Sunday 24 March 2013

Immigrants and Ignorance

Another Sunday, another immigrant-bashing headline. Responding to "concerns" (and looking to get favourable headlines, for a change), Dave will announce measures tomorrow to keep immigrants out of social housing. Apparently, no one can get a look-in as Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis and Eritreans have jumped the housing queue. Things are so bad even single mums are getting pushed aside! Never mind this is all a load of rubbish, it's an opportunity for the PM to show how tough he is by attacking yet another group of powerless people.

Back when I was a tweenaged Tory, there were a couple of issues that always got my right wing goat. One was unilateral nuclear disarmament. The other was, of course, "the immigrants". Thanks to living in an almost exclusively white suburbanising ex-pit village, I was 17 before I counted black and asian kids among my social circle (and those were through work in nearby Derby, not my then college). But that didn't stop me from believing white Britain was getting buried under waves of brown folk. I didn't see black and asian people for weeks at a stretch, but the fear remained that they were out there somewhere, despoiling our green and pleasant land with reggae, yams, Bollywood film nights, and brightly coloured saris.

Thankfully, most people grow up and leave the stupid ideas of their youth behind. But I did take an important lesson from my time as a bigot someone with sincerely felt and strongly held views. When you don't directly interact with people marked as 'different' from other ethnicities, backgrounds, and sexualities; the more likely your perceptions of those groups will be filtered through their depictions in the media. And if your eyes on the world pass through the medium of the right wing press, as mine did at the time, chances are their prejudices and folk devils become yours too.

Image source


Ralph said...

You don't have to be racist or a xenophobe to agree with limiting immigration, or taking seriously people's concerns about the allocation of public resources. Dave's idea about social housing may not be the best response ( local councils have argued that it will actually cost them more, as they'll have to resort to homelessness procedures). The answer is two-fold- radically restrict immigration, and limit it to people with skills we need, and invest in social housing and growth to create jobs.

Susan said...

As Ralph says you don't have to be a racist to be concerned about immigration. I had to move my 7 year old son from his schoolbecause he was struggling with maths. 23 of the 30 children in his class were immigrants, most did not speak English, and the teacher and teaching assistant were stretched to the limit teaching these children. My son needed help with maths but he was not as a priority. I moved him to a school out of our area and he is getting the help he needed and he is making great progress. Schools and the Health Service are being overwhelmed by the increase in population and will not be able to cope if it continues.

Gary Elsby said...

One big reason Labour lost the last election (ie, did not win it), is immigration.

The EU will probably be the referee on this issue that Cameron is raising.

We know that freedom of travel is a right, but is a free house or access to health services neatly covered within the charter?

Of course, serious watcher will note that Cameron is lining the Country up for a referendum on anything EU (he's a pro European but is led by the nose on a few fronts of internal challenges and UKip).

If Cyprus is forced to tax a bank account over 100,000eu, then the same goes for the UK and elsewhere. Doesn't it?

Same goes for restrictions on all things immigration. Doesn't it?

Hutt Valley Boy said...

In response to the previous comments on this story: you don't have to be a racist to want to limit immigration, but it helps.

I am an immigrant. Worse, I attained indefinite leave to remain in this country through the back door by exploiting loopholes in EU immigration regulations and proceeding on technicalities. I originally came here on holiday knowing nobody in the UK and with absolutely no ties whatsoever to the country. Very quickly I decided to stay, in light of the better job opportunities for me here in London. I am by no means the kind of immigrant you want in this country, believe me.

But I am white, I have a very pale complexion, blue eyes, red hair and a ginger beard. I speak perfect English, I have an English name and for all intents and purposes, I appear to be English. NOBODY EVER HURLS RACIST ANTI-IMMIGRANT ABUSE AT ME. EVER. Not once in 13 years. Not even in jest. People just assume that I belong here.

Yet I have many friends who have been abused by those fine, upstanding members of Britain's anti-immigrant brigade. This has ranged from verbal abuse through dogshit through the letterbox, threats of violence, sabotage of motor vehicles and spitting in the faces of young children to beatings and stabbings. Some of these friends of mine are not even foreigners as they were born and raised here. Some came here as the children of refugees; some came here as postgraduate students; some of them came here as highly-skilled migrants; some came as the spouse of a British citizen. Some are from other countries in the EU and therefore have as much right to be here as UK citizens have to be in their own country. But they are all in the UK much more legitimately than I am.

