Simon Parker cached version 16/10/2018 15:07:34 en Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a carefully coded speech, the UK Prime Minister categorises people on the move as “threats that we face” alongside war and global terrorism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Survivors and relatives of the victims of the Lampedusa shipwrecks of 3 & 11 October 2013 mark the second anniversary of the tragedy (S. Parker)</span></span></span></p><p>The so-called Mediterranean migration crisis has focussed Western attention on the desperate lengths that people fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty will go to in search of a chance of survival. But those arriving in Europe since the start of 2015 still only account for less than 2.5% of the world’s forcibly displaced population, and only 1 in 500 of the population of the European Union. Of the 4.8 million refugees who have fled Syria since the conflict began, the United Kingdom has agreed to take just 4,000 vulnerable persons per year over five years from refugee camps in the countries surrounding Syria. But many UK local authorities, particularly in London, are refusing to offer sanctuary to any refugees under the vulnerable persons scheme.</p> <p>The Lord <a href="">Dubs Amendment</a> in the 2016 Immigration Act allowing for an unspecified number of unaccompanied children to be brought to the UK at the request of local authorities has yet to see any progress according to <a href="">Citizens UK</a>. Meanwhile tragedies continue unabated including that of a <a href="">14-year-old Afghan boy</a> who, desperate to join his family in Britain and having lost all hope of legal re-unification, fell from the roof of a lorry and died in a hit and run accident in Calais. His was the 13th fatality at the port this year where UK taxpayers’ money is contributing to the construction of a <a href="">4m high barrier</a> that will extend a further 1km along the approach road to the ferry terminal with the single purpose of preventing “illegal entry” into the UK.</p><h2>50 million children</h2> <p>As delegates gathered for the first&nbsp;<span>United Nations General Assembly Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants</span>&nbsp;in New York last week, UNICEF drew attention to the fact that of the 50 million children around the world who have been uprooted from their homes, 28 million have been forced to flee as a result of conflicts. UNICEF’s new report,&nbsp;<span>Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Migrant and Refugee Children</span>&nbsp;highlights the fact that children make up a growing and disproportionate number of the world’s forcibly displaced people, which is estimated to have reached 65 million —&nbsp;equivalent to the population of the entire United Kingdom.</p> <p>When Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the <a href="">UN Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants</a> last week (20 September) she framed “mass movements of people” as “threats” to be countered, alongside war, global terrorism and climate change.&nbsp; She sidestepped the <a href="">New York Declaration</a>’s commitment to “achieving a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees” by insisting that the burden of hosting refugees should be entirely shouldered by the first “safe country” into which a refugee or migrant stepped —&nbsp;and preferably one a long way away from the white cliffs of Dover.&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to ensure better “managed migration”, Prime Minister May insisted, “we need to improve the ways we distinguish between refugees fleeing persecution and economic migrants” by ensuring “the existing convention and protocol are properly applied to provide protection to refugees and reduce the incentives for economic migrants to use illegal routes”. This distinction is of little interest to smugglers for whom the absence of safe and legal routes has been a lucrative gold mine since the “war on terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq gave way to the human catastrophe of the Libyan and Syrian conflicts, while violence, persecution and poverty continues to draw forced migrants from the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa—an increasing number of whom are child victims of <a href="">trafficking</a> (more than 1 in 4 of all cases according to the <a href="">International Office of Migration</a> (IOM)).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="// OF EUROPE.