If we take the not uncontroversial step of assuming that the way people voted in the referendum serves as a reasonable proxy for judging their view on immigration, then at least one intriguing question arises. Why does the city of Sunderland in England feel so differently about these matters than Glasgow? In June’s referendum voters in English cities voted for Brexit by 61% to 39%. Glasgow voted 67% in favour of remaining, with 33% wanting out. Why the difference? According to a North East Strategic Migration Partnership profile, with ‘people born abroad’ making up only 3% of the city’s population at the time of the last census, Sunderland has one of the lowest rates of inward migration of any major urban area in the UK.
The immigration policies which Theresa May and her home secretary, Amber Rudd, revealed at the Conservative party conference last week seem to have got short shrift from just about everyone.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Labour conference last week threw a large stone into the otherwise undisturbed waters of the mainstream political consensus on immigration. His refusal to join the chorus of calls for even more draconian controls over the right to move across borders is seen by some as more evidence of how out of touch he is with the public mood.
Labour’s annual conference, has at least (surely!) settled the matter of who is going to be leading it up until the next general election – whenever that might be. Many other issues remain unresolved, including the one which has most vexed such a large part of its traditional working class support base – immigration. The arguments around the role that immigration has played in eroding support for Labour have been gone through too many times to need repetition here. In brief, I should mention that there is a belief that the large-scale migration to the UK after 2004 has had a negative impact on the wages and working conditions of at least a significant segment of the working class as well as the more general sense that it has all happen just too fast.
With news programmes leading this morning on PM Theresa May’s intention to make a big, bold speech to the UN high level summit on migration in New York hopes might be raised that something new is going to be said. After all, Mrs May is just the person to say it. Her long period in office as the UK’s home secretary has seen her struggling with the realities of migration as it takes place in the world today and she must have learnt a great deal since 2010 when she was confident that the movement of people into the country could be reduced to the ‘tens of thousands’. Unfortunately it seems that she seems to be intent on returning to a script that Tony Blair tried delivering to gatherings of international leaders back in the early ‘noughties.
The cooperation of the management of Byron Hamburger’s with Home Office immigration enforcement officers in a sting operation earlier in the summer symbolises everything that can go wrong for migrant workers when employment law and immigration policy merge. For many people with deep inside knowledge about the vulnerable position of migrants in the UK today, the key issues are unfair immigration regulations and harsh exploitation of workers. The type of collaboration with enforcement measures that the Home Office expects from employers when it comes to policing their workforces adds to the risks for migrant workers today.
The High Level Summit (HLS) taking place at the United Nations in New York on 19 September is a timely reminder that immigration is not just an issue that affects the UK, but involves the whole world. The discussion on that day, involving “heads of state, government and high representatives” of the UN’s members will focus on safety and dignity in policies which address “large movements of refugees and migrants”.
The report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) in mid-August which found evidence of 'entrenched' race inequality in many areas, including education and health has provided the basis for the government’s latest, and to some a rather surprising initiative.
There has been much speculation over the cause of this spike in hate crime and hate speech. Was it closet racists who thought the referendum result legitimised their views and made it acceptable to tell those they considered ‘foreign’ to ‘go home’? Was it the result of the political campaigning around the referendum and the anti-migrant/anti-free movement of labour stance taken by the campaigning groups? Was it pent up frustration from years of austerity measures that erupted into some people blaming anyone who appeared to come from another country, a distinction based on skin colour, looks or language spoken? Probably a mixture of all these and more causes.
The first anniversary of the death of the three year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee, Aylan Kurdi, is coming up fast. Even people who were shocked by the appalling image of the Turkish police officer cradling the drowned infant might be forgiven for thinking that things have got better for the refugees who were fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North African region. The news reports describing the hundreds of boats arriving on the Greek islands during that period and the images of thousands of despite people queuing at the European borders which had been so hastily thrown up to bar their admittance are no longer making the headlines.
If a week is a long time in politics then the six-and-a-bit weeks since the vote for Brexit on 23 June are beginning to feel like an eternity. The whole country is waiting to see even a sketchy outline of what the government feels can be done to deliver on the issue that seems to have persuaded most people that a punt on the ‘Leave’ option was worth taking. That something is of course immigration.
The operation directed against migrant employees of the fast food chain, Byron Hamburgers by Home Office Border enforcement officials on the evening of 4th July has sparked a lively discussion about the extent to which employers should be held to any sort of standard why it comes to a duty of care towards its workers.
A month ought to have been long enough to assemble thoughts on what Brexit is going to mean for immigration policy, but the truth is the great puzzle over what life will look like outside the EU is going to be perplexing us for a long time to come. The imminent end of free movement, at least in the form that it has taken during the 43 years the UK has been a full member of the European Community/Union, will bring to the forefront of the thinking of many people the huge benefits that have come from this way of managing migration over this time.
Eighty years after the Battle of Cable Street in which the East End Jewish community and anti-fascists stopped Moseley’s Blackshirts marching through a migrant community, there are reports of a rise in anti-migrant feeling, abuse and attacks following the narrow pro-Brexit vote on 23 June.