Immigration and the UK

Immigration stories continually make the headlines. The right of politics has been engaging in some highly questionable activity aimed at appeasing readers of certain newspapers (especially certain tabloid newspapers). Racism is very much alive among certain people in the UK and that is extremely disappointing. Yesterday the Home Office sent a number of tweets highlighting the enforcement action it had been taking to combat immigration offending. Twitter was quickly alive with condemnation of the Home Office and it’s ‘boasting’.

Is the reaction of many on Twitter, including many who are not so reactionary, reasonable or is it an over-reaction?

Immigration is a fundamentally good thing. Migrants to this country contribute a great deal and highly qualified migrants can often be found doing poorly paid jobs which some in this country consider to be beneath them. The NHS would very probably have collapsed without migrant nurses and cleaners.

The migrant population of the UK brings a great deal of variety to UK society. The many different cultures that make-up society each contribute to our society in a different way. As people from different cultures mix it leads to understanding and an appreciation for the way we are all different. It helps to create an open-minded society which is accepting of differences. It helps people to have a better understanding of the world in which we live and share.

I am as dismayed as anyone about the rise of UKIP with their anti-foreigners stance, the way our political elite seem to be turning on those who have contributed so much to our society. The (actual or apparent) racism displayed by so many in our country depresses me. Whether we are white, coloured or something in between or whether we are British, French, German, Polish, Nigerian, Indian or some other nationality is irrelevant: we’re all human beings and have equal worth.

The Home Office driving vans around parts of the country with high migrant populations (most of whom are here perfectly legally) encouraging migrants here illegally does nothing to support community cohesion and will no doubt make those here legally feel unwanted, especially in the current climate of hostility towards migrants.

That said, I have no issue with the Government taking enforcement action against those in this country who are illegally. If someone has entered this country illegally (unless a victim of human trafficking or a refugee) they should expect the authorities to track them down.  Equally, I have no issue with the Government publicising enforcement operations, the number of arrests and the numbers of immigration offenders who have been deported. I see this as no different to the police or Trading Standards publicising similar information about other offenders. I don’t automatically consider it to be divisive or morally wrong.

Illegal immigration causes problems in our society. Illegal immigrants can be much more easily exploited by unscrupulous employers which reduces the work available for those who have the right to live and work here (whether that be by migration or birth). Not only does it reduce the work available, but it has the effect of lowering wages.

Pro-active and intelligence led operations to track down and arrest people here illegally should not be condemned. UKBA (or whatever they’re called now) operations on the streets are not a bad thing either (provided it isn’t abused). The police do it regularly. Who is acting suspiciously around the UKBA officers? Who looks nervous? Who actively tried to avoid them? All techniques used by the police, all raise suspicion and all worth checking out. They might not be wanted by UKBA or they could be wanted by another law enforcement agency. I would have a problem with officers quizzing people solely based on the colour of their skin: that’s arbitrary and racist.

I have absolutely no issue with people coming to this country to better their lives, providing that they do so legally. Plenty of migrants jump through the hoops (if outside the EEA) to get the right to live and work here legally, it is not fair on them to ignore migrants who ignored the rules in force at the time (whether those rules are right or wrong).

Of course there are two classes of people who enter this country illegally who need to be treated differently: refugees and victims of human trafficking.

The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees quite rightly requires states not to penalise refugees who enter the country illegally.  Refugees are fleeing from the most horrendous of circumstances and don’t really have time to worry about getting passports or visas. They simply need to get to a country where they can be effectively protected. As part of the human race we have an obligation to protect our fellow humans who are being persecuted and at risk of having their inalienable rights as humans ignored.  Of course, it is right that we robustly investigate those seeking refugee status before granting it. Refugee status needs to be protected, if it is not it has serious repercussions for those who refugee law was designed to protect.

The other group of people in this country that need to be treated differently are those trafficked into this country. These people will have been abused (mentally, physically and/or sexually). They are victims and deserve our help and support in order that they can rebuild their life (here, in their own country or elsewhere). There will be serious mental health issues that need to be addressed (and probably some physical health problems as well).

In short, immigration enforcement action is not always wrong nor is it necessarily wrong to publicise the results of pro-active immigration operations (provided it is done so properly). So long as those arrested are treated with dignity and according to the law, and so long as the UKBA are attempting to identify victims of trafficking and refugees (and treat them accordingly); then there is no reason why we should condemn the Government over enforcement action. Some of the criticism and conemntation that I saw on Twitter yesterady evening (And thourghout today) was unwarranted and some of it was fair.  We need a proper discussion in this country about immigration which separates all the different issues, but we can’t have that with racism infecting it, nor can we have it when every single enforcement action taken is condemned outright.