Socialist Worker

New Labour attacks migrants from Bulgaria and Romania

Issue No. 2024

Not content with whipping up Islamophobia, New Labour is now targeting workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

The two countries are set to join the European Union on 1 January 2007. All Bulgarians and Romanians will be free to travel to Britain without a visa - but home secretary John Reid has declared only a minority will be able to get legal employment.

A limited number of those deemed by the government to be highly qualified workers and those with specific skills deemed by the government to be in short supply will be allowed to work, as will students (but only part-time). But “low skilled” workers will only be allowed to seek employment in food processing or farming - and then only until a completely arbitrary quota of 19,750 places has been filled.

Reid's policy, which panders to the right wing tabloids, will force people to work illegally. It will encourage employers to describe their low paid workers as self-employed.

Self-employment is widely used, particularly in the construction industry, by bosses as a way of denying workers their rights to benefits and security of employment.

Quotas will force more migrant workers into a legal limbo. Their bosses will exploit their 'illegal' status to force upon them appalling levels of pay, and dreadful living and working conditions.

The Labour government know this, but they would rather encourage racism as a diversion from their crisis over Iraq.

Despite all the tabloid headlines about flood of migrants, Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2004 only 48,000 Eastern Europeans stayed longer than 12 months, with net migration to Britain reaching 74,000 in 2005. That is a paltry 0.12 percent of the British population.

The favourite lie of anti-immigrant racists is that immigrants take jobs from British citizens. In reality, the British economy would be far weaker without the contribution made by generations of immigrants. The NHS could not have been built without the huge input of doctors, nurses and other staff from the Caribbean, Asia and elsewhere.

New Labour is facing two ways, Tony Blair tells British workers that we must work longer before retiring on a lower pension. They this claim is because we do not have a big enough working population to pay for a decent quality of life for pensioners. Then they say we have to have to restrict the number of immigrant workers.

They are committed to ensuring the free flow of profits while controlling the movement of people.

It's not the Eastern Europeans who are to blame for poverty bad housing and low wages. It is the neo-liberal policies of New Labour.

It's the Labour and their friends in the gutter press who want to keep ordinary people at each other’s throats. The government wants cheap migrant workers to do the dirty jobs and it also wants to persecute foreigners to divert anger away from itself.


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Sat 28 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2024
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