Asylum and immigration: maximising Britain’s economy

Labour’s racist attacks on asylum seekers are set to intensify. The government intends to increase deportations (already 1,350 per month), detentions and use of ID cards and electronic tagging for all new adult asylum seekers. At the same time, 345,400 immigrants from Eastern Europe have been encouraged to enter Britain under temporary work permits since 1 May 2004. This ‘managed migration’ is now to be extended via a five-tier points system based on age, skills and qualifications to migrants from outside the EU, while asylum seekers are not allowed to work and deliberately driven into destitution.

Destitution as policy
Thousands of asylum seekers have been thrown into poverty. 1,600 Iraqi refugees in Yorkshire and Humberside have been denied Section 4 (‘hard case’) support (a room and £35 in food vouchers/week). In Leeds 250 single men were forcibly evicted and have ‘vanished’ into Britain’s cold winter (Yorkshire Evening Post 14 December 2005). Over 300 asylum seekers in Newcastle are homeless and surviving on charity; many have physical and mental illnesses. Even those who do receive ‘hard case’ support, including new mothers, are denied basic toiletries like nappies and sanitary products.

In December 2004, the government began piloting Section 9 of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, in Central/East London, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire. Under Section 9, families who have exhausted all their asylum appeals can have financial support and accommodation removed if they ‘fail to take reasonable steps’ to leave Britain. When inevitably they become destitute, their children can be taken into the care of social services. 116 families including 219 children, from African and Asian countries including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, were selected to take part in the pilot. A report by Refugee Action and the Refugee Council found that 35 families have disappeared, terrified their children will be taken away, and are now ‘without support, housing or access to health and welfare services’. 10% of the women were in late pregnancy; many families had serious physical and mental health problems for which they were not receiving adequate health care; 80% of the parents had mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and self-harming, which were made worse by the distress and panic caused by Section 9. Four children and babies have been taken into care, three families have been forced to sign up for ‘voluntary return’ and another 12 have taken steps to obtain travel documents, cooperating out of fear. The intention is clearly to intimidate, victimise and terrorise asylum seekers and by extension all immigrant communities.

Parasite opens its doors
Whilst clamping down on immigration of asylum seekers, Britain has been expanding its capacity to bring in migrants on temporary work permits. Britain was one of only three EU states to open its borders immediately to migrants from Eastern Europe, on the grounds that they would fill gaps in the labour market, said to number 600,000 jobs. Between May 2004 and December 2005 over 345,000 workers were registered, mostly (59%) from Poland, where unemployment is more than twice as high as the EU average, standing at 19.6% nationally and in some regions above 40%.

These workers do the hardest, dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, mostly in nursing, catering, agriculture and food processing, based mainly in London and East Anglia, with its concentration of agribusiness. They work on short-term contract jobs, earning as little as £4.50 an hour or less, are not allowed to bring their families with them, and must leave after four years.

On 7 March 2006 Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced a five-tier points system, allowing greedy British corporations to recruit from outside the EU. The new system will consolidate more than 80 existing work and study immigration schemes into five tiers:

1. Highly skilled individuals such as scientists or entrepreneurs, who will be the only group able to come to Britain without a job offer.
2. Skilled workers with a job offer such as nurses, teachers or engineers.
3. Low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages such as builders for a particular project.
4. Students.
5. ‘Youth mobility’ and temporary workers, such as working holidaymakers, musicians coming to perform, sportspeople coming to compete, volunteers or non-preaching religious workers. It will apply to those aged 18 to 30 and will allow them to stay for up to two years.

Britain has not spent a penny to pay for the training of any of these workers, whom Immigration Minister Tony McNulty says will make a ‘welcome contribution to our economy’. As ever, Britain’s racist asylum and immigration policies are dictated by the need to maintain the profits of British capitalism.
Charles Chinweizu

FRFI 190 April / May 2006


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