David Landau writes: Every time there is new immigration legislation we who have been fighting against immigration controls over many years say that it can’t get any worse. And then it does. The current legislation is no exception.
The (partial) Freedom of Movement that exists in Europe is going to be scrapped here in January 2021. This we have known for some time but the policy and legislation is on the table. In its place comes the much-heralded Points system. Whether people can enter the UK will depend upon them having high-paid skills as opposed to people in low-paid ‘unskilled’ work. Thus this is an attack on migrants but within that an attack on working class migrants in particular.
But it’s OK if you have got money: If you earn over £25K you buy extra points and get in.
The recent lock-down has made very clear who essential workers are, often shamefully low paid. Under public pressure the Government has made concessions in relation to workers in the health service but NOT for carers.
With breathtaking hypocrisy the Government justifies the end of Freedom of Movement as a move towards equality! They argue that there should not be some people – EU citizens – who have a right to come to Britain whilst there are many who don’t. They say they will end racism in immigration controls by having entry by merit. If they were serious about racism and equality they would join us in demanding FREE MOVEMENT FOR ALL! Instead they do the opposite and put the barriers against ALL ‘foreigners’ – even more racist than we have currently. The consequences are the tearing apart of families who thought they had the right to be here, and blocking new Europeans coming in. To make it worse the process for EU citizens getting ‘Settled Status’ before the end of the year ends in a mess with people pressing the wrong button on the on-line form and discovering that they don’t have settled status at all.
All this is being piled on top of the last legislative onslaught against migrants which required landlords and employers to interrogate their tenants or employees about their immigration status and shop them to the Home Office. Of course the inevitable consequence was that to save themselves that effort landlords and employers simply did not engage with people who were the ‘wrong colour’ or don’t speak English as their first language.
We do not believe that there can be fair or non-racist immigration controls. Immigration controls criminalise people because of who they are, where they were born, where their parents were born, what language they speak (you get extra points if you speak English in this system), what they believe, the colour of their skin. Any legislation which seeks to keep non-nationals out, only letting in a few non-nationals, is racist by definition. The points-based system just adds to that list – criminalisation of people who don’t have the right skill sets
Left Unity will fight to DEFEND AND EXTEND Freedom of Movement. Freedom of Movement should be everybody’s right including, for example the refugees massing on the border between Syria and Turkey. What we oppose is reducing the rights of those who currently have the right to be here.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF FASCISM
This was the title of a book by the late Steve Cohen in 2006. Steve argued that there was a particularly pernicious dialectic between fascist agitation, immigration controls and the repressive state. All the significant changes in immigration law at least in the UK, followed a period of fascist and racist agitation. Governments happily accommodated to this pressure and brought in further controls. But this in turn normalised practices so things like detention without trial became possible against everybody. And at the same time the immigration controls gave succour to the fascists – if they agitate they can win.
So in the end the working class as a whole is undermined by disunity and by the increasing authoritarianism of the state against us all. Watch out Daily Mail readers.
When Michael Gove announced a £705 million pound initiative to strengthen the UK Border Force, Rachel Reeves responded by saying this was “too little too late”. Is this how the Labour Party fights racism?? We say ABOLISH THE BORDER FORCE. And when Priti Patel introduced the points system legislation, Labour did not go on the offensive tearing the basic principles apart. No, they expressed scepticism and the need to look into the detail. The Shadow Cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn was not as robust as it should have been with regards to immigration controls, retreating from the positions adopted at the Labour Party conference. But the current shadow cabinet has retreated to pre-Corbyn positions of support for stricter immigration controls.
None of this should have been a surprise. The history of the party for over a hundred years has seen them formulate and implement or go along with increasingly draconian immigration controls.
When we talk about the hostile environment we tend to think of Theresa May and Amber Rudd. Yes, they are certainly a disgrace. But it was Alan Johnson who first used the phrase in a speech that he made as Home Secretary.
So progressive forces inside and outside the Labour Party must join hands and fight, not just to oppose the proposed legislation, but to build working class unity against the whole anti-migrant edifice.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT! NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!
Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.
Left Unity is a member of the European Left Party.
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Reclaim Social Care: zoom meeting on Thursday 24th September
Join RSC’s regular meeting from 3pm to 5pm.
For registration details email email@example.com
Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.
Get the latest Left Unity resources.