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&#039;Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D&#039;Europa&#039;"><img src="// OF EUROPE.jpeg" alt="" title="&#039;Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D&#039;Europa&#039;" width="400" height="600" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Porta di Lampedusa-Porta D'Europa' memorial by Mimmo Paladino (Simon Parker)</span></span></span></p> <p>Against the backdrop of a UN convulsed with the seemingly intractable tragedy of the war in Syria, Theresa May’s was a carefully coded speech sprinkled with encouraging notes about rejecting “isolationism and xenophobia” (as if the recent Brexit vote had nothing to do with that same toxic cocktail) and tackling “modern slavery”, while committing billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to support education provision and to combat gender violence. Yet the consistent underlying theme of May’s address was the insistence that the forcibly displaced can only call on our collective consciences remotely. For the West to act otherwise is to encourage the spread of organised crime, terrorism and racist and xenophobic extremism.</p> <p>It is surprising therefore that even in the face of growing <a href="">opposition from German voters</a> and&nbsp;<span>rising support for anti-immigrant parties</span> Theresa May’s fellow conservative, Chancellor Angela Merkel (who&nbsp;<span>grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall)</span><span>&nbsp;has pledged to admit a further 300,000 refugees this year on top of the 1 million welcomed in 2015.</span></p><p>Merkel’s aversion to state security barriers is clearly not shared by fellow leaders of the European Union whose member states continue to build border fences and to deny safe and legal routes for those seeking to escape from North Africa and Turkey to Europe. Instead the European Union has favoured refugee ‘hold back’ and maritime interdiction agreements in return for financial donations to countries such as <a href="">Turkey</a> and most recently <a href="">Libya</a>, which have been heavily criticised by <span>Amnesty International</span>&nbsp;for failing to respect fundamental human rights and the rights of refugees.</p> <p>These agreements have done nothing to stop the rising death toll in the Mediterranean, however. Despite a relative fall in the numbers attempting the Mediterranean crossing, the <a href="">International Office of Migration</a> reported 37% more migrant deaths during the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.</p> <h2>Dangerous inflatables</h2><p>Part of the explanation relates to changing smuggler practices and a shift to smaller plastic dinghies on the central Mediterranean route that are unsuitable for long journeys, with several craft often leaving from different parts of the Libyan coast at the same time, making search and rescue very challenging. The increasing use of dangerous inflatables is also a direct consequence of the switch in the European Union’s priorities after the end of the&nbsp;‘Mare Nostrum’ operation in 2014 from search and rescue to anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking.&nbsp;</p> <p>EUNAVFOR-MED is the EU’s military based task force whose <span>core mandate</span>&nbsp;is “to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers”. In practice, EUNAVFOR-MED vessels are also regularly deployed to undertake search and rescue activities when requested to do so, but an increasing number of rescues are carried out by non-state humanitarian organisations including&nbsp;<span>MSF</span>&nbsp;and most recently&nbsp;<span>Save the Children</span>&nbsp;with the assistance of the&nbsp;<span>Italian Coast Guard</span> as well as by commercial vessels less equipped to undertake search and rescue.</p> <p>The consequence of blocking safe passage has not been to halt the flow, but rather to force refugees to attempt riskier routes that are not routinely patrolled by rescue vessels. On Friday 23 September, reports confirmed that an overcrowded refugee boat had sunk off the coast of Egypt claiming at least 300 lives including 10 women and a baby. As many as 150 other bodies are thought to have either sunk with the vessel or have been washed away and may never be recovered. <a href="">This fresh tragedy</a> will evoke bitter memories for the survivors of the notorious shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, which claimed 368 lives. The survivors and the families of the victims are gathering once again on the tiny Sicilian island to <a href="">commemorate the anniversary</a> which has become more famous for its tireless search and rescue activity and its EU funded ‘hotspot’ detention centre – evocatively captured in Gianfranco Rosi’s haunting film ‘<a href="">Fire at Sea’</a> – than for its limpid waters and award winning beaches.</p> <p>While constituting only a small fraction of the world’s displaced population, the Mediterranean region accounted for 78% of all the recorded migrant deaths and disappearances globally in 2016. This unusually risky transit zone presents a particular danger to children who make up 28% of all forced migrants heading for Europe. Unfortunately 3-year old Alan Kurdi’s death was far from an isolated case, with <a href="">children constituting 30% of all fatalities at sea</a> in 2015.