Pandaemonium

THE QUESTION WE NEVER ASK ABOUT IMMIGRATION PANICS

freedom of movement 11

This essay, on the common features of immigration panics across the globe, was my Observer column this week. (The column included also a short tribute to the photographer Robert Frank.) It was published on 15 September 2019, under the headline ‘From India to Britain, every citizen is harmed by anti-migrant hostility’.


In the Indian state of Assam, the authorities are building detention camps for ‘illegal immigrants’, most of whom are Indian citizens. In South Africa, hundreds of Nigerian workers have been airlifted home as anti-migrant violence spirals out of control.

Two different events in two different countries, but each a glimpse of the malevolent trends transforming politics globally. While neither event has received much attention in Britain, consumed as we are by all things Brexit, both throw light upon developments here, too.

Assam’s new detention centres are supposed to hold some of the 1.9 million people who last week were removed from the state’s updated version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It is the latest move by Assamese nationalists to deprive Muslims of citizenship and to declare them ‘illegal’.

More than a third of Assam’s population is Muslim, some of whose roots in the area go back centuries. They are as Indian as the prime minister, Narendra Modi. In the eyes of Hindu and Assamese nationalists, however, all Muslims are ‘infiltrators’ and ‘Bangladeshis’. During Bangladesh’s bloody war of independence in 1971 through which the old East Pakistan became an independent nation, thousands of refugees fled to India, providing a new source of Assamese grievance. Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, which now controls the local state as well as the national government, has stoked that grievance and used the new citizenship register as a means to ethnically purge Assamese Muslims.

To be recognised as an Indian citizen in Assam, an individual must possess documentary evidence of their family having lived in the state, or having been Indian citizens, since before 25 March 1971 – the day Bangladesh’s liberation war began. Many poor farmers and itinerant workers do not have paperwork to prove that they are citizens of the country in which they were born. The NRC is, in the words of one critical report, a process of ‘making foreigners’ out of citizens.

How many of the 1.9 million Assamese excluded from the register will be imprisoned in the detention centres remains to be seen. What is certain is that the ugliness of nativist politics in India still has a long way to play out.

While Indian authorities have been declaring their own citizens ‘foreigners’, in South Africa, foreigners, mainly migrants from other African nations, have faced a wave of violence that has left at least 12 dead. It is the latest eruption of the xenophobic rage that has scarred South Africa.

South Africa is the most unequal nation in the world. A quarter of the population live in extreme poverty. The true unemployment rate may be close to 40%. There is widespread anger that a quarter of a century after the end of apartheid the material conditions of most blacks have barely improved.

Migrants make a convenient scapegoat for beleaguered politicians. Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa ‘condemned violence against foreign nationals’. Six months ago, he blamed migrants for South Africa’s social problems. ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has painted foreigners as criminals. Opposition parties condemn the ANC for allowing migrants to ‘flood’ in. In fact, migrants neither steal jobs nor are disproportionately involved in crime. But facts matter little to unscrupulous politicians.

The events in India and South Africa are products of the specific circumstances of each country. Both also expose trends across the world in which notions of national belonging are becoming more constricted, minority groups increasingly targeted and immigrants bearing the blame for failures of policy and leadership.

These events are but more extreme versions of trends visible in Europe and America. Here, too, false claims that immigrants ‘steal our jobs’ or are ‘responsible for most crimes’ echo loudly. At the heart of Britain’s Windrush scandal was a ‘hostile environment’ policy under which British citizens of the wrong skin colour were denied their rights because they were deemed to have insufficient documentation.

Whether in India, South Africa or Europe, the question asked is always: ‘What is the impact of immigration?’ The answers given are usually false. The question almost never asked is: ‘What is the impact of anti-migrant hostility?’ The answer is that it is deeply damaging and not just to migrants and minority groups. Anti-immigrant panics help erode the liberties of all citizens and obscure the real grievances that people face.

As the South African journalist Shaazia Ebrahim has observed: ‘The truth is that when the violence subsides, we’ll be left with the bare bones of reality: a failing government with a leadership vacuum and non-existent jobs in a motionless economy.’ It’s not just South Africans who have to face up to that truth.

31 comments

  1. From Australia’s Crikey this week

    https://www.crikey.com.au/2019/09/16/asylum-seekers-media-narrative-biloela (paywalled)

    Australian media has an asylum seeker problem
    Christopher Warren
    “We’re now 18 years on from that moment when MV Tampa steamed into our public debate and re-made Australian politics. Yet, as we saw with the reporting of the Biloela asylum seeker family’s threatened deportation, journalism is struggling to make a practical difference to the policy residue left in Tampa’s wake. It’s not for want of trying. There’s been some terrific reporting, including by asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani. But the lack of impact is because the media’s offering on asylum seekers is falling flat with the ageing white demographic — the ‘grumpy old men’ cohort that both consumes traditional media and has delivered government to the conservatives in most elections since Tampa.”

