Blogs by Don Flynn
How does a government deal with bad news that isn’t really such bad news?
That was the dilemma facing the spokespeople of the coalition parties last Thursday when they confronted the fact that the declared objective of driving net immigration down below the 100,000 a year mark had failed not just badly, but spectacularly badly.
The ONS statistics revealed a headline figure showing that there were 298,000 more people in the UK in September 2014 that there had been 12 months previously. There will be no more figures on this subject to argue over between polling day so the very firm conclusion is that prime minister David Cameron has failed to deliver on his famous ‘no ifs, no buts’ pledge.
One of the issues that advocates of the rights of migrants have to deal with in their discussions with people active in the mainstream of politics is the important question of migration and its impacts on equality.
The accusation against migration is that it is one of the weapons that the political and economic elites have used to erode the welfare and security standards which citizens have gained for themselves over the course of generations of social advance. This progress has been embodied in an implicit social contract which is rooted in the shared experiences of a community which is explicitly national in character.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that let you know how deep is the ordure in which we all find ourselves.
An example of this hit me late last week when I found myself looking on the internet for the Home Office form that has to be used by any EU national or member of their family who wants to apply for a permanent residence card certifying their right to remain in the UK for the indefinite future.
The rules on who is entitled to be issued with one of these cards is very simple: basically you need to demonstrate that you have resided in the UK in accordance with something called the EEA Regulations. In my days as a legal caseworker the procedure was so straightforward that you could do it without using an application form at all: a simple letter to the Home Office setting out facts that showed you had complied with the law plus around three items of documentary evidence of one sort or another were sufficient to do the job.
Europe’s efforts to address what is so often presented as an immigration crisis at its external borders continue to push and pull is various contrary directions.
At some points the European Union likes to emphasis its capacity to enforce the policing and management of movement across borders, but at others the maintenance of the continent’s reputation as a region of human rights.
It shouldn’t be doubted that it takes both of these roles seriously and continues to hold out the hope that, through dialogue and negotiation, a way will be found which allows border and immigration controls to be squared with fair treatment and a degree of justice for those who are seeking entry to the countries which are a part of the Union.
The public debate on immigration often resembles a fight between a couple of heavyweight sluggers well into the later rounds of their bout, battered and staggering around, but neither able to land the knockout blow on the other.