</p> <h2>Forced labour, prostitution</h2><p>However, as I argued in a recent contribution to UNICEF’s Research Watch special&nbsp;<span>Children on the Move</span>, the problems that migrant children face do not end when they reach the relative safety of Europe’s shore. Many children who have become separated from their families or who are forced to travel alone are subject to mistreatment and exploitation, while some are trafficked into forced labour or prostitution. NGO officials and volunteers we interviewed for our Economic and Social Research Council’s <span>Mediterranean Migration Research Programme</span>&nbsp;project&nbsp;–&nbsp;<span>Precarious Trajectories: Understanding the Human Cost of the Migrant Crisis in the Central Mediterranean</span> * also pointed to the increasing psychological trauma that children face as a consequence of being held in EU designated ‘hotspot’ reception centres.&nbsp;</p><p>Children can be confined for several weeks or months in inadequate conditions, often with adults or in mixed sex accommodation where they can be exposed to scenes of violence and mistreatment. Even worse conditions face the hundreds of children forced to sleep rough in train stations or abandoned buildings in the cities of Europe or in the inhumane surroundings of ‘<span>the jungle</span>’ near Calais.&nbsp;</p><p>For these most vulnerable children, education provision is often haphazard or non-existent and it is not unusual for local state schools to refuse admission to refugee children and for social services not to intervene on behalf of unaccompanied minors —leaving welfare and advocacy support almost entirely to self-funding independent volunteers and charities.</p> <p>When children are forced to make perilous journeys to escape danger, we need governments to join forces with civil society organisations to ensure their safety and well-being. The UN Summit and President Obama’s World Leaders’ Summit offered an important opportunity to remind the world that no-one chooses to be a refugee and that those least able to protect themselves--especially children travelling alone—deserve our love, care and protection. The UNICEF message that children on the move are not refugee children, not migrant children, they’re #childrenfirst is one that needs to echo around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>* Precarious Trajectories: Voices from the Mediterranean Migrant Crisis – the documentary film of the research project — will be showing as part of the <a href="">World Transformed</a> festival in Liverpool in association with <a href="">Global Justice Now</a> at the Black-E Community Arts Centre 11.00 on Sunday 25 September. Free entry and all welcome. Details <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/maurice-stierl-john-akomfrah/video-john-akomfrah-on-sea-migration-bor">Video: John Akomfrah on sea-migration, borders, and art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/lampedusa-never-again">Lampedusa: Never again</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/glenda-garelli-martina-tazzioli/eu-hotspot-approach-at-lampedusa">The EU hotspot approach at Lampedusa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruben-andersson/mare-nostrum-and-migrant-deaths-humanitarian-paradox-at-europe%E2%80%99s-frontiers">Mare Nostrum and migrant deaths: the humanitarian paradox at Europe’s frontiers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leanne-weber/death-at-global-frontier">Death at the global frontier </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/tribunal-12-migrants%E2%80%99-rights-abuses-in-europe">Tribunal 12: migrants’ rights abuses in Europe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move Simon Parker Sat, 24 Sep 2016 19:18:48 +0000 Simon Parker 105563 at The politics of death: hunger strikes, Isa Muazu and the deepening inhumanity of the British State <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A Nigerian asylum seeker has been on hunger strike in a UK detention centre for more than 90 days.&nbsp;The British Home Office has drawn up an 'end of life plan' and made arrangements to deport him early on Friday morning.&nbsp;An important line has been crossed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>More than 32 years ago in a United Kingdom detention facility, a prisoner died after 66 days on hunger strike. Bobby Sands’ demand along with that of his fellow hunger strikers was to be recognised as political prisoners and to be allowed to wear their own clothes, to freely associate within jail, and not to be forced to do prison work.</p> <p>The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was unbending in her refusal to make any concessions to the hunger strikers. Despite appeals from John Hume, the SDLP leader who was later jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Prime Minister would not allow Bobby Sands (who had been <a href="">elected a Westminster MP</a>) to use the ‘choice’ of suicide to force political concessions. Nine more Provisional IRA prisoners were to follow Bobby Sands to their graves.