  2. Stergios

    I am very interested on your view on nativism in an “Old World” country, that is, in a country whose population does not have a recent migratory background, eg USA, Brazil, Australia, etc. As an observer of the whole Brexit mess, it is clear to me that many naturalized British citizens of European origin are fervent opponents to Brexit because their personal convenience is more important to them than the collective view of the British society at large. It was a shock to me when an undiplomatic Sadiq Khan whose father wasn’t even British lightheartedly suggested that London secede from the UK in case of Brexit just because he did not agree with the vote. I do not question the love for the adopted country and its original people(s) many immigrants have, a love that may often manifest itself as a rejection of their home culture and a rocky road to assimilation, but it is also true that for many immigrants the new nationality is nothing but paperwork for their convenience. What is your position on “natives” who have a totally different vision of their home country’s society versus “immigrants” whose scope may (or may not be) more limited.

    • As ‘an observer of the whole Brexit mess’, you must know that those whom you call ‘natives’ are bitterly divided on the issue, as indeed, though to a lesser extent, are those whom you call ‘immigrants’ (by the way, at what point do ‘immigrants’ become ‘natives’?). So, to pose the Brexit debate in terms of ‘natives’ vs ‘immigrants’ is either completely to misunderstand the debate you’re observing, or to be arguing in bad faith.

      As for Sadiq Khan, though I disagree with much of his politics, I don’t see what relevance the fact that his father wasn’t British has upon the question of how we should gauge his views. Khan is the mayor of London because he was elected by Londoners (including ‘natives’) who, unlike you, were not bothered by the fact of his father not being born in Britain. If Londoners dislike his comments or his policies (and it’s worth noting that the majority of Londoners are Remainers), then they can, as they can with any elected politician, remove him from office at the next mayoral election. Boris Johnson, by the way, who was mayor of London prior to Khan, argued for a special visa just for London. Is that less objectionable than Khan’s comments because Johnson’s father is British? Or should we judge politicians’ views by the content of those views rather than by ethnicity or their father’s place of birth?

      • Stergios

        I resent the hostile tone. My post is not in bad faith. What I ask is part of the ongoing discussion on migration and the perceived dangers that many people relate to it, and it is the crux of the world-wide increased support for far right parties, from India to Finland to Brazil. If you want to address the matter in rosy sociological terms from the 1970s, it is your decision, but your readers are looking for answers different from what’s in the already obsolete pallette of the Left. Let me rephrase what I mean. I am Greek and I know that there are tens -if not hundreds- of thousands of Greeks living in the UK, many of whom are British citizens, usually dual citizens. British citizens of Greek descent are in their vast majority Remainers, but the motives for their decision is their own personal well-being and convenience, and not the welfare of the British society as a whole. When asked to justify their views on Brexit, many Greek-British say “I do not want to lose the ability of importing tax-free products from Greece for my business” or “I don’t want to queue at the airport when I travel abroad” etc. Although I understand the inconvenience of any change in a person’s life, I am not convinced that people who do not have deep roots in the country they live in, people who have no or little grasp of that country’s social and national history, and people who do not have as much skin in the game as others (a Greek-British Remainer can just pack up and leave Brexit Britain, an English Remainer cannot), can decide on such matters because oftentimes they do not have the general good in their mind. This does not mean that every “native” is an altruist, or that no “immigrant” cares about the UK as a whole, but at the end of the day it all boils down to whether, as the late Dame Thatcher ominously said, there does exist such a thing a society, with a social bond and a committment for a common project for the future generations, or if it’s just families and persons.

        • I’m happy to accept that you’re arguing in good faith. But then you’ll have to accept that it’s a total misunderstanding of the Brexit debate to pose it as ‘natives’ vs ‘immigrants’. The Brexit vote divided 52%-48%. The majority on both sides of the debate were what you call ‘natives’. On either side there are a variety of arguments, both in terms of what people personally want and in terms of what they want for Britain. Against this background, what sense is there in framing this as a ‘native’ versus ‘immigrant’ issue?

