Pandaemonium

A QUESTION ABOUT IMMIGRATION

Edel Rodriguez Strangers

Should net immigration to Britain rise or fall? That’s the question many British journalists have been asking party leaders this past week and it’s one that neither Labour nor the Tories are able to answer. Partly, that’s because the immigration policies of both parties are incoherent. The Conservatives have quietly ditched their commitment to reduce net immigration levels to ‘tens of thousands’ while continuing to promise to ‘reduce’ immigration, though being unable to say how, or to what numbers.  Labour, as with Brexit itself, continues to face both ways, demanding freedom of movement, while denying freedom of movement.

It’s also because the question itself is incoherent. The presumption in the question is that those hostile to immigration want to reduce numbers, while those with liberal views want them to rise. The former may be true. The latter isn’t.

I don’t care if the net immigration level falls to zero, or if fewer people enter the country than leave. Current immigration rules are detestable not because they let in too few people but because of the way they treat immigrants, both those let in and those kept out.

Britain’s ‘hostile environment’ policies led to the Windrush scandal, when thousands of its own citizens of the wrong colour were denied basic rights from benefits to hospital treatment. They have caused tens of thousands to be incarcerated for indefinite periods and often facing abuse. They have resulted in deportations for ludicrous reasons and to many being returned to persecution, even death. And they have thrown up horrors such as the deaths of 39 migrants in a shipping container, which politicians are happy to blame on people smugglers, but for which their own policies also bear responsibility.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Fortress Europe policy has led to the deaths of at least 35,000 people in the Mediterranean over the past 25 years (including over a thousand this year alone), the creation of a kidnap and detention industry throughout North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, the imprisonment of tens of  thousands in the most degrading of conditions in both Europe and Africa.

The question I would ask of British politicians is not‘Should immigration levels go up or down?’, but ‘Do you think that the deaths of the 39 frozen migrants, and thousands more over the years, the detention of tens of thousands held in the most degrading of conditions, the deportation of people to persecution and death, the denial of rights to its own citizens, is a price worth paying for Britain’s immigration policy?’

 

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An even shorter version of this short article is published in the Observer, 17 November 2019.

The image is ‘Strangers’ by Edel Rodriguez.

10 comments

  1. damon

    “Current immigration rules are detestable……”

    Some aspects of the rules and practices may be, but I don’t think they should all be lumped together as one thing.
    Kenan links to pieces by Jonathan Portes twice – and I can’t take him seriously as a commentator on these issues. He’s to partisan and biased.
    How big do people suggest Britain’s population can grow in the next fifty years? By how many millions?
    Maya Goodfellow was arguing in the Guardian last week, that people should be vocally defending immigration and that we need to see it “as integral to the struggle for a more equal world.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/13/michael-gove-immigration-myths-tories

    Which is all pretty fine for a radial point of view. She seems to be implying that even just relieving population pressures in countries like Bangladesh would be a just thing for countries in Europe to do.
    To help equalise the inequalities and make the world lass polarised between rich and poor.
    In the same piece she also says of immigration that “It has been treated as bad for some fabled British “culture”, as well as public services and wages.”
    Which is again fine for a partisan point of view. She puts the idea of a British culture in quotation marks.

    Fighting the cause of large scale immigration into western countries reminds me of the way leading ”Remainers” are fighting Brexit. You just fight it with everything you’ve got. Liberal Democrat style.
    So if you support ever greater immigration and diversity, you just argue your case constantly and passionately and dismiss opinions from those who disagree with you. And it doesn’t matter if people point out flaws in your logic and arguments. It’s an ideological struggle more than anything, so those small points aren’t the most important.
    By commissioning all these opinion pieces, the Guardian has certainly nailed its colours to the mast on this subject.
    And that’s all very fine too.

    • ’Kenan links to pieces by Jonathan Portes twice – and I can’t take him seriously as a commentator on these issues. He’s to partisan and biased.’

      How terrible that I should link to someone whom you can’t take seriously because he’s ‘too partisan and biased’. Pity, though, that you didn’t provide any evidence from anything to which I link that it was ‘partisan and biased’. Which, as I’ve pointed out many times before, is a common thread to your posts – you throw around all manner of claims, but rarely bother justifying them.

      ’you just argue your case constantly and passionately and dismiss opinions from those who disagree with you. And it doesn’t matter if people point out flaws in your logic and arguments. It’s an ideological struggle more than anything, so those small points aren’t the most important.’

      Hmm, reminds me of a certain commenter on Pandaemonium

  2. Open borders encourage people trafficking. Merkel’s undemocratic unilateral invitation has been the reason so many have died trying to get to EU, has encouraged trafficking and slavery in North Africa. Refugee status at such distanced should be for a very few political refugees (women escaping Saudi oppression, not Syrian war refugees, who, in such numbers, should given more help closer to home).

    As for UK’s specific immigration …

    Population density and population increase rates impact housing and services … high rates and high density create unsustainable and unreachable targets.