</p> <p>As the mother of Joe McDonnell, one of the hunger strikers, told the Boston Globe’s <a href="">Kevin Cullen</a> several years later, “Criminals don’t starve themselves to death to make a point.” </p> <p>But despite her 'Iron Lady' public image, privately it appears Mrs Thatcher had a certain admiration for Bobby Sands and his fellow hunger strikers. According to personal papers that feature in Charles Moore’s biography of the late Lady Thatcher, she at least saw the hunger strikers as victims of a system over which they had little or no control—“You have to hand it to some of these IRA boys," Thatcher observed, describing them as “poor devils” because “if they didn’t go on strike they’d be shot [by their own side]…What a waste! What a terrible waste of human life!”<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a></p> <p>&nbsp;Home Secretary Theresa May told the <a href="">Daily Telegraph</a> earlier this year that she intended “to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration”. After four near-death hunger strikers had been released from Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre in June, that hostility has certainly arrived, and there has been a noticeable hardening of Home Office policy towards those who continue to refuse food in detention.</p> <p>Isa Muazu, a Nigerian national, entered the UK on a valid visa in 2007, but decided to remain in the UK fearing an attack by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram, whom Muazu claimed had killed several of his relatives. After seeking asylum he was put in fast track detention, and like 99 per cent of other fast track detainees Muazu’s claim was immediately rejected.</p> <p>Soon after arriving at Harmondsworth, (run by the private outsourcer GEO), near Heathrow, Muazu complained that the highly processed food served to detainees was worsening his pre-existing medical conditions—including hepatitis B, kidney problems and stomach ulcers —and that he could not eat it. He was told by detention staff to stop acting like a child.</p> <p>As Muazu’s physical and mental health deteriorated doctors declared him medically unfit for detention, but the Home Office refused to release him. Following legal challenges, the High Court and the Court of Appeal declared Muazu’s detention lawful and that the Home Office had the right to remove a man who its own staff accepted was close to death and for whom an ‘end of life plan’ had been drawn up.</p> <p>Suicide by self-starvation has not occurred in a Home Office detention facility since the Maze hunger strike deaths of 1981. Bobby Sands and his fellow hunger strikers were members of a paramilitary organisation that considered itself at war with an occupying colonialist state. </p> <p>Whatever the merits of Muazu’s asylum case it is clear that he is not and has never been a threat to the British government. Indeed Muazu has not been convicted of any crime. After nearly 100 days without food, he has great difficulty walking or seeing and he cannot take food or water normally. During a recent visit he told <a href="">Vice Magazine’s</a> Simon Childs and Lord Roberts of Llandudno who has started an <a href="">e-petition</a> for Isa’s release:</p><blockquote><p>"I feel devastated. I’d rather die than go back. If they can take my body and bury it, that would be the only thing. I’m not going back, I’m telling you. There’s nothing there for me."</p></blockquote> <p>The Home Office ‘end of life plan’ consists in allowing Isa to die, alone, in pain and discomfort on a mattress on the floor of his single room.</p> <p>So why is Theresa May intent on taking an even harder line on hunger striking refused asylum seekers than Thatcher’s Cabinet took against convicted members of the Provisional IRA?</p> <p>May’s promise to create a really hostile environment for irregular (‘illegal’) migrants can be seen as the coalition government’s response to what the ultra-conservative American military strategist William Lind refers to as “Fourth Generation war” (4GW), where “invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army.”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> The mass incarceration of captured enemy combatants is a necessary feature of conventional war. In Europe’s largest detention estate it has rapidly become a feature of British 4GW, where only an executive order from a minister of the crown can secure the release of a hunger striker. Along with destitution, homelessness, and the denial of medical treatment—punitive, exemplary detention, even unto death, is regarded as a precious weapon in the United Kingdom’s anti-immigration armoury.</p> <p>Like Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay a significant number of UK immigration detainees are being held indefinitely since there is no prospect of returning them to their countries of origin. Over a hundred of GITMO’s inmates including the Saudi born British national <a href="">Shaker Aamer</a> have also used hunger strikes to protest against their indefinite imprisonment and the humiliating conditions they are kept under. The response of the American military has been to use force-feeding to prevent the jihadist propaganda value of any would be Guantanamo martyrs. The response of the British Home Secretary, by contrast, has been to seek Muazu’s rapid expulsion while failing to do anything to prevent him from dying in detention.