Tag Archives: Immigration

Distraction Politics

So there you are as a government, taking a significant amount of heat for wasting a large amount of money on something before following the advice other parties were giving in the first place, what do you do? Why not distract the general populace by re-launching a debate on immigration!

The hot new idea this time is for people to do citizenship tests to ‘prove their worth’ – this follows on from the last hot idea less than a year ago to have a points system, and of course a citizenship test has been in place anyway since 2005.

Of course the irony is that a large number of British Citizens (and probably MP’s) probably wouldn’t be able to pass the existing test anyway. For example, try this question:

Why did the Protestant Huguenots come from France to the UK in the 16th and 17th centuries?

Most will probably get this one wrong too:

Where does most of the money for local government come from?

a) The National Lottery
b) Council Tax
c) Central Government Funds
d) A local income tax

The correct answer being c.

Of course, the announcement kicks off the usual rash of misinformed public outcry, so the various forums are already full of the usual rubbish about immigrants coming in to claim benefits and so on. For the record, immigrants pay taxes but cannot claim any sort of benefit – when Beth came in one of the things I had to sign as her sponsor was a document saying that I would financially support her as there was no recourse to public funds. In terms of the existing charges (part of the proposal is that they should be more) the current charge to naturalise as a British Citizen is £655.

Of course what it won’t address is the groups that people seem to have most problems with, which is the Eastern European migrants, who being EU citizens don’t come under the normal immigration system. Incidentally, the inaccurate rubbish about them being a drain on resources extends to them also, as they also aren’t entitled to any benefits or social housing either – hence why most end up living in massively overcrowded conditions in the lowest quality private housing.

The idea that this latest announcement is just another round of rabble rousing spin becomes even more clear when you look at some of the more detailed documents that the government are producing – an interesting read is “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigrationâ€? which the Home Office produced in October. Section 2 outlines the effect on public finances paragraph 2.2.6 stating that in the long run it is likely that the net fiscal contribution of an immigrant will be greater than that of a non-immigrant.

It is also interesting reading section 5 which talks about why companies are employing migrant workers rather than British born workers – it seems that the opinions of those running businesses is rather different from the general view in the media. In the low-skilled and low paid jobs, paragraph 5.2.2 states that the

“…overwhelming majority of employers across sectors and regions started to recruit migrant workers because they could not get applications from domestic workers…â€?

Paragraph 5.2.4 is perhaps even more damning about British workers:

“Native workers sometimes proved unreliable in certain sectors… Some employers had tried recruiting applicants via a Jobcentre, but found that they sometimes turned up for interviews purely to get a form signed to enable them to receive Jobseekers’ Allowance.â€?

In paragraph 5.2.5:

“Polish workers were generally valued in London, where they were seen as highly-motivated skilled workers who could fill a skills gap.�

Paragraph 5.2.6 said that one employer in the Finance and Accountancy sector was headhunting internationally due to the very small pool of qualified applicants in the UK. Section 5.2 continues highlighting other business surveys that show the same thing – the migrants that are apparently a drain on our resources are being actively sort by British business to plug gaps where British workers are either unwilling or unable to do the jobs.

All of this outcry again harks back to the point that Ekklesia made last month – it’s a lot easier to blame a group or groups of the population for societies ills rather than addressing the real issues. So youth get blamed for crime, lone parents get blamed for the breakdown in family values, migrants get accused of scrounging benefits. It all makes big headlines, but it never really achieves anything, as in most cases it’s not really addressing the real issues – it’s just distraction politics again.

Dear Gordon Brown…

Dear Gordon Brown,

Can I ask, that in future, before you make any pronouncements such as your recent comments about obliging migrants to carry out community work before being granted British Citizenship, you check with me that my wife is not in bed with the flu, or in some other position where she will be able to watch BBC News 24. Unfortunately, since in this situation you failed to check with me, this has resulted in my wife being so incensed by not only your initial statement, but the subsequent coverage in the media that she has so far posted a reaction to her blog, and a similar comment to the BBC comment board. This in turn has resulted in two calls from BBC researchers, and a request that despite her flu, she would come and be interviewed at a nearby studio!

Unfortunately, as you are no doubt aware, your comments have led to another of the countries periodic immigration debates, one which highlights the general confusion amongst the UK population about the differences between immigrants, EU migrant workers and asylum seekers, and the general ignorance of the rules and regulations under which each group operates. As I am sure you are aware your current proposal will have no effect on the groups that most people seem concerned about.

The main group of current concern are the EU migrant workers, especially from the recent admissions in Eastern Europe. As I am sure you are aware, most of these are coming into the UK under the same rules that allow our citizens to move freely across Europe, and are primarily here for economic reasons. As the various pronouncements over learning English, having ceremonies and now volunteer work are for those seeking citizenship, these announcements will have no effect on those workers coming across EU borders to work, as with their EU passports they are free to move around anyway. It is probably also worth considering that with the massive influx of people from Poland quadrupling Church attendances already, without being required to participate in the community, unlike the steady decline in Church attendance amongst British citizens, that these migrant workers are perhaps demonstrating some of the community spirit that you are wanting.

You are also I am sure aware, that contrary to popular belief, legal immigrants to the UK are not allowed to claim benefits, indeed the Immigration and Nationality Directorate already requires significant financial paperwork with an application in order to prove that both the immigrant, and their UK sponsor is financially able to support themselves without recourse to state funds. Access to state services, even the NHS is strictly guarded, with now even non-resident UK citizens denied access to the NHS if they have lived outside the UK for too long a period, in an effort to stamp out abuse from UK citizens who take advantage of the lower cost of living abroad, but return to the UK to use the NHS. The only exception to this of course are asylum seekers, who as you are well aware are not allowed to work, even if they are able to, due to Government policy, instead resulting in the group being a drain on the public purse, when many of them wish to contribute to society. Finally there are of course those who are here illegally. Since of course your government has no idea who they are, or how many of them there are, then this proposal won’t affect them either.

Unfortunately, the plan to require immigrants to do voluntary work, whist seeming a splendid policy idea – address the lack of British volunteering by plugging the gap with immigrants – does seem somewhat flawed.

Firstly, as a number of these voluntary roles will be working with children and other vulnerable groups this would require a CRB check – I assume that you are also willing to fund the significant extra complexity of ensuring that checks of international convictions are properly organised – something the Home Office seems to have had trouble with of late

Secondly, whilst the idea of getting immigrants to do volunteer work may seem like a good idea, surely the real problem that your government needs to address is that not enough British citizens are volunteering in the first place. Surely you should be looking at addressing the real issues within UK communities, rather than making misleading announcements that in fact will only affect the relatively small group of those seeking British Citizenship, rather than the groups of migrants that most people seem to be concerned about.

Thankfully it seems that the BBC has relented, and just asked for her to record an interview over the phone. However, my initial point still stands, please check with me in future before you launch another announcement such as this, to ensure that my wife is suitably distracted. Of course, if you could possibly manage to come up with a coherent well thought out set of policies rather than the endless succession of sound-bites that you and you colleagues of all political persuasions seem to produce, that would be even better.