Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference yesterday has been condemned even in the pages of the truest and bluest of Tory journals. Her claim that there is no economic benefit to the UK from immigration was picked apart by James Kirkup, the executive editor of the Daily Telegraph, who described it as an “awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible speech”.
Labour’s annual conference will be remembered as the time when Jeremy Corbyn, the surprise victor in the election for party leader, made his debut as the central figure of the party. Popular as he is amongst the quarter of a million people who joined Labour after its general election defeat in May the fact is that Mr Corbyn is deeply unpopular amongst the old guard which still regards itself as representing the real mainstream of centre left politics.
The political season usually feels like it is starting a fresh round about this time of the year, as politicians return to Westminster and political parties stage their conferences around the country.
The Immigration Bill 2015-16 was laid before Parliament. It contains an unprecedented expansion of the powers of immigration officials to detain individuals, to seize property, and to otherwise interfere with everyday activities, often on the mere suspicion that someone involved is in the UK without authorisation.
Last Thursday families from across the UK who have been separated from loved ones by the government’s family migration rules, gathered in Parliament for the launch of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s report on the damage the rules cause to children in England. For those who had been affected by the rules, nothing in the report came as a surprise, but for others it was a shock to hear of the profound damage done to the estimated 15,000 children in England who had been separated from a parent by the minimum income requirement of £18,600. The report extensively documents how restrictions are creating thousands of 'Skype families' The report attracted press interest, with stories appearing in the BBC and the Independent.
Working around all the issues which have a bearing on the rights of migrants at this point in time has something of the feel of a roller-coaster ride. The low points are invariably connected to government announcements. In recent weeks these have included the prospect of a new immigration bill intended to push forward with the ‘hostile environment’ which newcomers are expected to endure; the Home Office’s disappointing response to the recent Parliamentary report on detention; and, perhaps felt most acutely in terms of its inadequacy, is the government’s reaction to calls to welcome more refugees from the crisis regions of the Mediterranean and southern and central Europe, castigated as ‘derisory’ and a ‘fig-leaf to cover its nakedness’ by Paddy Ashdown, one of its harshest but most perceptive critics on this issue.
The Prime Minister’s statement on the refugee crisis made in Parliament yesterday was initially received as evidence of an important softening of the hitherto hardline the government has taken on the issue, but has subsequently unravelled as commentators have scrutinised more closely what has really been put on offer. After talking about the amount of aid the UK has provided for the relief on refugees who are trapped in the immediate vicinity of the Middle East conflict area, and the role played by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean rescue mission, Mr Cameron went on to say:
We had the same name, Alan. But apart from that our worlds were completely different. Alan Kurdi was a Syrian Kurd, escaping with his family from war and terrorism. I’m a working class Peckham (London) boy and 50 years older than my namesake was. What the photograph of Alan’s lifeless body washed up on the Turkish beach did was to change public opinion about the biggest movement of refugees since the second world war, in a way that no media article, opinion piece or political speech had been able to do.
A few things listed here you can do in order to show support. We will be updating this post with more actions (we know we forgot to include a number of initatives, but hope the list is a good start) and will be actively monitoring comments, so make sure to drop us a line with your actions/suggestions. For a more frequent stream of updates you should really join the Refugees Welcome UK Facebook group.
The Shadow Home Secretary has a reputation for being a cautious player and a safe pair of hands in the front bench team but stepped out of her comfort zone today to deliver a rare 'wildcard' speech that called the Conservative Government ‘immoral, cowardly’ and not handling the current refugee crisis in a ‘British way’.
The ONS announcement that net migration stood at a record high of 330,000 has provoked a rather extreme broadside on the part of the Home Secretary against an important element of free movement rights.
The group will be holding public fringe meetings at the Labour (Brighton) and Conservative (Manchester) party conferences. We will also be holding a private strategic round-table at the SNP conference in Aberdeen and taking part in various events and activities at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.
The Inspector said that Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre was ‘a place of national concern’ with the facility’s ability to give adequate healthcare to all its detainees deteriorating ‘severely’ in the last 2 years. The HMIP report also attacked the length of time people were detained, the delays and backlogs of applications, and the fact that the UK was the only country that did not have a time-limit for detainees.
This week’s employment statistics showed that the UK economy is continuing to generate jobs at a high rate. Although the numbers are beginning to show signs of weakening, the UK is still ahead in comparison to the rest of Europe which remains stuck in the economic doldrums. Unsurprisingly, given that the country is part of a single market for goods, services, capital and labour, job growth has continued to attract inward migration of workers from other parts of the European Union. The number of EU nationals employed in the UK now stands at a shade under 2 million people with 85,000 workers added to the total in the three months up to June 2015. A further 30,000 people from non-EU countries got jobs during this period. In the meantime the numbers of British nationals in employment shrunk by 170,000.
Destitution pushes people into situations of exploitation and abuse (be it sexual, physical, or professional) and unsafe living conditions, and leaves migrants at real risk. It is exactly this type of vulnerability that the new proposals to stop asylum support for families (often waiting to appeal unfair decisions), landlord immigration checks and criminalising workers under the new immigration bill will expose migrants to.