Since her speech at the Tory party conference home secretary Theresa May has been promising all kinds of measures designed to pander to the worst of bigots. These include a clampdown on “health tourism”. She also promises to deny people the right to appeal until after they have been deported.
She wants to take £3,000 from migrants from “high risk” countries—mainly poor former colonies of Britain—that they won’t get back unless they leave.
But Britain’s immigration policies are already draconian—as a group of 60 refugees from Syria found out last week.
They went on hunger strike and occupied a footbridge at the French port of Calais, demanding the right to be allowed into Britain. Two threatened to jump from the ferry terminal roof if they weren’t allowed in. Others held signs saying “We want to talk to David Cameron” and “Take us to the UK”.
Ali was furious at the hypocrisy of politicians like David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande. “The president said that Syrians need help,” he said. “So why does he say one thing and the police another? Here even animals are treated better than us.”
Cherine, a Palestinian who was born in a refugee camp in Syria, was trying to bring her young daughters to join the rest of the family already in Britain. “I haven’t seen my son for a year,” she told reporters. “He’s crying now because he knows how close I am. All that I want is to bring my daughters back to their father.”
The refugees had spent months escaping the Syrian conflict, which David Cameron has called “the big refugee crisis of our time”. But his border agency refused to talk to them unless they apply to be treated on a case by case basis. But this resistance eventually won them the right to remain in France at least.
Not long after that Theresa May took to the airwaves pointing out that Syria was a “nursery” for “potential terrorists”. And she used the rebranding of an organised crime agency as a “British FBI” as a chance to court more headlines with hype about the number of foreign criminals.
It was the French police that eventually cleared the refugees from their occupation. Just as it is Greek, Italian and Spanish border guards at the edges of Fortress Europe who put British politicians’ tough words into practice.
May's conference measures
Some people from outside the European Union will be charged up to £200 to use the NHS, Theresa May told the recent Tory conference in Manchester.
Health workers will be expected to act as border guards checking who has the right passport to receive care.
Councils will be ordered to restrict social housing to people with a “connection” to the area. Landlords will be told to check the immigration status of their tenants.
May claimed that people are “fed up” of migrants who have not made a “fair contribution” to public services they use.
Everyone should have the right to use services. Yet the cost of services for migrants is proportionally lower than the rest of the population.
More migrants are of working age—more likely to work and less likely to be ill.
Yet May’s Labour counterpart Chris Bryant’s only criticism was that she wouldn’t deliver.