rather than the accompanying stop-and-search patrols by the UK Border Agency at London Tube stations, where the reported experiences of those passing through strongly suggested a concerning degree of racial profiling. Again, I suspect that the overall support for the poster campaign would not extend as strongly to threatening patrols interrupting people’s daily business. It’s one thing to pass by a campaign poster – unless you live under a rock, you’ll passively consume hundreds of advertising posters daily. You may not even have noticed these unless they had a particular personal or community resonance. It’s really quite another to e on your way to work and for a burly bloke to stop you and demand you prove your right to remain in the country. It’s all a bit Big Brother; it’s really not very British.
So the right’s declaration that this poll vindicates the Home Office’s strategy overall may not be wholly accurate. But even before reading it, the results of the poll were fairly predictable. Of course people are going to support initiatives to tackle illegal immigration when they’re bombarded by constant messaging from the overwhelmingly right-wing media that immigration is a major problem and a drain on society. It’s the rational response to the information people are receiving.
So the left faces a real challenge; to engage the general public in a much more nuanced debate about migration, acknowledging people’s concerns whole pointing out that there’s a bigger picture. As a Labour Party activist, I frequently have conversations on the doorstep where voters tell me about their concerns about ‘the immigrants’, but have positive feelings about their personal interactions with immigrants; their care workers, the local shopkeeper, their children’s friends. These conversations can’t just happen on individuals’ doorsteps, they need to happen nationally too.
The left needs to present the facts about our economy’s need for inward migration without patronising people or dismissing outright the fears that people have as racism. The fears are real, even if they’re based on information that’s inaccurate or just plain wrong. As I blogged yesterday, the Labour Party in particular shouldn’t accept the right-wing narrative on immigration but should advance a fact-based alternative.
The YouGov poll isn’t evidence that lefties were wrong to oppose the racist vans; far from it. Instead it’s evidence that we have to change the debate.
My first thought at hearing about the Van driving around with a sign saying ‘Go Home’ was that of horror.
My second emotion was a weary feeling about how this would play out. I would express my outrage; a barrage of replies would say I was over-reacting as it only focused on ‘illegals’; there would media coverage of the outrage; the Tories would get the headlines they wanted for their stunt with minimal effort.
We have been here many times before and, as the Tories gear up for the 2015 election, we will again. This is why I’m writing this post.
I don’t want to preach to the already converted. Let’s assume you want vastly less immigration into the UK. Let’s also assume you want undocumented immigrants to leave the country. I don’t necessarily agree with those positions but they are easy to comprehend.
For the purposes of this article I’ll share those concerns with you. The problem is that we are all being manipulated by the government, and we should all be angry about this.
The GO HOME van only toured Asian-dominated areas and only offered translation in Asian languages. The spot checks at a few London tube stations in areas with lots of ethnic minorities, and mostly singled them out.
Let’s start with the obvious problem: all this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. There are an estimated 300,000 – 800,000 people in the UK who don’t have the papers to be here. The Home Office has schemes (some even offering money!) aimed at these people, to little impact. They’re not going to be persuaded simply by a billboard on a van. How many people will the spot-checks find? I doubt it would even stretch to 100s as undocumented workers would wisen up and avoid certain areas.
Then what about the cost? Are you comfortable with the idea of the state singling you out because of the colour of your skin? What if you were on holiday and the local police started harassing you on the assumption you were a criminal because you were white? Except, in this case, most of the people being harassed by spot-checks are British citizens. This create resentment and anger, and a police force cannot work properly without cooperation from citizens.
David Cameron knows racial profiling is a terrible idea; here’s a video of the PM in 2009 saying he didn’t want people stopped by police asking for their papers. Theresa May said stop-and-search needed to be scaled back because it didn’t work.
Besides, a large proportion of people who illegally stay in the UK are from Australia, South Africa, USA and New Zealand. Nothing is being done to target them..
So why are they doing it? Because these are stunts – to give you the impression something is being done.
Last week the Home Office twitter account started posting messages about the number of arrests they made. How many undocumented migrants do you think sit on Twitter and would be intimidated? Hardly any. Their aim was to rile up the left and get some coverage in the news.
If you’re the kind of person who likes media stunts, fair enough. But if you genuinely want something done about immigrants who have illegally over-stayed in the UK – you should be outraged at the way they’re trying you trick you into pretending that something is being done.