          The argument that citizens ‘who do not have deep roots in the country they live in, people who have no or little grasp of that country’s social and national history, and people who do not have as much skin in the game as others… [should not] decide on such matters because oftentimes they do not have the general good in their mind’ is an argument for establishing two classes of citizenship. That is hardly a recipe for a more cohesive society. (Incidentally, is it your contention that I should not express my views either, or get involved in this debate, since, in your eyes, I’m still an ‘immigrant’?) Do you have any evidence that ‘natives’ have a more coherent concept of the ‘common good’ than do ‘immigrants’? It’s worth adding here that polls have consistently shown that minority groups (presumably those you would call ‘immigrants’, though most of them are as British as the prime minister) feel more ‘British’ and have a greater attachment to a common good than those you call ‘natives’.

          Certainly there are those who don’t ‘care about society’, who have not been pursuing ‘the welfare of the British society as a whole, who are not ‘committed to a common good’. Not immigrants, but politicians who have pursued a policy of austerity and public sector cuts, who have refused to build affordable housing, who have eroded Britain’s social and physical infrastructure, and who then blame migrants for the consequences of their policies. Some of these, indeed, are immigrants or descended from immigrants – think of Sajid Javid or Priti Patel. What is significant about them, however, is not that they are ‘immigrants’ but that their policies are abysmal, and are the same as that of the ‘natives’ with whom they form the government.

          Finally, if you suggest that Sadiq Khan (or anyone else) should express only certain views because his ‘father wasn’t even British’, then, yes my response will be hostile. The idea that an individual’s views should be evaluated according to his ethnicity, or father’s place of birth is, shall we say, highly problematic.

  3. It’s axiomatic that people in the majority don’t like diversity, and governments can capitalise on this when it suits them. We’re seeing the long tail of consequence of the assumptions made by previous generations that colour, ethnicity, religion, culture simply don’t matter; that enforcing people to get along will work fine. But it doesn’t, anywhere. Yet in the ‘enlightened’ West they still pursue this policy for objectives that range from naïve aspiration to the deliberately destructive. As an aside, I’ve linked ‘xenophobia’ to a primitive instinct for paternal certainty that persists to this day. The main threat to this is the outgroup. The immiscible outgroup, especially if it is supremacist, is perceived as a greater threat still. Hindutva knows this. The Visegrád Group knows this. So do enlightened Westerners, few as they are, overwhelmed by a manipulative clerisy.

  4. damon

    The situation in Assam has much more in common with its own past than it does with anything happening in the U.K. There has been agitation and sectarianism against Muslims there going back decades. I remember having just turned up in India in 1983 and reading about the Nellie massacre in the India Today current affairs magazine.
    I remember it even today, because it was such a shocking story.
    Local tribal people slaughtered thousands of Muslims, who they felt had moved onto their ancestral territory.
    Comparing that kind of situation with government blundering and incompetence over the Windrush mess isn’t really fair in my opinion. But Kenan’s view here is a legitimate opinion. Everyone’s got an opinion. Fellow Guardian writer Afua Hirsch wrote in that paper just the other day: “We have to avoid ‘integration’ becoming another form of racism – Assimilation is an invidious concept. No one in Britain should have to give up their heritage to fit in”. She’s entitled to her view too (even if I think it’s just the usual Guardian race tosh) and so are that part of the population that support immigration controls being tightened up. Maybe a bit like India and most other places, people here are also a bit tribal and traditional and don’t like to see wholesale change. Britain’s immigration and asylum system has been chaotic for decades and anyone trying to modernise it is going to fall foul of many people’s ideas of what is right and wrong.
    But people living in the U.K. on the strength of lost and completely out of date old scraps of paper and stamps in mother’s passports from 1963, were always at risk of facing problems. A national identity card system or something like it would have helped sort these kinds of problems out, but people on the left always object to such a thing.

    As for South Africa, again, it’s not right to make a comparison with the U.K. That country is a failed state in many ways, as it’s problems with inequality and crime seem to be insurmountable. I was there earlier in the year and it’s completely messed up. The government has had long enough time in power to have made changes.
    It’s such a broken and fragile country that maybe foreign immigrants just shouldn’t go there. It’s no good trying to tell an ignorant mob, that actually, many of the immigrants add jobs and businesses to the country. It’s also a tribal and backward place in many regards and people can be persuaded to target outsiders very easily.
    South Africa is noting like England. Apart from people in both countries being fallible and susceptible to having poorly thought out ideas and feelings about culture and identity. I don’t think the British government was trying to exploit that sentiment though in the way that government people in India and South Africa have.

    • ’There has been agitation and sectarianism against Muslims there going back decades.’

      Yes, there has. But that does not mean that this history in itself explains the current conflict, any more than the long history of racism in Britain explains in itself the current upsurge in anti-Semitism.