</p> <p>Despite the <a href="">strongly critical coroner’s report</a> in the case of the unlawfully killed Angolan asylum seeker, Jimmy Mubenga, returnees continue to complain of mistreatment, the inappropriate use of force and misogynist and racist verbal <a href="">abuse by escorts</a> [PDF]. In other words the criminalization of those in immigration detention or facing removal is approaching and in some cases exceeding the abjection and stigmatization to which prisoners convicted of terrorist offences were subject in the 1980s.</p> <p>Over a hundred NGOs, actors and lawyers have written to <em>The Guardian</em> to demand Isa Muazu’s release. In <a href="">the letter</a>, the signatories (including this author on behalf of End Child Detention Now) wrote:</p><blockquote><p>"We are extremely concerned that Isa may die as a result of a hardened stance being taken towards migrants in the UK. We urgently call for clemency in this case. We ask that the Home Secretary reconsider Isa's case and act quickly to release him in the UK, so that another death in immigration detention can be avoided."</p></blockquote> <p>However, in contrast to the H-Block Hunger strikes, where the world’s broadcasters were camped outside the Maze prison for several weeks, the media coverage of Isa Muazu’s case has been barely visible.&nbsp;</p> <p>As I write, Isa Muazu is due to be removed at 08.00 tomorrow (Friday 29 November) on a private charter flight to Abuja operated by Air Charter Scotland Ltd, flight number EDC684. Details of how to send a no fly request to the airline and how to contact the Home Office and your MP can be found <a href="">here</a> courtesy of Glasgow Unity Centre. A well-attended candle lit vigil took place this evening outside the Home Office in London. One banner reads: ‘Theresa May: Blood on Your Hands’.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a> Gordon Rayner, ‘Margaret Thatcher's secret admiration for IRA hunger strikers’, Daily Telegraph, 23 April 2013.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[2]</a> Steve Graham, ‘When Life Itself is War: On the Urbanization of Military and Security Doctrine’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 36, Issue 1, pages 136–155, January 2012.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/british-government-hires-private-jet-to-deport-hunger-striker-isa-muazu">British government hires private jet to deport hunger-striker Isa Muazu</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/kate-blagojevic/when-penalty-for-overstaying-your-visa-is-death">When the penalty for overstaying your visa is death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/isa-muazu-hunger-striker-and-us-monster">Isa Muazu, the hunger striker and us, the monster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/sending-people-back-to-be-killed-todays-london-to-colombo-flight-of-failed-r">&#039;Sending people back to be killed&#039;: Today&#039;s London to Colombo flight of failed refugees</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Shine A Light Simon Parker Thu, 28 Nov 2013 23:10:53 +0000 Simon Parker 77430 at A Greek tragedy on the London stage: the City, the Eurozone crisis and an urban dark age to come <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>Capitalist perpetrators of the crash are intent on using the opportunity provided by austerity to divert political and economic power to compliant nation states and emergent para-sovereign bodies, such as the EU Troika, that operate outside the constraints of democratic control and public accountability.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="" alt="" width="460" /><br /><em>Greek public sector workers strike at wage cut announcement. Demotix/Stathis Kalligeris. All rights reserved.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote>&ldquo;Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;<br /> Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine!&#8232;<br /> Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor&rsquo;d; <br />Light dies before thy uncreating word: <br />Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall; <br />And Universal Darkness buries All. <br />Finis.&rdquo; </blockquote> <p>Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, Book 4 (1743).</p> <p>The financial crash of 2007-8 that saw trillions of dollars wiped off the value of pensions, savings, stocks and national income accounts had its origins in the <a href="">sub-prime mortgage market in the United States [pdf]</a> and the obscure financial instruments by which these default-prone loans were subsequently parcelled up and traded. </p><p> Low-income people in poor urban neighbourhoods trying to keep a roof over their heads became the last El Dorado for an unregulated international credit industry that took in institutional prospectors from Iceland to Hong Kong.