Tory prime minister Boris Johnson has ramped up racist scapegoating in the final week of the general election campaign. He unveiled a draconian plan on Sunday that would deny tens of thousands of migrants the right to live in Britain after Brexit.
Migrants deemed “low skilled” would be shut out from the ability to apply for residency in Britain. They would only be allowed to stay in the country for a short period of work—and be forced to sign up to a migrants' database.
The plan would see three categories of visas for migrants who want to come to Britain.
A small number of people, such as bosses, bankers, leading scientists and researchers, would face limited restrictions under an “exceptional talent visa”. They would be able to come to Britain without a job offer and stay for up to five years.
The vast majority would be forced onto either a “skilled” or “unskilled” visa. These are arbitrary definitions set by the government—for instance, care workers are classed as unskilled.
Migrants deemed “skilled”, such as most health workers, would have to have a job offer before coming to Britain. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a government body, would be given new powers to set a quota for the amount of visas that could be given out per sector.
They would be able to apply for residency in Britain.
But those deemed “unskilled”, such as farm workers, would only be able to come temporarily on few rights. Many fruit pickers or cockle pickers already face dangerous working conditions and this would make their situation worse.
And Johnson made clear that they would have “no pathway” to residency.
The attack comes on top of Tory plans to make all migrants pay a health surcharge on top of their visa fees.
Migrants from outside of the European Union have had to pay a charge—currently set at £400—since 2015. This will increase to £625 and it apply to all migrants, including those from EU member states.
The whole plan is based on racist myth of migrants as a drain on resources. Yet the MAC’s own report said that migrants “have paid £4.7 billion more in taxes than they received in welfare payments and public services”.
Johnson will use a win to unleash a new round of racist scapegoating to divide working class people.
That’s why it was good to see Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) campaigning against the Tories in west London on Saturday. Supporters of LMHR and joined an open-top battle bus to urge people to vote against Johnson.
Unfortunately, the Labour leader has given ground to it with their promise of a “skilled-based visa system” after Brexit.
Whatever the result of the general election, there will need to be a fight over defending migrants’ rights. Anti-racists need fight to defend and extend free movement—and for the rights of all migrants to stay in Britain.