No vote for racists

There are those on the so-called left who argue that a vote for Labour is vital to keep the fascist BNP out. But it is a Labour government that is using the police to harass black people and Muslims, that is driving asylum seekers to destitution, incarcerating and deporting them. It is under Labour that black and Asian workers suffer far higher rates of unemployment and poverty than the white working class, poorer housing and worse educational outcomes.

The BNP demands the deportation of illegal immigrants and ‘foreign criminals’, financial incentives for immigrants to return to their country of origin and the rejection of the applications of asylum seekers who have passed through safe countries to get to Britain. The Labour government has made all of these demands law. In 2008 Immigration Minister Phil Woolas boasted the government was deporting one person every eight minutes.

Draconian immigration laws, accompanied by increasingly strident racism and hostility, are used to control asylum seekers, who are the victims of Britain’s imperialist wars and plunder, and regulate the supply of cheap migrant labour, encouraging temporary immigration when needed and expelling it when no longer required by capitalism.

When Labour came to office its job was to modify immigration policy to meet the immediate needs of British capital, restructuring the workforce to make it more flexible and – because more European – more white, a move that conveniently panders to the most racist sections of the electorate.

Racist immigration laws

Key parts of the agricultural and food processing industries depend on immigrant workers from the European Union who work in conditions of near servitude and are paid at poverty levels. As apprenticeships have dried up, so a shortage of skills has developed in certain trades, especially construction. Hundreds of thousands of East European workers have filled these as well as less skilled jobs. When there was a shortage of nurses and doctors to meet the requirements of the 2000 NHS Plan, Labour switched on the tap to allow in thousands of doctors from India and nurses and social workers from South Africa and Zimbabwe. The reserve army of labour has become international with the great advantage that the British economy has not born the cost of training the skilled immigrant labour it has imported – a particular expression of parasitism.

Until 2008 there was a variety of routes through which immigrant labour could gain access to jobs in Britain. Now the government has replaced this with a single points-based system for non-EU migrants which rates all immigrants according to their age, qualifications and skills and experience, and directs them to specific sectors of the British economy. Workers from the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe are managed through the Workers’ Registration Scheme; although generally highly educated, such workers are overwhelmingly (80%) employed in unskilled jobs. For the first year they have limited rights to benefits; if they are from Bulgaria and Romania their right to work is also limited.

Racist asylum policy

The Labour government has become ever more repressive and brutal towards those migrants, overwhelmingly black, fleeing the devastation created by imperialist war. Labour has:

  • fought to prevent asylum seekers from coming to Britain in the first place, and expelled those who do make it as quickly as possible;
  • constantly increased the powers of immigration officers to arrest, detain, search and seize property, whilst reducing rights to legal advice or appeal;
  • made it illegal (since 2002) for asylum seekers to work and then kept them in destitution, withdrawing benefits from those who do not lodge their asylum claims on arrival;
  • denied failed asylum seekers the right to any support unless they agree to ‘voluntary return’. It was estimated that 283,500 failed asylum seekers were living homeless in Britain in 2008.
  • expanded Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) and Short Term Holding Facilities so that they had 3,105 places in April 2009;
  • detained hundreds of children in IRCs, sometimes for months on end, in breach of international treaties on children’s rights;
  • implemented the New Asylum Model, a ‘fast-track’ system which gives asylum seekers 11 days to make their case.

In March 2009, then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stated: ‘The message is clear – whether you’re a visa overstayer, a foreign criminal or a failed asylum seeker, the UK Border Agency is determined to track you down and remove you from Britain.’ The BNP could hardly express it better.

FRFI 214 April / May 2010


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