      ’Comparing that kind of situation with government blundering and incompetence over the Windrush mess isn’t really fair in my opinion.’

      What I wrote was that ‘At the heart of Britain’s Windrush scandal was a ‘hostile environment’ policy under which British citizens of the wrong skin colour were denied their rights because they were deemed to have insufficient documentation’. The comparison was very specific – the way that in both countries a certain class of citizens have been ‘denied rights because they were deemed to have insufficient documentation’.

      In any case, it’s worth adding that the Windrush scandal was no merely a case of ‘government blundering and incompetence’ but of the specific consequence of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy.

      ’As for South Africa, again, it’s not right to make a comparison with the U.K. That country is a failed state in many ways, as it’s problems with inequality and crime seem to be insurmountable.’

      Again, try reading what I actually wrote: ‘Here, too, false claims that immigrants ‘steal our jobs’ or are ‘responsible for most crimes’ echo loudly.’ I did not compare Britain and South Africa in general, but rather made a very specific comparison. It’s not helpful for you to pretend otherwise.

      ’It’s no good trying to tell an ignorant mob, that actually, many of the immigrants add jobs and businesses to the country.’

      Given that you refuse to accept the argument, too, are you also part of an ‘ignorant mob’?

      ’It’s also a tribal and backward place in many regards and people can be persuaded to target outsiders very easily.’

      ‘Tribal and backward’. How easily the old racist clichés tumble out. Would you describe all nations in which ‘people can be persuaded to target outsiders’ as ‘tribal and backward’? Or only just African ones?

      • damon

        “……. current upsurge in anti-Semitism.”
        I hear about this upsurge in anti-Semitism but am less than convinced about some of the discussion about it. That IHRA definition of what the term even means was not really credible imo.
        Just the same as when a similar definition about what Islamophobia is was introduced.

        Also, using the term “hostile environment” is a bit loaded – (even if it was first used by someone in the government). If there is a popular demand for a government to tighten up on immigration rules and try to reduce the numbers, then a democratic government is obliged to at least be trying to do something.
        Because that is almost an impossible task and will bound to lead to blunders, mistakes and even cruelty and harshness, is just one of those dilemmas. It would be like saying what many are saying about Brexit.
        That we can’t leave as it’s just not possible.
        Maybe it’s impossible to try to sort out exactly who lives in this country and regularise all their documentation etc. It’s certainly impossible to do it in a way that won’t be compared to “fascism” and all the things the columnists in the Guardian will call it.
        That this is only done “to people of the wrong skin colour” is just more partisan politicking.
        I’m sure if we do leave the EU, tens of thousands of EU citizens in the U.K. are going to have big problems too. It’s because of incompetent bureaucratic implementation of government rules. They are often not “people friendly”. People who have just been here, but can’t prove every last thing that’s required of them (like when they went back to their home country for six months or a year one time).
        And then find that they aren’t “qualifying” to be given the automatic right to remain.
        Or all those people who have been working cash in hand at car washes etc and don’t have documentation. It’s going to be ugly.

        Comparing this situation with what goes on in India and South Africa, where members of the government will deliberately stir up sectarian tensions (like Ian Paisley used to do) is stretching the comparison a bit far I think. But sure, they have sometimes pandered to a bit of populism on the subject.

        The stealing our jobs, commit more crime arguments are always going to be mired in confusion and ignorance. There isn’t really any real proof either way. I know that in Johannesburg, one of the most dangerous areas in the city is Hillbrow, and people will say (anecdotally) that it’s illegal immigrants from places like Nigeria who are into the gang and gun crime down there.
        See the story of the Hillbrow tower, that became a notorious high rise slum. It certainly sounded like a really dangerous place. If you have immigrants moving into neighbourhoods that aren’t any more criminally minded than the general population, but just about the same percentage, in a hugely violent place like South Africa, I can see why some locals might not want ANY new people showing up.
        The more people you have, the more criminals there will be.
        It’s one of the reasons why the Isle of Lewis is a very safe place. There’s so few people.

        I try not to be too ignorant, and I’m certainly not part of a mob intent on going out to hurt people.
        In South Africa, there are “lynchings” every day. There was an article about “vigilante justice” linked in one of those South African articles you put in your piece. It’s a pretty broken country.
        And they have tribes. Jacob Zuma was a proud Zulu. And we all remember the violence in the run up to the end of Apartheid when sectarian violence was whipped up by the Zulu leadership.
        Some people in the West seem to not like it if anyone mentions that Tribes exist in Africa, or in the Arab world. In Iraq etc. Personally, I see such traditions a bit backward, but they are very much part of our human experience. It’s one of the ways “we” humans are.

