From reading Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech about the UK’s departure from the EU, it is quite clear that her government’s highest priority is to limit immigration. It would appear this is categorised above all other negotiable issues. What state the UK economy would be left in after Brexit appears to matter little so long as those horrible foreigners could be kept out or kicked out. Is this about protecting British people’s livelihoods? I think not.
As I said at the opening of our conference at the weekend, it’s hard to believe that four months ago Against Borders for Children was little more than a Twitter message thread between a handful of willing volunteers, a draft of an open letter, and a 2-page campaign strategy.
There was a moment this week where there was a sense of deja vu with the buzz surrounding integration, which soon disappeared once it became apparent that it wasn't the Casey Review haunting us. This time it was a new report released by APPG on Social Integration launching its Interim Report into Integration of Immigrants.
It is a great honour and privilege to be taking the helm of MRN, following in the footsteps of Don and working with an incredibly passionate team. Although I wish it were during better times and not with the current focus on immigration being the hot political potato again. This climate reminded me of a song I recently heard, The Temptations “Ball of Confusion”: “…Segregation, Determination Demonstration Integration Aggravation Humiliation Obligation to our nation Ball of confusion Oh, yeah, that’s what the world is today”
Dear Friends Season’s Greetings at the end of a tumultuous year! You may know that I am stepping down from my position as Director of MRN at the end of this month. I have been in this post for almost exactly ten years – a decade in which immigration policy has moved to the very centre of the political agenda, not just in the UK but right across the world. Although stepping down as Director, I will be continuing my own involvement as an Associate of MRN and hope to stay in touch with all the friends and collaborators I have made across the country for a long time to come.
The number of people living as international migrants now stands at 244 million according to UN statistics. - a rise of 41% since 2000. As a proportion of the world’s population of just over 7 billion the number of people mobile across international frontiers now makes up a rather modest 3.3% of everyone on the planet – up from 2.8% back at the start of the millennium.
In July 2015 the then Prime Minister and Home Secretary asked civil servant, Dame Louise Casey, to review community integration and cohesion in the light of concerns that certain groups were outside of existing policies. The report was published in December 2016, entitled ‘The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’. So far, so good. Even sounds positive and progressive. But is it? Casey highlights ‘discrimination and disadvantage isolating communities from modern British society’. But she also focuses on what she perceives as high levels of social and economic isolation due to cultural and religious practices in communities that were “holding some of our citizens back but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws”. (I’ll come back to that term ‘British values’ again.).
Last week’s immigration statistics, covering the year up to June 2016, show that the movement of people across frontiers continues to be much more responsive to economic factors than it is to the highly-politicised control agenda. The headline figures are:
The provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 are now rapidly rolling out, stripping many important rights from migrants and refugees as they do so. The English or Welsh language requirements for public sector workers came into force on 21 November. A Code of Practice directed to public sector employers sets out what is expected from them. The workers who will need to meet these standards of language are all staff who work in customer-facing roles including permanent and fixed-term employees, apprentices, self-employed contractors, agency temps, police officers and service personnel.
The collection of nationality and country of birth data in schools and nurseries was a change in policy announced without much fanfare last spring. The government intended to link this new data to other information such as address and ethnicity that is held in the National Pupil Database (NPD). The NPD contains the records of around 20 million people. The data is never deleted, and identifiable information on individual pupils is accessible to the Home Office, the police, and third parties such as researchers and the press.
The idea of a regional visa is currently the subject of much discussion after a number of years in which it was discounted as impractical.
The #1DayWithUs initiative that emerged from journalist Matt Carr’s Facebook post in response to the rhetoric at the Conservative Party conference in October is the most hopeful sign yet that resistance to the planned actions to strip millions of migrants of their rights is building up. From the vague idea that some sort of protest should be mounted, it is now taking the form of a definite plan to call for actions to support migrants right across the UK.
The referendum vote in favour of Brexit has encouraged the sense that the UK is at ‘year zero’ when it comes to many areas of social and economic policy. Everything that has gone before can be regarded as de facto scrapped and the future is there to be seized by those with the boldest imaginations and brightest visions of just what may be possible.
As you read this CRS police squads, acting on French government orders, will once again be destroying the make-shift homes and personal property of the 9000 people who are trying to survive in the Calais refugee camp. They have returned to this task sporadically over the years. In April 2009 a determined effort to close the camp led to the arrest of 109, with bulldozers destroying the tents of around 800 refugees.
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.