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Tories’ Immigration Bill is anti-working class

 

By Rebecca Anderson

The Tories’ controversial new Immigration Bill passed through its second reading by 303 votes to 18 on 22 October, despite speculation that Labour might oppose it.

The Bill’s main proposals are to:

•          Make temporary residents like students pay for NHS treatment.

•          Reduce the number of grounds for appeal against deportation.

•          Require landlords, banks, clergy and the DVLA to check people’s immigration status.

•          Allow for people convicted of a crime to be deported before appeal.

•          Require British citizens to earn at least £20,000 per year to be able to marry non-EU nationals

Home Secretary Theresa May defended the Bill, saying that it would clamp down on illegal immigrants who “take advantage of our services”.

It aims to win back lost Tory votes by being seen to be tough, but it also makes it more difficult for migrants to assert their legal rights against the state.

The proposal to remove the right of the bottom half of society to marry non-EU citizens is the Bill’s most transparently anti-working class measure. But reading between the lines, it is clear that its overall aim is to allow the state much tighter control over who can live in the UK, only allowing rich immigrants to stay, and making it quicker and easier to deport working class people from non-EU countries.

Turning landlords, bank managers and vicars into de facto immigration officers gives the government more power and control over the country’s borders, but also creates an increasingly hostile environment for migrants.

May’s recent “Go Home Now” vans were subjected to ridicule for being an ill-conceived media stunt, but they demonstrate the sort of social attitudes that the current Home Secretary wants to promote. Outsourcing firm Capita sent almost 40,000 “Leave the UK” texts on the government’s behalf to people suspected of overstaying their visas. Recently, May had to drop proposals to make Asian and African migrants pay a £3,000 deposit for a six-month visa.

 

Labour’s cowardly role

Labour is supporting the Bill through parliament but Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has criticised it mainly for not dealing with “exploitation of immigration in the workplace”, effectively side-stepping the real issues at stake.

Labour leader Ed Miliband gave credence to anti-immigrant arguments in June last year by saying that the Labour government made a “mistake” in not imposing “transitional controls” on the ten mainly East European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

Trying to paint Labour as the party of the people, Cooper has proposing the following amendments to the Bill:

•          Banning employers and recruitment agencies from recruiting “foreigner-only” shifts.

•          Banning the use of tied accommodation to offset the minimum wage.

•          Setting fines of up to £30,000 for employing illegal immigrants.

Labour’s amendments are again aimed at attacking immigrants rather than defending them against the Tories’ racist proposals.

Although these measures, if implemented, do address some of the worst aspects of employer exploitation of migrants, by stopping employers from segregating workers or forcing them to live in “tied” slum accommodation, they could potentially push migrants further into poverty and black market employment.

This would not prevent the undercutting of the minimum wage, but would merely reinforce the power of dodgy employers, who might be willing to risk a £30,000 fine to pay migrants £2 an hour.

The solution to poverty wages is to increase the minimum wage to a decent level and to enforce it. Similarly, the removal of immigration controls would undermine the power that gang-masters and other dodgy employers have over migrant workers.

The president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), speaking at its annual conference, condemned “factually incorrect, emotive debates around immigration”. The stance of the bosses’ most influential lobbying organisation is pro-EU and for immigration that “benefits business”. They essentially want Britain to attract skilled and educated workers from abroad, to make up for the mass of young people excluded from university education by high tuition fees.

Instead of defending the rights of all people to move where they want to, just as capital moves freely across borders, Labour is pandering to these sorts of demands.

 

The real story

A recent study by University College London confirmed that immigrants have made a “substantial” contribution to public finances since 2000, and that recent immigrants were less likely to claim benefits or live in social housing than people born in Britain.

Those from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed 34 per cent more in taxes than they received in benefits in the decade to 2011, while immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2 per cent more than they received in the same period.

The Home Office’s own research shows that asylum seekers lack a detailed knowledge of the UK benefits system, effectively debunking the popular myth that “bogus” asylum seekers come here to claim benefits.

In fact, most people that come to the UK are fleeing poverty, war and other disasters created by an international order that allows countries like Britain to plunder the resources of their countries.

The Immigration Bill is a racist attack on migrants, as well as an attack on the civil liberties and living standards of workers in general. But there is no political party in Britain making this argument; they all just ape the UK Independence Party (UKIP) as soon as the word “immigration” is uttered.

 

We need a party that stands firmly for the following:

•          Against immigration controls, which are inherently racist: open the borders!

•          For a strictly enforced living minimum wage.

•          For the right of any consenting couple to marriage or civil partnership.

•          Against all NHS charges, for healthcare free at the point of delivery.

•          Against deportations, no-one should be forcibly removed from the country.

•          For equal rights for all residing in the UK.

•          For an amnesty and for citizenship for all “illegal” immigrants.

•          Against police “racial profiling’ spot checks.

•          For international working class solidarity.

•          For a socialist society free of the poverty and war that drives people to leave their homes and families to start a new life in a hostile environment.

 

The facts about immigration and asylum

•          Only 9 to 13 per cent of Britian’s population were born abroad.

•          UN estimates indicate that only one-fifth of refugees globally are in “developed” countries.

•          Around 1,000 children are held in deportation prisons every year.

•          Asylum seekers do not have access to the mainstream benefit system.

•          Instead, a parallel system provides them with £36.62 a week, just 52 per cent of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

•          Surviving on £5.23 a day puts asylum seekers well below the UK poverty line.

•          Immigrants make a net contribution to the UK economy of £3 billion.

 

 

 

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