        One last thing on crime. I’m sure this can be explained away by saying it’s more to do with class than culture or religion, but government statistics for which ethnic and religious groups are in prison, show that Muslims are imprisoned at four times the rate as the national average.

        The graph on page 11 says that Muslims make up 4% of the population but 16% of the prison population.
        While Hindus make up 2% of the population but have 0% of the prison population.

        https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN04334/SN04334.pdf

        Class probably does have something to do with it, but it would be easy to make propaganda with those kinds of figures if that was your intention.

        • ‘using the term “hostile environment” is a bit loaded – (even if it was first used by someone in the government)’.

          Indeed. It was Theresa May who, as home secretary, coined the phrase in 2013 to describe her own policy, and continued to describe it as such even as Prime Minister. If it’s a ‘loaded’ phrase, it’s because Theresa May wanted it to be loaded.

          Because that is almost an impossible task and will bound to lead to blunders, mistakes and even cruelty and harshness, is just one of those dilemmas.

          No, it was not ‘just one of those dilemmas’. It was deliberate policy. At the heart of the ‘hostile environment’ policy were two key aspects. First to treat individuals as ‘guilty’ (‘illegal’) unless they could prove themselves ‘innocent’. And, second, to draw in schools, hospitals, doctors, landlords, etc, to act as immigration officers. The consequences were clear from the beginning. The guilty until proven innocent policy was bound to mean that thousands of British citizens would be denied their rights as citizens. As a commentator observed, ‘If you’re a landlord… wouldn’t you say to yourself, “Well heck look, this person’s got a dark skin or a funny sounding surname, the safest thing is not to rent to them?”’. No, that was not Afua Hirsch, or Nesrine Malik, or Kenan Malik, or any other of your favourite Guardianista pet hates. That was the Tory minister Eric Pickles, pointing out the obvious in Cabinet. And that’s exactly what happened, not just with landlords, but with doctors and schools and hospitals and benefit offices.

          That this is only done “to people of the wrong skin colour” is just more partisan politicking.

          When even Eric Pickles can see the racial consequences, I think it’s time you opened your eyes to the reality. I recognize that as far as you’re concerned, whenever anyone mentions racism, it must be a Guardianista lie and cannot be true. As I’ve remarked before to more than one of your comments, there’s only one thing worse than people who see racism where there isn’t any. And that’s people who refuse to see racism when it stares them in the face. How many victims of the Windrush scandal were white? It’s the refusal to face the facts that’s ‘partisan politicking’.

          The stealing our jobs, commit more crime arguments are always going to be mired in confusion and ignorance. There isn’t really any real proof either way.

          Yes, there is, as I’ve pointed out in response to an earlier comment of yours.

  5. Every country has borders. If they want to remain a country, they must guard those borders. This means deporting illegals, and preventing others from entering. This is not xenophobia. This is simply the manner in which countries exist and continue to exist.

    • Sure, argue about borders and border security if you wish. But I don’t see what detaining citizens, or deporting them, by falsely and maliciously labeling them ‘foreigners’ has to do with borders or border security. Nor do I see how killing foreigners simply because they are foreigners, or burning down shops or businesses because they are owned by foreigners, helps ‘guard those borders’. And if attacking foreigners simply because they are foreigners is not the textbook definition of xenophobia, I don’t know what is.

      • A phobia is an irrational fear.

        Whereas xenophobia – when it’s a fear of large numbers of people from other countries – is a very reasonable fear.

        Fears are often reasonable – only those marooned in the blue-sky irrational optimism of liberal thinking, believe otherwise.

      • damon

        “Indeed. It was Theresa May who, as home secretary, coined the phrase in 2013 to describe her own policy”
        I have no time at all for those kinds of Tories. She was quite an awful politician. A terrible Home Secretary etc. I still see her at the police conference telling them that her cuts in police numbers would have no effect on crime. So maybe I agree with you that thinking you can “sort out a mess” and bring order and compliance to something so difficult as who is actually legally living in the country, is just not going to turn out like you say it does. Maybe Tories have to accept too, that there are areas of the country where their will just doesn’t run. And that means living with the parallel worlds of people living outside the rules of society and in black and illegal economies and “bedsitland” neighbourhoods where no one is sure even, who is living in which property. I do a bit of that myself when I stay at Airbnb’s sometimes – like I just did in Spain, and it’s actually illegal, but the person is doing it anyway. I think Grenfell Tower showed up how much secondary subletting and all kinds of rule breaking takes place. It has to in a housing market like London’s. But you can’t do much about it now, because England has changed so much.

