- Created: Friday, 22 May 2009 11:17
- Written by Nicki Jameson
FRFI 173 June / July 2003
There is now a sinister consensus between all political parties and virtually every section of the media, that asylum-seekers and immigrants are to blame – for everything. Immigrants have always been used as a convenient scapegoat by the British ruling class, in order to deflect criticisms by the poor and working class about lack of homes, jobs and facilities. But now they are also being held responsible for crime, terrorism, disease, and, with no hint of irony, for the rise in popularity of fascist and racist parties and ideas. NICKI JAMESON reports.
On 19 May 2003 the front-page of rabid right-wing tabloid The Sun screamed ‘Asylum exposed – Sun man posing as refugee is smuggled into Britain...and gets free home, food and travel’. Disturbing as the widespread take-up of The Sun’s view is, the front-page headline of ‘liberal’ broadsheet The Observer a day earlier was far more frightening: ‘Immigrants “behind crime wave” – police’.
Chris Fox, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, (ACPO) told The Observer’s grovellingly uncritical political editor Kamal Ahmed how ‘mass migration has brought with it a whole new range and a whole new type of crime...Every time you get a new group you get more tension. The Eastern European, Afghanistan, Middle Eastern movement has had the most effect – it is such large numbers of people...this is a very small island...we have to be very careful how we let the mix develop.’ Xenophobia is now completely mainstream, and comparisons with the anti-Semitic propaganda of Nazi Germany have ceased to be exaggerated or ultra-left.
The latest wave of hysteria followed local election victories for the British National Party (BNP) and the publication of a Home Affairs Select Committee report into ‘Asylum Removals’. The announcement by David Blunkett on 22 May that the number of new asylum claims in the first quarter of this year was 32% down on the last quarter of 2002 has done nothing to change this. Instead it has whipped up a storm of its own, with the Tories loudly claiming Labour has fiddled the figures, artificially inflating the earlier numbers and not counting immigrants issued with work permits in the asylum statistics. All this is of course true, and some of it ridiculously obvious; however, it is also the case that the number of applicants has fallen because, as the government boasts, application is harder, access to welfare benefits has been further reduced and a so-called ‘white list’ is in operation, whereby applications from some countries are automatically rejected.
The Select Committee report on ‘Removals’ (forcible deportations) focussed on Home Office and Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) inefficiency. There is absolutely no doubt that the IND is indeed completely incompetent, with the victims, rather than the victors, of this incompetence, being people claiming asylum. But in the absence of the Home Office providing any remotely reliable statistical information about deportations, the Committee chose to rely instead on testimony from the highly dubious ‘independent think-tank’ Migration Watch UK.
MigrationWatch UK contends that, in addition to the numbers of those claiming asylum, 25,000 people enter Britain illegally per year without ever being detected, and that 35,000 visitors on student or other temporary visas overstay but do not claim asylum. They also claim that 90% of those who seek asylum in Britain succeed in remaining here, mostly illegally. They arrive at this figure by deducting the numbers of known removals from the numbers refused asylum, then adding back on to this sub-total all those granted asylum or exceptional leave to remain. They then add on an arbitrary number of dependants in order to arrive at this ‘statistic’.
It may be true that a significant number of people who are refused asylum manage to stay in Britain after their claims are rejected. But they should not in any way be confused, as is deliberately done by The Sun, MigrationWatch UK and the government, with those who receive state support while their claims are being processed. These failed refugees will not be receiving housing benefit or the pittance of food support given to dispersed would-be asylum seekers, they will be living entirely illegally, forced to work in the worst conditions for the least pay, constantly looking over their shoulders, for fear of identification, detention and deportation.
MigrationWatch UK is headed by Sir Andrew Green, a former Foreign Officer adviser on the Middle East. Its board includes a Christian fundamentalist, a supporter of the ‘Optimum Population Trust UK’, which campaigns for recognition that the UK’s sustainable population level is 30 million, and a professor of hepatology whose ‘chief concern is the increasing frequency of Hepatitis B, HIV and other infections due to failure to test immigrants from countries with high infection rates’.
The Select Committee warns that ‘unsustainable’ and ‘unchecked’ immigration to ‘developed countries’ could ‘overwhelm the capacity of the receiving country, leading inevitably to social unrest. It also could, and there are signs that this may already be happening, lead to a growing political backlash which will in turn lead to the election of extremist parties with extreme solutions.’
In FRFI 167 (June/July 2002) we wrote of the parliamentary debate on the Asylum and Immigration Bill: ‘All the parties agreed that the two biggest threats to British social cohesion were: 1) unwanted immigrants and 2) fascists. And they agreed that the best way to deal with the fascists was to restrict, ghettoise and expel the immigrants; thereby...reaffirming that racists don’t need to vote for the unpalatable face of the far right in order to express their views, as they can vote for any of the mainstream parties with precisely the same result. This tactic did not prevent the BNP from winning three [local council] seats in Burnley. On the contrary, it legitimised its racism in the eyes of disaffected white voters. A vote for the BNP wasn’t so extreme after all.’
A year later, with a total of 16 BNP councillors elected, and the extreme right parties no longer even make it to ‘twin-evil’ status in this debate – immigrants are now depicted as the main enemy, with unpalatable fascists reduced to an unwelcome and dangerous side effect.
Immigrants do not make racism. Nor, in reality, does the BNP, which merely feeds off it. The thugs and fascists of the BNP and other far-right parties are the unofficial expression of official policy. The existence of a climate in which vilifying and attacking immigrants is completely acceptable and respectable is entirely down to the parliamentary Labour Party, its wars, its laws, its supporters and its spokespersons in the media. The British government has just waged a one-sided war against the people of Iraq, and there are to be more wars, imperialist wars for global domination by the US and Britain.
And wars create refugees. It is no coincidence that the three areas cited by ACPO as creating mass immigration into Britain are the sites of the last three major imperialist onslaughts – the Middle East, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.
Imperialism exports capitalism by force and dominates oppressed peoples; racism is the domestic expression of imperialism. Those targeted by imperialism are the poor, the oppressed, the dispossessed of the world. They are under attack in their countries of origin and under attack when they flee and seek sanctuary within the belly of the imperialist beast.