    Labour’s plans do home building can’t match current immigration rates.

    France could take more ppl than UK’s current pop. And still not match our pop. density.

  3. damon

    The question that Kenan would ask at the end of the piece needs heavy cross examination in my opinion.
    Of the deaths of the 39 people in the back of the lorry, what were we supposed to do?
    There’s something in this idea that everyone in the world should have reasonably easy avenues to migrating to a first world country that doesn’t add up. To satisfy demand, the numbers allowed to make new lives in the West would have to be very large. But I get the feeling that people don’t want to talk about numbers.

    One of the things which differentiates places like the U.K. and countries people are desperate to leave, is our working bureaucracies and our rules based society. That’s what makes us a successful country. All those hundreds of thousands of civil servants and council admin staff who make our country work. Doing away with these rules and quotas could be our downfall. There’s no inherent reason why our western countries should be spared most of the terrible stuff that goes on in less developed countries. We could fail too if things started to spiral downwards. It has already frayed quite a bit in the last few decades, but a lot of people don’t like to tie some of these things together. Just an example – I heard on the news this morning that someone was shot and seriously wounded outside my old school in south London yesterday. Right outside it. That’s probably the lawless gang culture that has changed the nature of the area since I attended school there. Which immigration certainly played a part in. The people involved in this gang culture are aloof and alienated from society due to feeling like outsiders because of race and cultural factors.

    I had a look at a documentary on YouTube made by a whistleblower working at the Brook House detention centre next to Gatwick airport. Why are all those people detained there? If it was closed down what should happen to those men? Half of them are foreign criminals awaiting deportation. Is doing that to them unfair?
    Of the others, what should be done with them? If they’ve already been told to leave the country and didn’t go.
    And tied their cases up in legal red tape and appeals?
    Also, blaming staff for being aggressive and racist could well be unfair. It’s a very challenging environment to work in, and many of the detainees are difficult people. There could be shortcomings in that area though of course – but it’s really wrong to always be inclined to believe allegations made against such staff.

    Windrush was a bureaucratic mess up. With such a lack of proper documentation and so many people with similar but different situations, then it was always going to be a mess. Just like it will be when all the EU citizens living in the U.K. make their applications to stay. It’s a problem when bureaucracy comes face to face with people who have very difficult and not well documented histories and circumstances.
    But remember, plenty of people rejected national identity cards twenty years ago.
    If everyone had had identity cards, then much of what happened with Windrush wouldn’t have occurred.

    I’m still thinking about what Maya Goodfellow meant when she talked of our “fabled British culture”.
    I think she’s reminding us that we’re not the country of poet Phillip Larkin anymore.
    That now our poets are people like the rapper “D Double E”.
    The Guardian gave that guy such a fawning write-up in this piece about an Ikea Christmas ad.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/19/ikea-christmas-ad-grime-mc-d-double-e
    Quote:
    “It shouldn’t work, but it does. And it all hinges on the very simple fact that D Double E – ironically captured in fake, animated ornaments – is very real indeed. That’s because grime is a genre that exudes analogue authenticity in a digital age. Much of grime’s appeal, particularly for anyone born after the birth of the internet, is that it feels tangible and abrasive and credible.”

    This is the future it seems. Tired old white youth culture is dead – and now we’re all enthralled by the “authenticity” of black and minority cultures.
    If you don’t know D Double E, just look up some of his YouTube videos. It’s what everyone’s into these days.
    It’s the evolving diversity that our changing society is bringing us.

    • ‘The question that Kenan would ask at the end of the piece needs heavy cross examination in my opinion… But I get the feeling that people don’t want to talk about numbers.’

      You don’t seem to either. I know you’re obsessed with grime, gangs and black youth, but what D Double E has to do with numbers or with my question that you insist should be ‘cross examined’, I have no idea.

      In any case, my point was that I don’t care if the numbers are zero, but that the stress on numbers deflects from the question of the treatment of migrants, both those let in and those excluded. That, too, you’ve ignored.

  4. damon

    I don’t think we can stop having “cruel” immigration laws.
    When you read about how thousands of young people in relatively poor provinces in places like Vietnam are turning their backs on possible futures in their own countries – many even deciding not to bother trying in their own capital cities first, but deciding to head off around the world clandestinely – then anything which stands in their way could be seen as cruel and putting them in danger.
    A person might say they don’t care about the numbers, but “no borders” could mean the new hosting countries suffer consequences. According to Maya Goodfellow, that’s alright as it will help equalise the world’s problems (by sharing them out). And that’s an interesting point of view.
    Whether that would get the backing of a majority of the people living in the countries receiving large numbers of immigrants though is another question.

