Socialist Worker

Labour-dominated parliamentary group calls for crackdown on migrants

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2535

Look over here, says Umunna as he calls for crackdowns on migrants while ignoring Tory cuts

'Look over here,' says Umunna as he calls for crackdowns on migrants while ignoring Tory cuts (Pic: Josh Blacker/Flikr)


A group of MPs and Lords largely run by Remain-campaigning Labour big beasts has called for a vicious new regime of internal immigration controls.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on social integration, headed by Blairite south London MP Chuka Umunna, issued its “interim report” yesterday, Thursday. It blamed rising xenophobia on immigrants’ failure to “integrate”—and proposed draconian solutions to this bogus problem.

One is forcing new immigrants to pass an English language test or to force them to enrol on compulsory English classes. This would add yet another excuse for border officials to turn people away.

And it creates a racist stigma against people who, by necessity or by choice, express themselves in other languages. On top of this, the government has cut English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes to the bone, meaning many migrants won’t have access.

Nastier still is its call for regional visas that would let people into Britain as long as they stay in one place. This would be a stifling, bureaucratic limitation on the lives of migrants.

Enforcing it would mean bringing more border policing because it would create borders round towns and cities.

More families would be divided, more people locked out of jobs and opportunities. It would make migrants second class citizens, legitimising racism against them. And it would entrench the racist debate about cutting immigration at the heart of local and regional elections.

The report points to similar systems in Canada and Australia—a country notorious for its brutal treatment of refugees. But its proposal is even harsher, restricting migrants to a single “Metro mayor” area, far smaller than a Canadian province or Australian state.

Enforcing it would mean bringing more border policing because it would create borders round towns and cities.

Do we want passport checks at train stations and motorways? Do we want landlords and employers to avoid taking on people who might be migrants in the wrong city—or to take advantage of them on the black market? Without such horrors the proposal is meaningless.

Parts of the report are couched in progressive language, and it questions some racist measures.

Alienate

It criticises racist anti-terrorism programmes that alienate Muslims, but only in order to keep “communities” onboard with the government’s programme.

It suggests making it easier to gain citizenship, to distinguish “settled” migrants from “short term” ones. This delegitimises anyone who is in Britain without being on a route to citizenship.

That empowers a xenophobia and repression that can be turned against anyone whose name, accent or skin colour marks them out as a potential migrant.

The APPG includes Tories, a Scottish Nationalist, a boss and a bishop, but it is largely a Labour affair.

As well as Umunna there’s Baron Glasman—formerly the architect of “Blue Labour”—another peer and ten more MPs. These include former policy chief Jon Cruddas, shadow minister Debbie Abrahams, Commons whip Holly Lynch and former ministers David Lammy and Keith Vaz. There's also Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and Naz Shah MP for Bradford West is its vice chair.

They hope to manoeuvre themselves to the head of the debate on immigration, yanking it out of the hands of the hard right. They should be ashamed. Calling for more stigma and more repressive measures than even the Tories have contrived will only empower the racists to go further still.


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