        Btw, I don’t really hate anyone, but I do get a bit tired of the Afua Hirsch/David Lammy “It’s like Hitler” comments all the time. I too am opposed to racism (really) – it’s just that it’s not clear what that means “all the time”. It can be very clear, but the Guardian commentator and Labour Party definition these days has become a bit too over bearing.

        Lastly, did that piece by Nick Cohen at the weekend not sting a bit? It was directed at Claire Fox and James Heartfield, but he was probably including you in it.
        I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything there (but Northern Ireland was a really bad mistake).
        Maybe Yugoslavia too. I’m only saying – that we’re not right about everything all the time. And I don’t think you were either. Which makes me wonder if you were right about Clinton McCurbin and your anti-police stance in the past also.

  6. Well you are not going to like this and so no doubt you will ignore it as you usually do but India and South Africa and of course the UK are in ecological debt.

    http://data.footprintnetwork.org/?utm_source=Global+Footprint+Network+Salesforce+List&utm_campaign=d71750d29c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_15_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_433c98aef3-d71750d29c-249303281#/

    This means that in order to halt the growth of a nation’s ecological debt, population growth and/or consumption growth must be stopped. In order to achieve ecological credit, population and/or consumption must be reduced.

    Ecological reality rather than social idealism means there will always be limits to population and limits to consumption if a nation is to have a sustainable, sufficient and resilient future.

    Methodology of ecological footprinting.
    https://www.footprintnetwork.org/resources/data/

  7. damon

    Quote: “These events are but more extreme versions of trends visible in Europe and America. Here, too, false claims that immigrants ‘steal our jobs’ or are ‘responsible for most crimes’ echo loudly.”

    It’s quite difficult to convince everybody that immigrants from Mexico have not changed the labour market in low skilled and casual jobs in places like California in a way that disadvantages African Americans. It has to have done. They’re the guys who get the work, because they’re eager enough to go looking all over the place to get it.
    The phenomenon of groups of workers looking for a day’s work gathering outside Home Depot stores all over the U.S. is well documented.
    https://www.seattleweekly.com/news/cops-not-taking-a-shine-to-home-depots-day-laborers/

    Because that was causing problems on the street in Seattle, someone set up “Casa Latina” which is a jobs agency especially for those Latino migrant workers. They’ll do anything by the look of it.
    https://casa-latina.org/get-involved/hire-worker

    Last summer, there was almost a similar situation at the B&Q store in Old Kent Road in south London.
    Several newspapers covered it in sensationalist style. These guys are getting the jobs, meanwhile if you were to go down to the local job centre and see who’s signing on for dole money, you may find people there who just don’t have the same drive, desire and resourcefulness.

    Personally, I’m still pretty convinced that bringing over a massive army of new labour, diminishes the prospects of some of the more disadvantaged, or younger (or older) groups of workers. Employers have really liked recruiting the foreign workers, as they seem so highly motivated
    Our hoodie youth (like the guys who rioted in 2011) are not so popular with employers.
    And they don’t even need to be considered if there are other alternative sources of labour.

    • ’Personally, I’m still pretty convinced that bringing over a massive army of new labour, diminishes the prospects of some of the more disadvantaged, or younger (or older) groups of workers.’

      All the evidence suggests otherwise. I linked in the article to the evidence about the impact of migrants in South Africa. Most studies of immigration to the USA, in Britain and just about everywhere else come to much the same conclusions.

      I don’t how much difference pointing all this out will make. You keep making this same point, I keep rebutting it, and no doubt we will carry on doing this. But if you look at the facts, rather than the anecdotes, the picture is clear.

    • The whole UK economy is geared to being a cheap labour economy; and survives only by attracting a constantly large flow of cheap labour.

      Necessarily from abroad – since homegrown workers are both less cheap and less docile.

      In other words, mass-migration for economic reasons (the largest component of migration) is Capitalism at its most brutal and ruthless.

      Which Capitalism many liberals enthusiastically accept, but which some liberals (like KM) have the grace to deplore.

      Thus creating a massive hernia in their thinking between their liberalism and their scepticism about Capitalism.

      Enthusiasm for mass-immigration also shows Capitalism at its most stupid and self-destructive. Largely uncontrolled flows of immigrants since, say, the millennium have divided (and thus doomed) powerful nations like the UK, USA and France.

      The political and social division and meltdown caused by the immigration problem aren’t going to go away. Indeed, as the article makes clear, the meltdown is spreading.

      Inevitably, since:

      – Human beings aren’t possessed of angelic goodness or sage-like wisdom

      – Few people are rich enough to pretend that they themselves are; though many of the inhabitants of MetroBubbles like London (and other ivory towers) are excellent at such self-deception.