    As for being “obsessed” with Grime etc. I’m sitting in a hotel room 1,500 miles from England, and hear on the radio about violence at a film screening in Birmingham tonight.
    So I Googled it, and sure enough, the violence was caused by the Grime street culture.
    I’m pretty sure that it’s a problem – that very few people are willing to do proper analysis on this modern phenomenon.
    Mostly you’ll just hear excuses and “whatabout?” comparisons.
    “Whatabout the football hooligans?” Etc.

    But even by just watching the trailer of the film at which the fighting broke out (called “Blue Film”) could be the beginning of explaining our modern inner city situation in England.
    I don’t think I’m obsessed, but I am pointing out there’s a big cultural issue which all the race commentators (at the Guardian) are ignoring.

    • I don’t think we can stop having “cruel” immigration laws.

      So, I take it that, for you, mass death and mass detention, and paying dictators millions to lock up in the most degrading of conditions people who may be migrants to Europe, is a price worth paying?

      • damon

        Philippe Legrain wrote a book called “Immigrants: your country needs them”
        But your case sounds more like “Immigrants: they need your country”.

        Which may well be true. We’re the lifeboats for all the world’s flotsam and jetsam.
        The question is though, will the lifeboats themselves become destabilised?
        They certainly could. Migration has changed many places beyond recognition.
        The Paris suburbs for example. And Birmingham. Can they take infinitely more numbers of the same?
        Can we load up western countries with migrants from less developed countries “until the pips squeak”?
        Until they no longer want to come anymore as we’re not much better off than their own countries?

        I have Irish cousins whose children would never want to come and live in London like their fathers and grandparents did. I’ve heard it said in Ireland that “London’s a kip” and there’s no way they’d want to go to places like Kilburn and Tooting and live in bedsits like the generations before them did. Including my parents. Ireland has got much better, and it seems like London has gotten less attractive for Irish people to live that working class life of living in rooms and working in casual jobs like construction.
        So do we keep have to be taking in Nigerians (whose population is set to double) until they feel like the Irish and no longer want to come?

        I think this is the logic of the open borders argument.
        In India I believe that the U.K. is no longer the top choice of countries to go to.
        Because reports get back, that the reality of life there can be a bit grim.
        It’s not like it looks in the film “Notting Hill”.
        We’ve now got the kind of urban violence and deprivation problems that hundreds of thousands of people actually move house to get away from. Not quite Detroit style yet, but maybe in the future.
        There’s nothing that says that we couldn’t fail like South Africa.

        We’ll see what happens as the future unfolds.
        But one thing that I’m pretty sure about – if things go wrong in this country because of diversity/sectarian issues, there are plenty of people who will hide and ignore what’s happening.
        Just like they are doing now (regarding the film Blue Story etc).
        If you do listen to the voices on the street (via radio phone in programmes for example) you hear snippets of the truth. Parents who won’t take their kids to Star City in Birmingham anymore because far from being a one off, the place has got ongoing gang problems. Or you’ll hear views “across the sectarian divide” with people blaming white society and racism for everything.
        I got that much just from tuning in to BBC radio London and WM radio in Birmingham yesterday.

        So ever increasing diversity does have its price to pay.
        The question is, is it our duty to pay it?
        Maybe it is.

        • I asked you a straightforward question and, as ever, you’ve avoided answering it, and resorted instead to a splurge of rhetoric. So, let me ask you again. You claim that ‘we [can’t] stop having “cruel” immigration laws’. Is it your view, then, that mass detention and mass death is a price worth paying for those laws?

          As for the rest,

          ’We’re the lifeboats for all the world’s flotsam and jetsam.’

          Describing migrants as ‘flotsam and jetsam’ is not just a figure of speech but a way of dehumanising them. Be that as it may, have you any evidence to back up your claims? What proportion of the global population are migrants? 0.5%. Is the proportion of migrants coming to Europe increasing? No. Are the number of refugees in Europe greater than in the 1990s? No. Do most African migrants want to come to Europe? No. Does the West takes a greater proportion of the world’s refugees? No, the very opposite. I could go on, but there does not seem much point, as I’ve given you the facts and figures before and you simply ignore them. Who needs facts when dehumanising rhetoric will suffice?

          ‘Can we load up western countries with migrants from less developed countries “until the pips squeak”?’

          What does this even mean? (Apart from a desire to play on racist tropes?)

          ‘So do we keep have to be taking in Nigerians (whose population is set to double) until they feel like the Irish and no longer want to come?’

          Do you know how many people born in Nigeria live in Britain? Of course, you don’t. The answer is 190,000. In what way does that show that ‘we keep having to be taking in Nigerians’?

          ‘I have Irish cousins whose children would never want to come and live in London like their fathers and grandparents did… In India I believe that the U.K. is no longer the top choice of countries to go to. Because reports get back, that the reality of life there can be a bit grim.’

          So, is the problem that there are too many migrants? Or that migrants don’t want to come here? Do make up your mind.

          Sure, ‘the reality of life there can be a bit grim’ when faced with prejudice and the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy. But for you, the problem somehow is still ‘migrants’. The problem always is.

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