- Created: Thursday, 01 June 2017 14:59
- Written by FRFI
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special
‘[The] figures prove that last year we deported someone every eight minutes – and we got our priorities straight.’ – Liam Byrne, Labour Immigration Minister, 2008
When last in government, between 1997 and 2010, Labour:
• Passed six repressive immigration acts;
• Introduced a Points Based System for non-EU migrants, with differential rights that privileged largely white migrants from other imperialist countries;
• Exploited migrant labour from Eastern Europe, placing restrictions on access to benefits and on where migrants could work;
• Created a forced dispersal system for asylum seekers, often housing them in appalling conditions, removing their right to work and placing them on a separate welfare system with poverty level benefits;
• Expanded immigration detention to over 3,000 places;
• Deported tens of thousands of people, many to war zones that were the direct result of British interventions, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 2017 Labour manifesto pays lip-service to ‘the historic contribution of immigrants … to our society and economy’ but then goes on to complain that ‘Contrary to the Conservative government’s rhetoric, they have not taken control of our borders or strengthened our security’, promising to recruit 1,000 new border guards to strengthen immigration enforcement.
Since becoming leader, Corbyn has made many statements calling for solidarity with migrants and refugees, but in practice Labour councils are implementing cuts that disproportionately affect ethnic minorities and are collaborating in immigration raids against rough sleepers. Labour refused to oppose the Conservative 2016 Immigration Act which increased racist controls in aspects of everyday life including health, employment, housing, opening bank accounts and driving a car. Andy Burnham, then Shadow Home Secretary, took the opportunity to boast how as Health Secretary he had restricted migrants’ access to the NHS. When the House of Lords tabled an amendment that would have increased asylum seekers’ right to work, every Labour MP abstained.
On 25 April Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer announced that if elected Labour will aim to enable migration for work but with no access to benefits – this is migration on the terms of capital, increasing pressure on migrants to accept work on whatever pay and conditions employers choose to offer or to leave Britain. Labour offers no opposition to racism – it is up to us to build real resistance.