  8. Scapegoating anti-immigrant “panics” for the very real social and economic problems inevitably caused by massive levels of migration, isn’t the answer to those problems.

    People of liberal, internationalist views must face that truth.

  9. Scapegoating anti-immigrant “panics” for the very real social and economic problems inevitably caused by massive levels of migration, isn’t the answer to those problems.

    People of liberal, internationalist views must face that truth

  10. damon

    I don’t insist I’m necessarily right. I mean, all those graphs and PDFs and all those experts chiming in to say it makes no difference or actually boosts everyone’s jobs and wages.

    I’m just going on my “own evidence” about what I see with my own eyes. I may be deceiving myself.

    Here’s some examples. I was doing truck driving in the last few years (I’m taking at least a year off) and one of my jobs was with a plant hire company, delivering plant equipment to building sites. I went to a lot of building sites.
    Big ones and small ones. The amount of Eastern European workers on the sites was phenomenal. Even outside London and down in the Home Counties or south coast, Eastern European construction workers had found out about these jobs and made their way down there. At one site on Brixton Hill, not a half a mile from Windrush Square in Brixton – it was all Eastern Europeans and a few British, but not one black local that I could see on site.
    Why do you think this situation exists? I’ve heard of Lee Jasper saying about how black young male unemployment reached over 50% in some parts of London.
    How can this be so when the Eastern Europeans who don’t even all speak English can get jobs and support themselves so quickly?
    You don’t think it’s because employers are preferring to hire the keen and hard working east Europeans?
    On some sites, you can see their vans parked up with their Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian number plates.
    And in some places, they actually sleep in those vans or elsewhere on site.

    It was the same when I was doing deliveries for IKEA. On loads of sites where there was a lot of work going on at a house and maybe they’d ordered a whole new kitchen or bathroom, it was more often Eastern European guys who had the job. Even down in a village in the middle of Sussex somewhere.
    And I was impressed with their attitude, as they usually all stopped what they were doing and came out to bring the delivery in. English guys in general weren’t so quick to do that I found. They’d be like “that’s your problem mate” and just carry in with what they were doing.
    The Polish guys could often be living miles from the job, but they got driven down in the mornings and were always where they were meant to be on time.
    Now maybe some super economist with a graph somewhere will tell me this isn’t so, and actually the unemployed black guys who don’t get up till much later in the day (Mark Duggan kind of people) are actually helped out by this greater GDP that the extra workers bring to the economy. But it just doesn’t seem to fit with what I see when I’m out. I too am probably going to be “passed over” pretty soon (because of age) because what’s the point of employing an older driver who can’t do the physical work as well as a young new fit guy from Poland or somewhere? I know of older drivers who stipulate to their employers what they will and won’t do (as far as unloading goes) and once you get too fussy, the employer is going to be looking for someone else who can fully fulfil all duties.
    Because that’s how labour markets work. If you can’t do it, they can easily get a new person who can.

    What I always find is a bit sad, is when you go into a bookmakers in the middle of the day and you see all those guys now in their fifties or nearly sixty (still working age though) and they’ve hardly worked in years.
    No one wants to employ them, because they are needy in other ways – and probably unreliable and wouldn’t make the 6am van pick-up to take them down to the building site thirty miles away for a 7am start.
    So they hang about the bookies and the high street all day, going to the pub or getting a few cans.
    I’m sure you must see these things also Kenan. If you are actually looking you’ll see it anyway.

    But if the experts say otherwise, who am I to argue with them?

    • The fact of the matter is that experts will tweak their models and analysis to support the liberal status quo despite what the evidence on the ground says. This is another aspect of motivated reasoning which acedemics and pundits will rely upon as opposed to empirical evidence on the ground.

      This divergence of knowledge is politicised and then used to support different political arguments.

      • How very convenient. ‘If the facts don’t fit my argument, it must be the facts that are wrong’. It’s the claim of everyone from anti-vaxers to climate change deniers. I’m sorry, but not really surprised, to see you echo that crowd.

        • Many now see science as a sea of social opinion, the tides of which are often governed by political and ideological forces. And as science becomes not a reflection of the world but a reflection of social process, attention is removed from the ‘world as it is’ and centers instead on representations of the world.”