In the run-up to 2015, there will be many more such stunts. There will be many more such circular arguments. But that doesn’t mean we have to be taken for a ride by politicians every time.
Well, this comes as a complete (but welcome) surprise.
Even Nigel Farage dislikes the Home Office van going around urging immigrants who don’t have a legal right to stay here to ‘GO HOME’.
He told ITV this morning (via Daily Mail):
What the billboards should say is please don’t vote UKIP, we’re doing something.
That’s what it’s all about, of course it is I think the actual tone of the billboards is nasty, unpleasant, Big Brother.
It’ll make no difference. I don’t think using messages like this will make any difference, what will make a difference is enforcing out borders properly.
It’s always worrying when you find yourself on the same side as Nigel Farage, but credit to him here for calling it what it is.
You may argue that his concern is not genuine and he’s only worried about Tories taking back UKIP support of course. Perhaps, but he isn’t the only UKIP member who has condemned this in strong terms.
As I said earlier, the van is an ineffective stunt. Its sole aim is to generate publicity for the government rather than get outcomes.
Secondly, while supporters of the van claim it is only aimed at ‘illegal immigrants’, they miss the point that this was a highly racist neo-Nazi slogan. To bring it into government use legitimises it, regardless of whom it is aimed at.
For almost every ethnic minority person in the UK, Go Home has strong racist connotations. There’s no argument over this at all. It is irrelevant who the Home Office say it is aimed at, this is very much a re-run of ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?‘
This ad campaign by the Home Office has me seething with anger.
Go Home used to be a racist slogan used by the National Front in the 70s, for anyone of Black or Asian origin.
Until recently the BNP too had a policy of forcibly deporting people of ethnic minority origin. They should all ‘go home’ Nick Griffin used to say, and he even offered money for them to do so.
This campaign is a publicity stunt. There have been long-standing schemes by successive governments to offer incentives to illegal immigrants to go back to their country of origin. They rarely work since people fear persecution or feel they could earn more money here.
In other words this van emblazoned with ‘Go Home’ is a stunt designed to generate publicity in the press and give the impression the government is cracking down on immigration. IT won’t have muchany impact on the numbers at all.
But it does legitimise and bring back an old racist slogan.
It will encourage racists to scream ‘go home’ to anyone of non-white origin… after all, the government is saying it too!
It has brought back a slogan into use that my parents’ generation hoped that they wouldn’t hear again.
On Friday 12th July Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, gave a key note speech on immigration where she attacked the political “race to the bottom” on immigration.
While the government said immigrants were attracted to Britain by benefits, “there is simply no evidence for this claim,” she said.
She said it was common currency to blame migrants for problems in schools, the health service and housing, to distract from “Britain’s long-term failure to build adequate housing, particularly social housing”
The speech was given at the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy at the Romanian Cultural Institute. The Green party leader attacked the “race to the bottom” on immigration.
The government was scapegoating immigrants instead of acknowledging its own failings and that of the former Labour government. “It’s pernicious, it’s dangerous, and it needs to be challenged.”
While many in the political class are currently falling over themselves to out UKIP, UKIP Bennett argued we need to be articulating the benefits of immigration.
it’s important to acknowledge the contribution of immigrants to Britain. The NHS could not operate without immigrant workers. Our social care system, and our education system are significantly dependent on immigrant workers.
But of course their contribution isn’t only through employment, whether they are young or old. The grandmother who moves to Britain to be with her family – she might be providing childcare, or she might simply be providing the solidity, the knowledge, the experience of a lifetime. The partner who moves to Britain to be a “house husband” brings not only time and love, but also the cultural experience of a different life experience. The foreign student brings to their local course a whole host of different experiences, knowledge and skills to their local classmates, to the enrichment of all.
One of the nastiest pieces of George Osborne’s Spending Round last week was his announcement that benefit claimants who refused to improve their English to find work would be penalised.
Nasty not so much because of its likely impact on unemployed non-Anglophones, as because he was giving a high profile to a problem which doesn’t really seem to exist.
As several people have pointed out, this isn’t sensible welfare strategy, it’s pure dog whistle anti-immigrant politics: 87% of those polled were reported by the Telegraph to back the utterly imaginary crackdown. We’re with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) who said:
“To make unfounded statements that portray migrants in a negative way is not only discriminatory but chips away at social cohesion and will only serve to create tensions in our society.”