</p><p>The commodification of property&mdash;or what David Harvey refers to as &lsquo;the secondary circuit of capital&rsquo;&mdash;is the alpha and omega of the worst global economic crisis in living memory. &lsquo;Urbanisation&rsquo;, as <a href="">Harvey</a> observes, &lsquo;is a field for the deployment of capital, and in particular surplus capital&rsquo;. Everyone, but especially the urban poor and the growing global army conventionally referred to as &lsquo;the precariat&rsquo;, will live with its damaging effects for decades to come.</p><p>As Harvey also explains, cities have provided the <a href="">key sites of resistance</a> to the depredations of the world economy and the global environment by a self-serving governing, financial and corporate elite. </p> <p>From the Paris Commune to the Occupy movement, from the <em>indignados</em> of Spain and the protesters of Syntagma square in Greece, from the summer riots in England in 2011 and Sweden in May 2013 and more recently to the mass urban protests of June 2013 in Turkey and July in Brazil&mdash;dissent and contestation is once more finding its voice in the public spaces of the world&rsquo;s urban centres. </p> <p>These protesters are clear that the roots of the crisis lie not in a failure of financial self regulation but in capitalism&rsquo;s complete decoupling of the economic from the social, and the hyper-concentration of the world&rsquo;s wealth into the hands of a very small but astonishingly powerful number of states, banks, transnational corporations and super-rich investors. </p> <p>Over the past 30 years or so, democratic controls on the operation of global financial markets and over how businesses can ethically trade and operate have all but disappeared. At the same time the distinction between &lsquo;public&rsquo; and &lsquo;private&rsquo; in terms of government-business relations has largely been eroded, and with respect to the relationship between financial and political elites it has become entirely meaningless. </p> <p>Set against the increasingly fragile economies of cities around the world is the financial colossus that resides within the municipality appropriately known as &lsquo;the Corporation of London&rsquo;. As the novelist and author John Lanchester reminds us, &lsquo;The City is collectively astonishingly wealthy. It earns 19 per cent of Britain&rsquo;s GDP.&rsquo; That means 1 pound in every 5 of Britain&rsquo;s national net wealth is made within the square mile of the City of London&mdash;the smallest and richest Treasure Island in the world. In 2008, the year that Lehman Brothers collapsed, City financiers awarded themselves &pound;19 billion in bonuses.<a href="#_edn1">[i]</a> </p> <p>City bonuses fell to a more modest &pound;13 billion pounds in 2012&mdash;but this is still more than four times what the government expects to receive from the sale of the UK&rsquo;s last remaining public asset&mdash;the&nbsp; Royal Mail. The consequences remain, however, &lsquo;almost entirely toxic&rsquo;. &lsquo;City money&rsquo;, writes Lanchester, &lsquo;is strangling London life&rsquo;. But the toxic effect of The City and its financial institutions are not limited to the super inflated London property bubble, its tentacles spread from the mean streets of Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland to the debt burdened finance ministries of Dublin, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome and Athens.</p> <p>At the centre of most of the dubious financial transactions that fuelled the City&rsquo;s high octane bonus culture was Goldman Sachs&mdash;euphemistically known in financial circles as &lsquo;Government Sachs&rsquo; because of its revolving door relationship with key central bankers, including the recently appointed Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and senior national and intergovernmental policy makers including former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. </p> <p>Goldmans played a key role in the promotion of cross-currency swaps in which a government would issues debt priced in, for example, dollars and yen that are then converted into euros and then swapped back into the original currencies at some future date.&nbsp; In 2001-2002 Goldman Sachs&rsquo; London team were involved in a secret and complex deal with the Greek government that in effect allowed $10 billion worth of debt swaps to be hidden from the national balance sheet. Goldmans made a huge profit from the inflated transaction fees in putting together the derivate. <a href="">Christoforos Sardelis</a>, the head of Greece&rsquo;s Public Debt Management Agency, said Greece &lsquo;didn&rsquo;t understand what it was buying and was ill-equipped to judge the risks or costs&rsquo;. Nevertheless one very beneficial outcome of the deal was to create the impression that Greece was reducing its public debt liabilities, whereas thanks to an estimated &euro;2.3 billion loss on the Goldmans swap it was racking up even more debt. By 2003, Standard and Poor was so impressed by Greece&rsquo;s illusionary debt management policy that it upgraded the country&rsquo;s debt rating from A to A+.