The government’s February deal with the EU introduced a ‘four-year ban’ on new migrants from the EU claiming in-work benefits. This is meant to counter the perceived problem of EU nationals relying on the benefits system and seeing it as an attraction to moving to Britain. But is this what’s really happening?
We never expected to win the battle against the Immigration Bill. In fact, we expected to lose it sooner. In November last year, MRN brought together activists, campaigners and NGOs to discuss joint strategies for defending the rights of migrants in preparation for the impact of a new Immigration Act. Energy and determination Though many of the participants then shared our pessimism, the energy and determination to fight the government’s plans to ‘crack down’ on migrants by further reinforcing a ‘hostile environment’, was palpable.
There are two things to say about concerns registered on behalf of migrants. The first is, yes, there are very good grounds for believing that many of them are exposed to a high risk of abusive, exploitative work conditions. The second is, don’t get carried away: migrants are working hard to turn their disadvantages around, and there are things to learn from those who are registering a degree of success in doing this. Migrant workers are not necessarily vulnerable workers The facts are a good place to start this discussion. And here the empirical evidence for the disproportionate presence of migrants in work situations which are clearly exploitative is not as clear-cut as many suppose.
A lot has been said, for and against, free movement within the EU. Most people think it means that any EU national can travel to another EU country and live there, work there or look for work. That’s true for the first three months. But after that it becomes murkier. One has to ‘access one’s freedom of movement rights’ which means being in employment, being self-employed, being a student with finance for the duration of the course, or having funds to sustain oneself and family. Freedom of movement is one of the founding principles of the EU, designed to support the economies of EU countries by providing a mobile work force. However, did you know that the UK government is forcibly deporting hundreds of EU nationals, many of them illegally?
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.