Friday, 30 April 2010

Immigration policy is no joke

Heard the one about the migrant workers who stole our jobs? Thought not – it’s a lie, says Ceri Dingle

The belief that immigrants are taking our jobs, housing, services and resources, making UK citizens worse off is a very old idea dating back to the end of the 19th century and first enshrined in law with the 1905 aliens act which blamed Jewish migrants for shortages. This idea has informed punitive immigration laws ever since. Even the popular forms of this idea are not born of any direct experience: of a foreigner kicking you out of your home; forcing you into an NHS waiting room; sacking you from your job or cutting your pay. Our reduced living standards, lack of services, housing, jobs and decent pay have always been the direct responsibility of employers and government. They make the decisions. Immigrants have less say than anyone in fact, unless they are the tiny minority of very rich ones who are employers and own homes and who are not being moaned about. In fact how well off we are or how poor we are has never been determined by numbers of people anywhere. Some of the most crowded countries in the world, take Belgium, are some of the richest and some of the least densely populated take Namibia are extremely poor. How well off a country is, hinges on levels of investment and wealth creating industries not numbers. We can also be poor in a rich country if we are not prepared to fight for more and better. The real problem is politicians have consistently allowed immigrants to take the blame for what is their fault. They may not point the finger directly at immigrants today as they have in the past but they are not going to turn round and take the blame for people being badly off or ill provided for. They will not say sorry it’s our fault we haven’t built the homes you want, invested in infrastructure or industry to create jobs and new wealth. Employers who cut pay do not say I need to screw you more to increase my profit they’ll say its ‘market’ pressure, the ‘rate for the job’ or we need to ‘share the pain’. Their default position is to happily let the public blame immigrants and to jump on that band wagon openly when it suits them. Gordon Brown has done this by introducing a new visa points system, increasing deportations weekly and enforcing a draconian borders agency to do the government’s dirty work. The government are very effective bigots in fact but happily point the finger at the public as nasty xenophobes. Immigration controls of course make non UK citizens legally second class it is hardly any wonder then that they are seen as such, treated as such and blamed for everything. In fact even East Europeans who are legally here are predominantly in the poorest housing and lowest paid jobs. Of course at street level lots of people will say they know someone who got a flat when they didn’t and so on, which while it isn’t true, it is understandable, but the real point is where are the flats we need? We would all be better off lining up with migrants and demanding the pay, jobs and services we need and not letting the government off the hook. Opening the borders would make things very clear and allow a flow of people from across the globe to challenge the status quo with us and improve our lot. After all migrants are people who refuse to be the victims of circumstance. But that takes believing in our potential, our ability to create more and not fixating on where you came out of the womb or the blob of land you were born on.

Ceri Dingle is the Director of the charity, WORLDwrite

WORLDwrite regularly provides free film training for volunteers interested in supporting and promoting Open Borders and is now recruiting runners and walkers to take part in the women’s 5k mini-marathon which takes place in Hyde Park on September 5th under the banner “The More the Merrier – Freedom of movement for all”. For full details email