The Spending Round 2013 document spells it out:
“all claimants whose poor spoken English [I'm not sure how significant the omission of written English is] is a barrier to work to improve their English language skills, with claimants mandated to attend English language courses and sanctions for those who refuse to participate.”
It will be interesting to see, when detail becomes available, how much this measure is intended to save. But as Channel 4′s fact checker pointed out, benefit claimants already face English tests, and if their language skills aren’t good enough, they are offered free English lessons currently costing the Treasury £50m a year, and if they don’t take them up they face the benefit curbs Osborne says he will introduce in 2015.
Ellie Mae O’Hagan, meanwhile, pointed out in the Guardian that her experience of working for Unite, organising migrant workers in London’s East End, suggested that people are keen to improve their English, contrary to what Osborne implied. Indeed, the cost to the Exchequer of teaching English as a Second Language (ESOL) has been cut from £300m to the current level, leaving many keen learners unable to access courses unless they can pay for it (which wouldn’t include benefit claimants.)
We’ll be discussing the part rhetoric is playing in the politics of social security cuts and the need for solidarity at a seminar on Solidarity and Social Security Cuts on the afternoon of 24 July. The speakers will include Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group and Professor Ruth Lister, from the Labour front bench in the House of Lords. Plenty of time has been allowed for discussion and debate. Places are free, but please book in advance.
by Tim Finch
The news that US legislators have moved one step close to introducing a large-scale amnesty for immigrants living illegally there has inevitably led to calls, most strikingly from a leading Tory backbencher, for something similar in the UK.
A few years ago I would have supported such calls, and indeed marched many times under the Strangers into Citizens banner. But while leading a major piece of IPPR research on irregular immigration a couple of years ago I changed my mind.
The reason I did is simple – there’s a quicker and more realistic way of achieving the same result. It’s less politically contentious, flexible and responsive, avoids stirring up public angst and delivers results. Moreover, it is in effect existing government policy and practice.
What I’m talking about is case by case (very occasionally group by group) regularisation in instances where it is clear that return or removal is not feasible or safe. Without any fanfare this approach has been pursued with reasonable success for a number of years, regularising many thousands, without derailing our managed migration system.
To take just one example: I’ve been associated with an organisation called the Zimbabwe Association for a number of years. It used to be the case that most of our members were failed asylum seekers fighting deportation or detention. Some were no doubt wrongly refused protection; but there will have been others who had a weak case for asylum.
Now, though, pretty much every one – hundreds in all – have been granted some kind of legal status in the UK. Do you remember an amnesty for Zimbabwean asylum seekers being announced? Quite. But by other means the same end has been achieved. The process has been opaque, convoluted, inconsistent, imperfect in many ways, but the result has been that many Zimbabweans, fearful of returning to a country still ruled by Mugabe, have been allowed to stay in the UK and to start building new lives.
By contrast, if they’d been relying on a large scale, pre-announced amnesty or the introduction of a comprehensive ‘pathway to citizenship’ (which in fact is what the Senate approved in the US), they would still be trapped in the limbo of irregularity.
Of course open, upfront regularisation schemes, which attach clear conditions to achieving citizenship and which can distinguish between people who have fallen foul of the system and those who’ve set out to evade it, are intrinsically preferable. They are more transparent and democratically accountable. If conditions would allow , a scheme of this sort would be the best response to reducing the UK’s substantial population of irregular migrants for the benefit of everyone.
But there is no prospect of commanding sufficient political support to introduce such a system in the foreseeable future. (Nick Clegg has dropped the LD regularisation project too). The political argument is being won in the US in a very different demographic and political context. If it is a ‘proper’ regularisation scheme or nothing in the UK, we will end up with nothing.
More than that, even calling for ‘big bang’ solutions is counter productive as it actually narrows the political space for taking a pragmatic and reasonably humane approach to reducing irregularity.
So although it is not very noble and principled perhaps, the better course is to turn down the heat on the government to make a big gesture and instead to leave it to pursue (and perhaps over time extend) a low-key approach that, for all its faults, is helping to resolve a very thorny problem. In doing so it is improving the lives of both thousands of very vulnerable people and tacking a social issue which blights the communities in which they live.
Tim Finch is a former head of migration at IPPR and author of the forthcoming novel about refugees The House of Journalists
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