</p> <h2>Save the banks</h2> <p>Six years later it had become clear that with a debt in excess of &euro;300 billion, Greece could no longer service its debt repayments and S&amp;P moved to downgrade Greek debt to <a href="">junk bond status</a>. In 2010 the EU discovered the scale of the public accounting discrepancy that the Greek government with the aid of Goldman Sachs had been able to conceal. The reported 2009 budget deficit of 3.7 per cent turned out eventually to be 13.6 per cent&mdash;more than four times higher than the limit allowed by EU rules. Eventually, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou was forced to agree to a bail-out and a Troika comprising the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund effectively took command of the Greek economy. </p> <p>The key EU negotiators of the Greek &lsquo;rescue package&rsquo; included Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank and an ex senior Goldman Sachs partner and fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former President of the Eurogroup of EU Finance Ministers. As Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Juncker understands the requirements of international financial investors and the need to protect their assets from prying eyes and unwarranted tax demands. His country has some of the most secretive banking laws in Europe and during the 2000s Luxembourg&rsquo;s financial institutions carried assets worth in excess of 2,600 per cent of GDP (the highest figure for Greece was 206 per cent).&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi, Juncker was instrumental in imposing the bail out and the accompanying painful public expenditure reductions that were designed to prevent Greek banks and the Greek state from defaulting&mdash;thus ensuring that the Greek population and not foreign investors would endure the &lsquo;hair cut&rsquo;. </p> <p>Since the crash in 2007:</p> <ul><li>- Greece&rsquo;s deficit has grown from 6.8 per cent of GDP to 15.6 per cent in 2009 and falling to only 9.2 per cent in 2011. </li></ul><p>- The Greek economy has shrunk from a real GDP growth rate of 3 per cent in 2007 to ever increasing contractions in the subsequent austerity years of -0.2 per cent, -3.2 per cent,-3.5 per cent and -6.9 per cent in 2011.</p> <ul><li>- From 2004 to 2009 average wages grew from between 2 and 7 per cent per annum, in 2010 salaries fell by 3.8 per cent and in 2011 by 4.7 per cent.</li></ul><ul><li>- Household disposable income growth fell from 9.4 per cent in 2007 to minus 10.3 per cent in 2010.</li></ul><ul><li>- Unemployment, which had been 7.7 per cent in 2008 climbed to 17.7 per cent in 2011 and is currently running at 27 per cent.&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>- Nearly two-thirds of under-25 year olds in Greece are without work.</li></ul><p>Recognising that the greatest share of the austerity measures had fallen on pensioners, those with low incomes and the unemployed, the IMF wrote something of a <em>mea culpa</em> in its &lsquo;ex post evaluation&rsquo; of the Exception Access Agreement for the Greek government in June 2013:</p> <blockquote><p>There are also political economy lessons to be learned. Greece&rsquo;s recent experience demonstrates the <strong>importance of spreading the <em>burden of adjustment </em>across different strata of society</strong> <strong>in order to build support for a program</strong>. The obstacles encountered in implementing reforms also illustrate the critical importance of ownership of a program, a lesson that is common to the findings of many previous EPEs (ex-post evaluations) (my emphasis).&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>But Christine Lagarde&rsquo;s evaluators saved their harshest criticisms for the IMF&rsquo;s European partners:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>the EC tended to draw up policy positions by consensus, had enjoyed <strong><em>limited success with implementing conditionality under the Stability and Growth Pact</em></strong>, and had <strong><em>no experience with crisis management</em></strong>. The Fund&rsquo;s program experience and ability to move rapidly in formulating policy recommendations were skills that the European institutions lacked (my emphasis).