Simply because they are obviously of Eastern European Oriental, Asian, African, Latin American or mixed race Caribbean appearance, they must suffer abuse from people telling them to "GO HOME!", "GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY!" etc. This is pure racism, fuelled by the implicit image peddled by the corrupt and amoral right-wing press and media that people from these parts of the world are inherently inferior and untrustworthy. This is no different to the manipulation of the media carried out by the National Socialists in Germany during the 1930s. It is based on lies, great big lies. The fact is that immigration is not an economic problem in Britain, nor is it a political problem. The "problem" exists only in the mind of xenophobic and racist people who are unwilling to accept people who do not conform to their standards of what a British person should be. Admit this to yourself, and you are halfway towards understanding immigration issues in Britain, Otherwise, you're just spouting racist nonsense.


The fact is that net migration per capita is relatively low in the UK.

The fact is that the public services which the government is disingenuously claiming are under threat from abuse by migrants are run on migrant labour and that very few of these services are ever used by migrants.

The fact is that as one of the centres of exchange in the globalised world, Britain must accept a globalised flow of workers as enthusiastically as it accepts the globalised flow of capital.

The fact is that the fear of immigrants does more damage in our society than the presence of immigrants.

The fact that is the real threat to the livelihoods and security of ordinary people in the UK comes not from immigrants, but from the amoral and corrupt politicians who serve the interests of big capital now more than at any time since the early Victorian age when Marx was researching and writing Kapital.

Anything else is just scaremongering for political gain and a more socially acceptable way of expressing latent xenophobia and racism.

Thus endeth the rant.

Phil said...

I hear what you say Sue and Ralph. You don't have to be racist to believe you need to be able to plan resources accordingly before an influx of people. The problem is this debate is a poisoned well from start to finish. Having a "grown up" debate about immigration is nigh on impossible because of the hysterical and racist scaremongering press and politicians alike have indulged.

Gary Elsby said...

Do you think Labour has a dog in hell's chance of winning an election based on unlimited immigration and fairness in dispersing health and benefits to them and us?

As I see it, Cameron is disposing of his internal challengers, doing UKip out of a vote, and wishes to curtail free loading foreigners from cashing in on austerity hit British workers facing imminent dole.

I take my hat off to him.

It puts Labour's racist "British jobs for British workers" into the bottom end of the sewer from where it came.

Hutt Valley Boy said...

In response to Gary Elsby:

Gary, you wrote "As I see it, Cameron is disposing of his internal challengers, doing UKip out of a vote, and wishes to curtail free loading foreigners from cashing in on austerity hit British workers facing imminent dole."

The free-loading foreigners you write about are largely apocryphal. They cannot be "targeted" by government policy, because they are so few in number that any policy aimed at curtailing their pernicious influence is an exercise in futility. All it will do is alienate the hardworking immigrants who keep the wheels of your public services running, you know the nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, teachers, teaching assistants, transport workers etc. How you think this will help the country, I'd really like to know.

Secondly, check the figures on the proportion of working-age benefits in this country accessed by people who were not born in Britain, It is miniscule. No immigrant to this country has access to even a penny of public money until they have achieved long-term residency. Even Michael Gove and Theresa may are forced to resort to outright lies about the supposed threat to the NHS posed by migrants accessing health services. These lies are printed uncritically by the UK press, even though journalists are supposed to have a responsibility to check facts and claims when putting political stories together.

Like pretty much every other anti-immigrant position I have ever come across in this country, your argument is based on misinformation, conjecture and your own personal opinion. You write of "unlimited immigration"; sorry, but this is just pathetic. There are strict limits on immigration to this country and the way that potential migrants are treated during the application process is truly shocking and should be a source of shame for every principled person in this country. You write of "freeloading foerigners"; this kind of comment is beyond contempt. By resorting to such lazy cliches, you are demonstrating your ignorance of the reality of the real immigration issues this country is facing. You have just swallowed the lies of the media.

Of course you are entitled to your opinion. But if you choose to base your position on the immigration issue on your own uninformed opinion, then you are doomed to remain forever ignorant of the reality.

That reality is that current levels of immigration pose no serious threat to the economic or political situation in this country. The "problem" is being manufactured by lying toads such as David Cameron to distract the British public from the unfortunate truth: the wealthy elite of this country are systematically dismantling your cherished way of life for their own personal profit and gain and the yare trying to get you all to blame some of the most vulnerable members of our society in order to do so.

Shockingly for a country which prides itself on being fair, civilised and generally well educated, you all seem to be falling for these lies, hook line and sinker.

Hutt Valley Boy said...

