Socialist Worker

Reject racist poison - migrants welcome here

The Tories are seeking new powers to make life harder for immigrants, writes Ken Olende

Issue No. 2455

UK border at London Heathrow Airports Terminal 5

UK border at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 (Pic: dannyman)


Prime minister David Cameron is demanding that the European Union (EU) allows him to deny benefits to EU migrants.

He met the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in Britain on Monday of this week. 

Cameron plans to jet around Europe for the rest of the week trying to gain support for his attack on workers’ rights to move around Europe.

Each day Cameron finds new ways to pander to the Tory right. On Monday he said he would exclude EU citizens in Britain from voting in the referendum on EU membership.

He is embarrassed that newly released figures show an increase in immigration under his last government. 

Socialist Worker has always argued that all migrants are welcome here and that all immigration controls are racist.

Cameron and the section of the bosses he represents want to stay in the EU, but also want to show they have control.

But Cameron is caught out because all the evidence shows that migrants don’t come to Britain to live on benefits.

Attacked

Rather than take on the racism Cameron is stirring up, Labour has attacked the Tories for lying about bringing levels of immigration down.

An article in last week’s Sunday Times by interim leader Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn MP called for “transitional controls on the free movement of citizens from any new member state wanting to work in Britain.”

The figures show that the reason for the increase is a mixture of a lessening of the problems of recession and a shortage of skilled workers. Much of the increase is an influx of skilled workers from Asia.

The media has led an anti-immigrant frenzy. The Daily Mail carried filthy attacks on Filipino nurses. 

The Sun ran a spread on Friday of last week headlined “Migrant Tsunami”, with a graphic showing a giant wave drowning Britain.

Even the Daily Mirror illustrated its page on immigration with a picture of someone being arrested on an immigration raid. “David Cameron’s immigration pledge is in tatters,” it thundered last Friday.

A video on social media shows crowds in Peckham market in south London resisting harassment of shops and shoppers by immigration officers earlier this month. 

This is what the Tories’ rules mean—everyday harassment for anyone the authorities think looks like an “illegal” immigrant.


Myths of migration not borne out by the figures

Newly released migration statistics show that 318,000 more people arrived in Britain than left in 2014.

Numbers had dropped in previous years because of recession. People are less likely to travel if they don’t think they can get work. 

About 268,000 people arrived from the EU while slightly more—290,000—came from other countries.

The statistics include people coming to join families who are already resident, but also students whose courses last more than a year.  

Immigration is historically high. But that is not why living standards have fallen for most workers. That is because of the recession.

In the 1930s recession there was no net immigration, but living conditions fell. They fell in the 1980s when there was no net immigration.

In the peak period of post-war immigration during the 1950s and early 2000s living standards were improving.

The number of asylum seekers coming to Britain has risen. But they only account for 4 percent of the total.

The report notes, “The largest number of applications for asylum came from nationals of Eritrea (3,552), followed by Pakistan (2,421) and Syria (2,222).”

Earlier crackdowns on students have reduced the numbers coming from India. But there has been an increase in those from China and Malaysia.

The figures show that most of those who come to work do not stay. Of those who came in 2008 on skilled work visas which include a path to permanent settlement, only 20 percent had remained five years later.

Non British citizens make up 57 percent of those leaving. The rest are British citizens going to live or work in other countries.


Steep bill of nasty measures

David Cameron planned to introduce a new immigration bill in the queen’s speech. He said the bill will make Britain “a less attractive place to come and work illegally”.

The bill will include a new offence of “Illegal Working”, allowing the government to seize wages.

The bill will be nasty. It won’t affect levels of immigration but it whips up anti-migrant fears.

It includes a plan to only allow “failed asylum seekers” to appeal after they are deported back to the country they fled from.

A third of cases are decided to be “genuine” on appeal, even under the current system which is heavily weighted against the refugees.


Outrage over refugee crisis

International pressure has forced the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to let some boats of Rohingya refugees to land.

Their previous policy had been to tow stricken vessels out to sea. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar and people from Bangladesh have been trapped for months on the boats.

They have asked other countries to help resettle refugees. 

But Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said, “If we do the slightest thing to encourage people to get on boats this problem will get worse, not better.”

As with the crisis in the Mediterranean governments aim to shift the story onto traffickers, and away from about people fleeing persecution. 

People paid the traffickers because they were desperate to leave. Mass graves that appear to be of Rohingya refugees were discovered on the border between Thailand and Malaysia recently.

The governments blame traffickers. But others have accused government forces.


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