Socialist Worker

Immigrants make us all better off

Issue No. 1831

THE IDEA that refugees in Britain drive down wages and cause unemployment has been blown apart by research released last week. 'Immigration is found to have, if anything, a positive effect on the wages of the existing population. Using the most robust data source available, an increase in immigration of 1 percent of the non-migrant population leads to a nearly 2 percent increase in non-migrant wages,' says the research summary.

It is based on four reports commissioned by the Home Office. Two are from University College London, one from the University of Leicester and one from the Department for Work and Pensions. The reports say there are complex reasons behind the positive impact migrants have on the labour market.

But their conclusion is reinforced by other studies: 'International evidence on this issue shows that migrants do not have large negative effects on either wages or unemployment of the domestic workforce.' This is because the work migrants do adds to the running of the economy. Many of them have skills in areas where there are chronic shortages. Whole sections of the understaffed NHS and of education would simply grind to a halt without migrant workers.

Some 27 percent of health professionals and 9 percent of teaching professionals are migrant workers. A higher proportion of migrants have a degree (19 percent), compared to the British-born population (15 percent). Some 32 percent have other qualifications. The vast majority of migrants in Britain are of working age. This means they are paying taxes, buying goods and using services.

Migrants contributed £31.2 billion in taxes in the financial year 1999-2000. This is £2.4 billion more than they used in 'consuming' public services, according to the Home Office in May this year.

The department concluded, 'Migrants reduced the amount that the existing population paid in taxes' by 'around 1p on the basic rate of income tax'. The rise in the number of migrants in the US over the 1990s played a large part in the country's economic boom during that time, according to a study published earlier this month.

'We would not have been able to fuel the economic expansion of the 1990s with our labour supply in the absence of that foreign immigration,' said Paul Harrington, one of the authors of the study. 'We need to recognise that part of our economic strength and prosperity is associated with our ability to get a high level of labour supply.' Some 2.8 million migrant workers aged 25 to 34 joined the US workforce in the 1990s.

Without them the workforce in that key age group would have declined by 21 percent. The US states with the highest migration were the ones which had the highest share of the boom.

All this evidence shows just how stupid and cruel New Labour is being by not allowing refugees in Britain to work and by making it harder for these people to come into Britain. Refugees too are generally of working age and have skills and qualifications that could contribute to society as a whole. We should welcome refugees as well as migrant workers, not just because it is the humane thing to do, but because the rest of us benefit from them too.

Cross-Channel solidarity

Blunkett has abandoned the victims of Saddam

Helen Shooter reports from Calais

SHERWAN FROM Iraq, 18 years old, is one of hundreds of refugees sleeping rough in Calais this Christmas. 'Saddam Hussein is very bad. I had to leave. I want a life,' says Sherwan. When 15 year old Nekhmt is asked why he left Afghanistan, he simply says, 'War'. But David Blunkett abandoned these desperate people when he forced through the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp.

Now they queue at a soup kitchen for food. They suffer constant police harassment. Their plight provoked a demonstration by up to 500 people through Calais last Sunday. It was widely reported on French television. Pascal Roussell was one of the many Calais residents on the march. She is part of a refugee support group, C'Sur.

'We know the problems refugees face and we want to help,' said Pascal. 'Some sleep in public parks. Some are living in the bunkers from World War Two. 'There are sometimes 20, sometimes 50 of them inside one bunker. They try to keep warm. The conditions are very bad.' When the protest went through the town centre to the soup kitchen, the refugees waiting there in the cold cheered and embraced the marchers.

Everyone then marched to the prefecture, the government office that is carrying through the attacks on refugees. Karwan helped hand out the piles of clothes, blankets and food stored in a local centre that had been donated by well-wishers.

'People from Calais and other regions in the north make donations. Every day refugees line up in the evening and we call them in to hand out what we have. 'Every day there are new people now Sangatte has been closed.' The French government wants to force the refugees to apply for asylum in France so they can be speedily rejected. If they don't apply because they hope to join friends and family in Britain, they face deportation.

Tom MacGowan is a member of the Kent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers which jointly organised the Calais protest: 'Around 60 people a day are still coming to Calais. Many of them are Iraqi Kurds. The British government wants nothing to do with them yet it is ready to launch a war and bomb their country. There are an estimated 3,500 CRS 'robocop' riot police in the Calais region. They have a very unpleasant record of attacks on refugees. The clothes and belongings of refugees in one bunker were doused in petrol and set alight by police.'

Mick Dodd, a Dover resident and Connex South Eastern train driver, also travelled over to join the protest: 'I think the protest is a breath of fresh air. We are so inundated in Britain with propaganda against refugees. I have seen what it is like for them. I have been really shocked by what the Labour government has done to refugees in Britain. I feel ashamed I voted for them. Haven't refugees been through enough persecution? I think it's really important we challenge all the crap we hear against refugees.'

The invisible overstayers

'IN THE United Kingdom public debate and policy responses focus almost exclusively on asylum seekers. In Australia overstayers greatly outnumber other categories of illegal immigrants. British citizens were the largest national group among these 'overstayers'. It is quite likely that a similar pattern exists in the United Kingdom with the largest number of illegal immigrants in the widest sense coming from countries such as the United States.' House of Lords report, 'A Common Policy on Illegal Immigration', November 2002

Protest against a barbaric new rule

NEW LABOUR is planning to throw thousands of refugees into destitution. They will welcome in the New Year by attacking desperate people. New rules coming into force on 8 January will mean refugees who have not claimed asylum as soon as they arrive in Britain will lose all benefits and support.

It is very dificult for people arriving in a new country to know how to claim asylum. They are often frightened, confused and can have language problems. Normally around 60 percent of refugees file their claims a few days after their arrival.

Protest against this attack on refugees - soup kitchen protest outside the Home Office, Wednesday 8 January, 4.30-6.30pm, Home Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London (St James's Park tube).

Organised by Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, National Assembly Against Racism, Barbed Wire Britain, Asylum Rights Campaign.

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Article information

Sat 21 Dec 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1831
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