Will Vote Leave’s points based immigration system get null points?

This week the Vote Leave campaign unveiled it’s plans for immigration controls in a post-Brexit UK – an “Australian style” points system. I’m not quite sure why it keeps being referred to “Australian style” when we actually have a points system ourselves for non-EU migrants, but in any case according to Vote Leave this system will be “fairer, more humane, and better for the economy.”

First of all it needs to be pointed out that whatever kind of immigration laws the Leave campaign think we should have post-Brexit, whatever kind of trade deal they think we should negotiate, however much they might want to do things like scrap VAT on fuel, they won’t get to decide these things – these decisions will be made by the government of the day and they will not be bound by the Leave campaign’s wish-list. Of course Boris Johnson or Michael Gove may be a part of that government, one of them may even lead it, but there’s certainly no guarantee.

However given that, as I said above, what they are proposing seems to be little different from the current rules for non-EU migrants it seems reasonable to assume that a system like this would be in place, in fact so much so that one wonders why it is particularly newsworthy. So it is worth examining its likely impact. Continue reading

Who is encouraging the BNP Mrs Flint?

Caroline Flint, the Minister for Europe, has given a warning to trade unions that they are in danger of giving encouragement to the BNP by campaigning against companies that use foreign workers to undercut local pay and conditons.

Ms Flint said: “After the debate in recent weeks about foreign workers and EU law, the danger is that it will be misused at every opportunity by those who don’t share our progressive values. And no amount of campaigning by anti-fascist groups, however important, will undo the damage if we unintentionally boost the BNP’s campaign in Labour heartlands by feeding a climate of intolerance.”

Now I’m not saying that Flint doesn’t have a point of sorts – in the current climate it is very easy to make immigrants a scapegoat for our woes so it is important that when discussing these issues we are careful about the kind of language we use in order to avoid giving succour to the extremists. However, from what I have seen the unions have been careful to make clear that they have no problem with migrant workers per se, they just want their members to have a chance to apply for these jobs and don’t want locally negotiated pay and conditions to be undermined.

Anyway, I would take Flint’s concerns about people unwittingly causing resentment against immigrants more seriously if she was to condemn those who unashamedly promote such sentiments. Unfortunately to see a Labour Minister actively condemning the excesses of the tabloids would be an exceptional event indeed.

Furthermore, when we have a Prime Minister promising “British jobs for British workers” or an Immigration Minister who is happy to draw a connection between immigration and unemployment and accept tabloid scare stories at face value, or join in the mindless bashing of asylum seekers she might want to ask her colleagues in government to get their own house in order.

A “soft touch”?

In his recent tirade against asylum-seekers and their advocates Phil Woolas was keen to point out that the primary purpose of the government’s immigration policy was to “reassure the public that the government is in control of immigration”. As I pointed out at the time this would indicate to me that its priorities are rather skewed and are being driven by tabloid headines. After all, surely the primary purpose should be to have a system which is efficient, fair and humane – if you have that then in theory public confidence should follow.
That is not neccessarily the case though, because public perceptions do not always match the reality. For example, one of the most common clichés we hear is that this country is a “soft touch” for asylum seekers, a notion that anyone with a cursory knowledge of New Labour’s treatment of asylum seekers over the last ten years would know is risible. There is a very good example here

Twins: Ziyad and Bahabga Zighem aged 6 years 3 months, Rahima 4 years and 4 months, Hani 3 years and 6 months, and Zinedine 2 years and 3 months, have spent the last 29 days in Immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood IRC and are still there today.

These five children are not seeking asylum nor are they migrants, they were all born in the UK, denied the parentage of the country they were born in, by deliberate, discriminatory legislation in the ‘British Nationality Act 1981′ (came into force 1982).

As Justin at Chicken Yoghurt points out, this story is particularly apposite in the light of the shocked reaction of the country as a whole to recent high profile child abuse cases. Our concern for children’s welfare seems to end when they are the offspring of people whose immigration status may be in doubt. So next time you see a New Labour minister congratulating themselves on the government’s “tough” stance on asylum and immigration just remember that it is very easy to be tough when the people on the other end are weak and vulnerable, and especially when they are three year old children.

Phil Woolas…the new Richard Littlejohn

Not content with his previous they come over here and take our jobs rhetoric about immigrants, Phil Woolas has now turned on asylum seekers and those who act on their behalf.

In an interview with the Guardian, Woolas described the legal professionals and NGO workers as “an industry”, and said most asylum seekers were not fleeing persecution but were economic migrants.

“The system is played by migration lawyers and NGOs to the nth degree,” Woolas said. “By giving false hope and by undermining the legal system, [they] actually cause more harm than they do good.”

Of course what this means is that the said parties use all possible legal avenues in order to serve the interests of the people they represent, something which I would say for lawyers in particular is exactly what they are paid to do.

Woolas cites as an example

…an asylum seeker had won the right to stay after going through six layers of appeal. “That person has no right to be in this country but I’m sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest.”

This is of course total garbage – if they went through the legal process and were granted the right to stay in this country then they manifestly do have the right to be here. As for and “industry” with “vested interests”, that’s the typical lazy language of the right wing tabloids and therefore exactly what one expects from a “New” Labour minister. Anyone who is involved in the immigration system, none more so than government ministers, has an interest in the system. Woolas’s assumption of bad faith on the part of those working on behalf of asylum seekers is just childish and an insult to the people who do lots of hard (and far from lucrative) work on behalf of extremely vulnerable people.

He then describes the primary purpose of government immigration policy as

to reassure the public that the government was in control of immigration. “The public recognise that we don’t know the exact numbers. They see the asylum backlog and what they fear is that we don’t have any control over the system,” he said.

This just demonstrates how the government’s agenda on immigration has become warped by the scaremongering of the tabloids. The primary purpose is to reassure the public – this is more important than ensuring we have a system which is fair and efficient and treats people who want to come to this country decently and with dignity, whether they come here fleeing persecution or merely to build a better life for themselves.

Woolas rejects the notion that his comments on immigration may lead to comparisons with Enoch Powell

“Enoch Powell was trying to divide this country. I’m trying to heal this country by allowing us to have a mature debate on immigration,” he said.

Well you hardly have a “mature” debate by resorting to lazy tabloid cliches and putting “tough” talk above fair and humane treatment of asylum seekers. As for the comparison with Enoch Powell, well much as we may deplore Powell’s views on immigration he was a substantial and significant politic figure who posessed a great intellect. Woolas isn’t the new Enoch Powell, he is the new Richard Littlejohn.