Response to Gary Elsby, part I

It is clear from your comments that you don't really understand how the EU works or how the UK's membership of the EU impacts upon your life as the citizen of a Member State. That is not something to feel bad about, because even people who spend their working lives dealing with the inner workings of the EU struggle to get to grips with much of it. I know I don’t know enough about it to be able to say I am an expert on the EU. But I have studied it in depth and I have learned enough to know that the UK can never leave the EU.

David Cameron is, essentially, a pragmatist. As such, there is no way he will ever put the UK's EU membership in jeopardy. Mainly because the supposed benefits of withdrawal from the EU spouted by crackpot far-right nutjobs simply do not exist. When I say the far-right, I mean the joke that is UKIP and its prize clown Nigel Farage, not to mention the old-school far-right rump of the Tory party (soon to be extinct anyway). For example, even if the UK were to withdraw from the EU, it would still be within the EEA, like Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. This means that the country would still need to acquiesce to every whim of the EU in order to comply with the trading rules of the EEA, but crucially, THE UK WOULD HAVE NO SAY IN HOW THOSE RULES ARE FORMULATED AND APPLIED. This would be a complete disaster for the country. Complete withdrawal from the EEA is unthinkable and it has been conservatively estimated that this would bring a burden of between £10 billion and £20 billion to the British economy on an annual basis. Is that really what the anti-EU brigade are advocating? Bankrupting the country for some spurious, nebulous notions of British superiority and a personal dislike of all things foreign?

Moreover, many British people seem to think that withdrawal from the EU would also mean a ‘welcome’ end to the rights and responsibilities on public bodies and, increasingly, private citizens and organisations under the European Conventions on Human Rights, administered in this country under the Human Rights Act. However, the European Conventions are in no way related to the EU and are under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Withdrawal from the EU would mean that nothing would change in this respect. When I tell people this, many of them are gobsmacked. They had assumed that the EU was not responsible for the UK’s human rights legislation. I wonder how so many people in this country can be so ill-informed, yet so convinced that they are right? Obviously the anti-EU, anti-human rights misinformation campaigns of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Sun have nothing to do with this widespread ignorance.

As for EU migration, official figures show that there are almost as many UK citizens living in other EU countries as there are EU citizens from other member states living in the UK, excluding Irish citizens. If Britain were to leave the EU and/or the EEA, it is likely that this would result in a NET GAIN IN POPULATION for the UK; a slight majority of these potential returnees are unemployed (early retirees) or retired. So Britain would stand to lose a sizeable chunk of its workforce, whilst gaining a load of beneficiaries who are unable or unwilling to work, yet unable to support themselves on their retirement savings once they return from the cheaper lifestyles they enjoy in their adopted homes. When I explain this to British people, they often refuse to believe it. So I keep a .pdf file of the Eurostat data on my smartphone, to show them. They usually change the subject after that and start ranting about how “Labour let all the immigrants in”. At least the data backs that claim up, as net migration did increase under Labour, with more immigrants entering the country, but it should also be noted that far fewer people left the UK annually between 1997 and 2011 as well.

Hutt Valley Boy said...

Response to Gary Elsby, part II

David Cameron is by no means the poncey idiot he presents himself as in the media. He is a shrewd tactician and he has been installed as the (relatively) acceptable face of "Tory modernisation", which is to say that he is a bridge between the reality the UK finds itself in (not being able to leave the EU, for instance) and the fantasy world inhabited by the clueless right-wing nutters who comprise so much of his party’s popular support. The shift of these people to UKIP should be welcomed by the Tory party as it presents the party with an opportunity to finally move into the 21st century, unburdened of the baggage of its closet racists and xenophobes. UKIP will never achieve sufficient support to pose a serious threat to any major political party in the UK, at least not while it lacks any actual policies worth considering, and there is no way the UK will leave the EU, as long as sanity and commonsense still prevail among this country’s political class. Even if that means denying the British public a plebiscite on the issue.

Obviously, you may choose to disagree with me. But be honest with yourself: Are you really basing your opinion on a thorough understanding of the EU, the UK's role in the European Community and its effect on you as a Member State citizen? Or are you basing it on some inherent mistrust and dislike of foreign organisations, an ill-informed suspicion about the motives of the EU and a fundamental misunderstanding of the potential effects of withdrawal from the EU on the UK's economy and political settlement?

Hutt Valley Boy said...

