It is getting on to ten years since MRN was launched as a project that aimed to improve the capacity of organisations concerned with the rights of migrants of all kinds to network with one another. Back in 2006 it had become clear that the UK, along with other developed market economies across the world, was in the middle of a new ‘Age of Migration’. Driven in by the globalisation of labour markets the trend for countries like the UK in the years since has been to acquire stocks of migration which are typically in the range of 10 to 15% of their total populations.
The announcement of the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 in September last year was heartbreaking and a source of great anxiety for many asylum seekers and migrants that live in the UK. Glimmers of hope As the Bill has been making its way through parliament, there have been some glimmers of hope. In the House of Commons, while most of the crucial amendments tabled by the opposition were unsuccessful, the Bill was exposed as unfair, ill-conceived and promoting discrimination. The debate also prepared the ground for some of the challenges made to the Bill in the House of Lords. These have resulted in a series of amendments that have been hailed by campaigners as a victory for justice and human rights. They include new clauses that would, if they became law:
The tone of reporting on immigration shifted over the course of this weekend as the media took stock of Pope Francis’s visit to refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. In the company of the heads of the Greek Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics caused ripples of shock by declaring before media onlookers that before the thousands now penned into so-called ‘hotspots’ on the island became refugees they had also been people.
The sense that the European Union is badly floundering in its response to the refugee crisis on its south eastern border was increased last week as the authorities charged with acting on its behalf began to implement the much-criticised deportation deal with Turkey. By the end of the week it was reported that a total of 326 people had been returned from Greece to Turkey since the deportations started on Monday 4 April. The deportees were said to be men from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who the authorities believed had no claim for asylum.
There’s a moment of real poignancy in the 1980s’s film comedy ‘Withnail and I’ when the hippy drug-dealer Danny gives his views on our collective failure to make good on all that was promised in the 60s: The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black. Millennials The failings of one generation are destined to become the challenges for the next. Unfortunately the one that followed the Swinging Sixties proved just as inept. And the task of sorting the mess out, if it is ever going to be done, is falling to the set of people we are learning to call the ‘millennials.’
With a constituency of 8.6 million people candidates for Mayor of London will be seeking a mandate to represent the capital city from one of the largest electorates in Europe, and certainly the most diverse. Over 3 million Londoners were born outside the UK, according to the last census. Forty-four percent define themselves as being black or from other ethnic minority groups. More than three-quarters say that English is their first or only language, 20 percent say they speak a second language either well or very well.
If you take a map of almost anywhere in the UK and plot into all the evidence of immigration raids on business premises which UKVI helpfully provides two things emerge very clearly. The first of these is the tendency for this enforcement activity to cluster in and around neighbourhoods where ethnic minorities are densest. The second comes from looking at the names of the businesses which have had civil penalty fines imposes on them. In the vast majority of cases the fact of their ethnicity is the critical factor.
Archbishop Justin Welby has fallen some way below the usual standard of adroitness expected of clerics when intervening in areas of political controversy. His widely reported comments to Parliament’s The House magazine seem to have been prompted by a desire to encourage people to adopt a more ‘visionary’ and hopeful approach to the future which, to his great credit, included a commitment to doing better when it comes to support for refugees.
According to UNHCR over half of all refugees and migrants who risk the dangerous sea crossing to Europe from Turkey, via Greece are women and children. Too often they find themselves denied basic human rights, and having to fight every inch of the way against the immense dangers which confront them on a daily basis. MRN is proud to support the Women on the Move Awards 2016 to celebrate the contribution that migrant and refugee women make in the UK and stand in solidarity with these women. This event is part of Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival-2016. For more details and to book your place please follow this link.
In a month’s time we will reach the first anniversary of the introduction of rules which allowed an ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ (IHS) to be imposed on all people from outside the EU who come to stay in for a period of 6 months or longer. The power to levy these charge came from a provision of the Immigration Act 2014. It consists of a fee £200 (£150 in the case of students) on the cost of a visa to the UK, paid for each year that the person is in the UK. This means that if you are coming in as a sponsored skilled worker under Tier 2 of the Points-Based Scheme for a period of 3 years an additional £600 (£200 for each year) will be paid up front as a condition of issuing the visa.
There has been much talk in recent times about the potential for a ‘points-based scheme’ (PBS) being used to control immigration in the event that the UK votes to leave the EU in the June referendum. The supporters of this approach frequently cite the example of Australia as providing a model which would allow a ‘tougher’ attitude to be taken to admitting the migrants who the UK authorities believe are necessary for the UK economy.
Weeks of knockabout fun now stretch before us as we witness the strange growth of groupings and alignments of politicians trying to persuade us to vote one way or the other. Good luck to all those who intend to throw themselves body and soul into the campaigning. However, our role as a network of organisations and individuals across the country who – in all probability – have more experience than most in dealing with issues arising from immigration law and policy will be a limited one. Consider the evidence What we are going to say is that if you think immigration is way ahead as the main reason for changing our relationship with the rest of Europe please consider the evidence and listen to the voices that need to be heard before you make up your mind.
The really interesting development over the weekend came from the Labour Party leadership with the prospect that Jeremy Corbyn will shortly be making a speech opposing the ‘emergency brake’ on free movement that the Prime Minister has negotiated with EU President Donald Tusk.
DF – Josh, can you tell us something about yourself and why you became motived to do something about the £35k earnings threshold? JH- I’d known the threshold was coming since mid-2015, only because it affected my friend Shannon who was growing increasingly distressed and anxious. I was waiting for people more qualified or experienced than me to start doing something. I was googling it at the start of the year and realised with growing dread that barely anyone was even talking about it, let alone opposing it. I wondered how it was possible to quietly usher thousands of people out of the country without even a whisper of resistance. An hour later I’d started the petition.
Europe is a turbulent continent located in a turbulent region of the world. Throughout its history is has been a centre for large-scale movements of people, generated by warfare, political tension, the collapse of states, not to mention the mundane issue of the desire for better opportunities in times of economic hardship. And during the 20th century it has seen refugee or migration crises – call them what you will – occurring every 25 to 30 years. Examples include the mass movement of ethnic Greeks from Anatolia and the Black Sea following the defeat of the army of the Republic of Pontus in 1923 which brought one and a half million people into modern-day Greece.