          “We face unparalleled environmental and social stress. This tells me that our current narratives, whether ideological or religious, have failed and are failing. Admittedly, we will always privilege certain knowledge, but if humanity aims to transcend the limits of the status quo and thereby repair social and environmental ills, the knowledge we privilege must be based on what we verifiably know about biotic reality and interdependence.”

          https://quillette.com/2019/09/23/postmodernisms-dead-end/

        • Sure, scientific arguments can be shaped by ideology. Everything from racial science to the population debate demonstrates that. I’ve written three books on the relationship between science and politics, so, yes, I do have more than a superficial understanding of the issues. But it’s one thing to say that science can be shaped by ideology, quite another to say, as you do, that ‘the facts don’t fit my argument, therefore the facts are not scientific but ideological’. If that’s so in any specific case then demonstrate it. That is something you have notably failed to do. What you’re doing is insisting that ‘Because in some cases science is shaped by ideology, so in this case it is too.’ That is just an attempt to camouflage the fact that the facts don’t fit your argument. And linking to a Quillete article about postmodernism does nothing to make your case any more cogent or true. As for the ‘strawman’ jibe, it’s just the response one would expect from someone unable to address the issue.

    • Damon, I’m sure you have dozens of anecdotes from your experiences, and I have dozens from mine. Everyone has. And we can argue for ever as to which is the better or more significant or more insightful anecdote or experience. By their nature personal experiences and anecdotes are incommensurate. Each is unique and local. What studies and surveys and statistics do is to collate a myriad local experiences and use them to provide a bigger picture. To dismiss such studies through sarcasm about ‘experts’ because the facts don’t suit your argument is not very helpful.

      • damon

        My “problem” with some expert-led research is that it may only be measuring some factors and ignoring others. Yes immigration brings greater gdp to a country and increases the amount of employment.
        But what about negative factors? Do they measure the impact on the countries they came from?
        I’m due to go to the three small Baltic states in a few weeks. They’ve lost hundreds of thousands of their best workers to other countries. Is that part of the story?
        In a very open labour market, then it surely must mean that employers can ignore all the less attractive potential workers. We don’t mind calling out racism when we see it, but does having more white potential workers mean that BME Brits can get left behind?
        I gave the example of the construction industry. It’s probably a racist industry and many (many) young back British men feel that building sites are not places they will feel comfortable.
        That might be one explanation for the lack of black construction workers anyway.
        But it’s not something I think the data driven experts take into consideration.
        If you only employ immigrants in certain kinds of jobs (like the hotel industry for example) you can make this kind of work look like “immigrant jobs” and therefore make it unattractive to British people.
        Because if not, what are the reasons for such high unemployment rates for very particular racial and cultural demographics?

        • ‘My “problem” with some expert-led research is that it may only be measuring some factors and ignoring others.’

          Yes, it ‘may’. But asserting that in general isn’t to undermine a study in particular. I have linked to studies in South Africa, the USA and Britain. Demonstrate in each case how and why the research is ‘only be measuring some factors and ignoring others.’ Otherwise your claims are just rhetorical.

          ‘But what about negative factors? Do they measure the impact on the countries they came from?

          Yes, there is voluminous literature on this issue, and a complex debate. Since you will only dismiss it as ‘the work of experts’ if I link you to some of the material, I’m not going to bother. If you really are interested, check it out yourself.

  11. damon

    Would it be better if I also suggested that racism played a big part in why new workers from Eastern Europe were favoured by employers over young black British men?
    Because I’m pretty sure that will be the case. When people show up for a job interview speaking that “London multicultural English” it immediately puts them at a disadvantage. I just heard an advert on the radio for an employment agency which said it will vet all the job applicants for the position you want filled and only send you the best people.
    I’m sure it works the same in the USA, where people wanting work done in their house – the gardening work etc, have the idea that if you get a couple of good reliable Mexican guys, then they can be really good workers and ideal people to have working for you.
    Whereas trying to hire workers through the welfare office (if it’s the same like we use to have where jobs were advertised at the dole office) then you can end up with all kinds of misfits turning up and not being much good. Having an endless supply of new labour means that you don’t have to bother with the less attractive elements.
    I also worked for a laundry in Brixton recently, and the workforce is almost entirely made up of immigrants. It’s a pretty crappy job. Laundering sheets for the NHS all day. I’d sit in the canteen looking at the workforce. Nearly all from Africa and South Asia. No local British people hardly at all – apart from in the office admin side – and definitely not a job any local young black guy would even think about doing, because it would be seen as so low status. A “loser immigrant’s job”.
    But given we have a minimum wage, working a full week in there would give you the money that so many young men caught up in the street culture are constantly trying to get hold of. Hundreds of pounds a week. And you get it legitimately and don’t have the risk of getting arrested. But it looks like none of them want such jobs. Even if it’s right on their doorstep and actually quite easy (but boring).

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