I would like to make one final point about the gap between the Tory view of the UK's participation in the EU and the harsh reality, a case study from recent history: the demise of the British care industry. We can all agree that the UK’s car industry died over a 30-year period, going from rude health at the end of the second world war to the laughing stock of the industrialised world at the end of the 1970s. It seems that the blame for this is always pinned on to the inefficiencies of nationalisation, problems caused by Trade Unions, bad automotive design and poor management practices.

This is misinformation in action. The French and German car industries were both nationalised for decades after WWII and in France the car companies are still all heavily subsidised and influenced by the State. FIAT and Alfa-Romeo have both been rescued by local and national governments at some point in their recent histories. Secondly, many of the UK’s car designs of the period were Italian or French, including the much-maligned Austin Allegro. And were cars like the Mini, the BMC 1300, the Triumph 2000 and the SD series Rover really such bad designs? I would argue that they were superior to the European equivalents of the time. Furthermore, Germany and France have always had much stronger Trade Unions, it seems not to have harmed the car industry in either country. And management practices were little different in the UK than in other countries. However, it is likely that all of these played some role in the demise of the British car industry. But the obvious and clear reason was the collapse of British car exports... TO EUROPE! Although this is rarely acknowledged, Britain's export markets in France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries effectively evaporated when the EC came into existence in the early 1950s. Look at an annual analysis of the export statistics and you will see a sharp decline, followed by a steady dwindling to almost nothing by the late 1960s. The main beneficiary of this was, SURPRISE, the German motoring industry, which enjoyed far more favourable trading conditions in other EC member states, effectively closing the British firms out of the market and leading to VW, Audi and BMW rising to very strong positions in the European car market from almost nothing over the same period.

This was one of the main reasons for the huge political push to get Britain into the EU in the first place: to save British industry from the decline in demand for British products which developed rapidly after the British government foolishly rejected the invitation to join the EC in the early 1950s. But by 1975, joining the EU was too little, too late. The damage had already been done and the country’s workforce was already being made redundant in their tens of thousands. The country is still suffering from its exclusion from the EU club for the first 30 years of its existence and it simply cannot afford to risk the same thing happening again. Not least because there are no mighty Trade Unions left to pin the blame on, although it seems that immigrants are the new scapegoats of the country’s woe. So maybe, in the darkest fantasies of a right-wing Tory strategist, we would see the UK leave the EU, the economy go into freefall and immigrants being blamed for the resultant hardship that the British people would suffer.

Gary Elsby said...

Thanks for the lecture Hutt Valley Boy.

I was Stoke Central's EU delegate for years and I performed a 100 mile round trip every few Months just to see if I was the only person within 10 miles of Birmingham, from the north Midlands, actually with an interest. Rest assured that I was.

Cameron is despatching all Liberals (sexual deviants, thieves and liars) as well as decapitating all internal pretenders to the throne (liars, sexual deviants and Mayors) as he rattles up the anti (not true) EU ship by out UKipping, UKip, with a potential vote to remove this fair Isle from the freeloading European super state.

As I said before, I take my hat off to him as he slowly, but surely, lines his Party up for a General Election rout of all other parties who only wish to give all of our money away to benefit scroungers and Bulgarian NHS tourists.

It's wonderful to watch.

Boris has just been done over, so who's next?

As for Labour and 'letting in all the immigrants'. Quite true, actually.
All other Countries bolted the door (according to the rules), but had to open them after 7 years (as we have now done for Bulgaria).
Hence the UKip, 29 million Bulgatrians coming soon, rant.

Labour's response to all this is really quite shite.
Mainly because no of them know how to fight back anymore.
(apart from knocking a few doors in the Abbey. Ffs).

Hutt Valley Boy said...

"As I said before, I take my hat off to [David Cameron] as he slowly, but surely, lines his Party up for a General Election rout of all other parties who only wish to give all of our money away to benefit scroungers and Bulgarian NHS tourists."

General election rout? Sorry, but are you dreaming? All opinion polls strongly suggest otherwise, Gary, and to even Lynton Crosby can save the Tories now. All of those hardworking people who have lost their jobs, lost their pensions and seen their public services whittled away to virtually nothing while watching Dave's rich mates cashing in are unlikely to have a collective bout of amnesia come election time. The Conservatives didn't even win the last election and that was with the support of Murdoch and the hatchet job the Dirty Digger did on Gordon Brown. If you honestly think the Tories have any chance of avoiding a thumping defeat at the next election, mate, you are deluded.

