Blogs by Don Flynn
Today is UN World Refugee Day and in Britain it marks the start of our annual Refugee Week.
As the UNHCR reminds us, it kicks off this year with a record high level of displacement of vulnerable and persecuted people. One in every 122 human across the face of the planet is now believed to be a refugee shockingly half of them being children.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s judgment of the tone of the referendum debate this morning is worth quoting at length. She said:
“This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or politically useful in the short term, but it causes long-term damage to communities.
“The vision that me and other Brexiters who have been involved right from the outset, who had a positive outward-looking vision of what a Brexit vote might mean, unfortunately those voices have now been stifled and what we see is the divisive campaign which has resulted in people like me and others who are deeply Euro sceptic and want to see a reformed relationship feel that they now have to leave.”
Right throughout the current debate on around the in/out referendum there is one question that is being asked incessantly by the millions who are trying to decide how to cast their vote, and it is perhaps the one that the supporters of a positive case from immigration have found hardest to answer: just how did we manage to become a country of large-scale inward migration anyway?
The answer most frequently touted is that is has come about as the result of incompetence and poor judgement on the part of national politicians. According to this version of events at some point in the 1990s or thereabouts, someone in some ministry or another decided that that immigration was the simplest and most direct way to continue to grow the economy and went for it hell for leather.
In the end it turned out to be something of a comfortable victory for the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, in the race to be Mayor of London.
Over one million people voting for a candidate, who is the son of a Pakistani immigrant to the UK who worked as a bus driver. During the course of the election campaign Mr Khan was subjected to a barrage of criticism from his Conservative opponent with regard to his work as a human rights lawyer who has defended individuals accused of religious extremism in the past. His own convictions as a Muslim where equated with his professional work with the intention of creating the impression that his role as Mayor would present the capital city with security threats.
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.