Secondly, you cannot possibly be serious about "benefit scroungers" being given all the money? In the same week that it was revealed that Jobcentres are being encouraged to deny people their basic right to subsistence level financial assistance when unemployed, the government announced that it is to hand this country's millionaires massive tax breaks, meaning that someone earning a million pounds a year will have about ten times the amount of jobseekers allowance in his/her back pocket every year. And yet you somehow think that the free money is being handed to the poor? Mate, you're deluded. The entire Tory strategy is to shovel public money into the pockets of a handful of rich people. There isn't even any pretense about this. It is being done brazenly. I am sure you are aware that the amount of tax avoided by FTSE companies is 100 times the amount lost to benefit fraud? You are aware of that, right?

And as for Bulgarian NHS tourists, again, you seem to have been reading too much Daily Mail. my wife is Bulgarian. I've been there several times and I've been treated for non-urgent medical problems in public and private hospitals over there, and I can assure you that their public hospitals and healthcare system are VASTLY, infinitely superior to ours. Why on earth would they come to Britain to avail themselves of inferior services? Again, you are deluded. This is just a lazy way of thinking and bears no relation to reality.

Sorry Gary, but by posting this nonsense on a comments thread on a blog which is about how uninformed (and potentially deluded) the British public are about the realities of immigration issues in this country, you come across as a very sad self-parody.

If your views can be considered typical, it is no wonder that this country is in such a dreadful mess. A massive reality check is clearly what is needed.

Hutt Valley Boy said...

And by the way, gary, who are your referring to as "sexual deviants"? Who are you refering to as "liberals"?

These comments seems to me to reveal your lack of tolerance and understanding of other people who are not like you are.

Perhaps this is why you seem not to have been able to respond to any of the points raised in my previous points?

Anonymous said...

I think when we are plundering the world, dominating them economically etc, then talk of "restrict immigration, and limit it to people with skills we need, and invest in social housing and growth to create jobs" leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

All the anti immigrant lot see is dark skinned people taking all our jobs. What a pathetic lot they are.

Ralph's idea amounts to this, let the well off move where the fuck they like and let everyone else stay where they are.

Development moves away from this, the USA allows movement across an entire continent, Europe is trying to develop along the same lines. If the US tried limiting this free movement it would have serious implications for their economic well-being.

The problem isn't too much immigration but not enough free movement. Reactionaries like Ralph are stopping development taking place.

Left to the Ralph's of this world Britain would become the North Korea of the West!

Gary Elsby said...

people have differing interests in life and some of those people devour their interests with a relish.
I was with a bunch of art students once looking at a painting. Two of them cried with the joy of being in its presence.

For some political nuts, they orgasm over Marx or Gramisci!

Many people I know reasonably well have some form of interest in politics, the media, news reporting, current affairs, TV discussions, that sort of thing.
They all seem to cross over, so you meet people and you agree and disagree. A bit like football. The same match watched by the same people, but 100 different views of what REALLY happened.

For me, I used to cry in the presence of Tony Benn ("nice to see you again Gary".)or Tony Blair ("Hi, Gary")or Rob Flello (fuck off Gary).

So when I see Masters at work, it brings a lump to my throat as I watch them deliver their craft in the most careful of ways.
To watch Cameron slowly take down everyone within a challengers reach, is really worthy of an Political Oscar. Liberals are being buried one by one as the Tories begin their surgical amputation of them. Each one bought to book inside a police station and no one knows nothing.

On the other hand, even hard left bloggers offer sympathy to savage cut throat Tories 'wronged' by coppers.

All money is on Theresa, the worthy stalking horse ready to pounce in a contest. She's going, she doesn't know it yet, but she's done something she doesn't want us to know about (but David does).

So I can only watch and admire as ten yellow and blue bottles accidently fall as a GE comes ever closer.

He's even managed to convince some excitables on the left that 'mid term blues' equals runaway victory for those that offer nothing in return.

"I'm bringing forward by one year the 10K tax threshold"


Who knows, George may even go for gold and shove another tenner on family allowance.
He may even fund it by taking it from foreign spongers.

Game set and match.

It really is lovely to watch, if you like this sort of thing.
I remember being in awe at Tony's Billions for our schools.
Keats, Wordsworth, Turner, Monet had fuck all on Tony.
Then came Meredith who made it akin to being handed the plague, free of charge and everybody hated us, him and Labour for having the audacity to give them new schools.

It's quite remarkable, really.
Beautiful to watch though, all the same.

George Carty said...

Hutt Valley Boy -- I thought though that the reason that we didn't join the EEC until 1973 was not because the British government didn't want to, but because Charles de Gaulle wouldn't let us in!