&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Unsurprisingly this was a position that the European Commission rejected. A Commission spokesman told <a href=""><em>The Daily Telegraph</em></a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>We fundamentally disagree. With hindsight we can go back and say in an ideal world what should have been done differently. The circumstances were what they were. I think the Commission did its best in an unprecedented situation. We tend to forget that when the discussions were taking place the situation was much, much worse. The fear of contagion and the high volatility&hellip;&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Juncker was rather more conciliatory, claiming that the EU was &lsquo;overly optimistic&rsquo; in the early stages of the &euro;240 billion bail out operation&mdash;not about the effectiveness of the austerity package but about the Greek government&rsquo;s readiness to engage in deep public sector cuts early enough. There were no apologies, however, for forcing the leader of PASOK into a humiliating repudiation of his party&rsquo;s social democratic values and political past&mdash;however corrupt and self-serving its hold on power had undoubtedly become. In his endorsement of the European Financial Stability Facility for Greece, George Papandreou wrote:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>We support the ambitious privatization and public asset development plan under the program&hellip;our Party has decided and supports the deep structural reforms in the labor, product, and service markets. The agreed adjustment of labor market parameters have been taken in order to give a strong upfront impetus to unit labor cost reductions and promote employment and economic activity [sic].&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>European decisions that will continue to enhance the effectiveness of the wider firewall, calm the international bond markets, and oversee the European and global financial system in areas such as rating agencies, will be crucial for the effectiveness in similar programs. [<a href="">PDF</a>]</p></blockquote> <p>Despite the fact that well over 60 per cent of the Greek people oppose the scale and severity of the austerity measures&mdash;privatisations, fire sales of government assets, wage reductions, increased taxes, pensions cuts and public service reductions (including the switching off of the national state TV and radio network) are all seen as essential by the Troika and the current coalition in order to reassure the world&rsquo;s bond markets that the sick man of Europe is continuing to take the extremely nasty medicine.&nbsp;</p> <h2>It&rsquo;s politics, stupid&hellip;&nbsp;</h2> <p>However, a report by J.P. Morgan<a href="#_edn2">[ii]</a> explains what investment banks and their political allies in Northern Europe really thought the roots of Southern Europe&rsquo;s debt crisis were:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>At the start of the crisis, it was generally assumed that the national legacy problems were economic in nature. But, as the crisis has evolved, it has become apparent that there are deep seated political problems in the periphery, which, in our view, need to change if EMU is going to function properly in the long run.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The political systems in the periphery were established in the aftermath of dictatorship, and were defined by that experience. Constitutions tend to show a strong socialist influence, reflecting the political strength that left wing parties gained after the defeat of fascism.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Here we have a frank admission that the very principles of social solidarity and democratic advance which the European Community&rsquo;s founding fathers&mdash;Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman hoped would banish Nazism and Fascism for ever&mdash;are identified as a major obstacle to the imposition of the type of financial and labour force discipline required by &lsquo;self-regulating markets&rsquo; in the southern Eurozone:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>Political systems around the periphery typically display several of the following features: weak executives; weak central states relative to regions; constitutional protection of labor rights; consensus building systems which foster political clientalism; and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The shortcomings of this political legacy have been revealed by the crisis. Countries around the periphery have only been partially successful in producing fiscal and economic reform agendas, with governments constrained by constitutions<span> </span>(Portugal), powerful regions<span> </span>(Spain), and the rise of populist parties (Italy and Greece).</p></blockquote> <p>Since the end of the dictatorships, not only have Europe&rsquo;s Mediterranean governments failed to stand up to the demos and organized labour, and to silence protests against austerity and inequality, but there has been a lamentable decentralization of power to regions and cities where local citizens are more emboldened to demand control of the economic system and the institutions involved in its reproduction. The strategy of the J.P. Morgan doctrine&mdash;and there is reason to believe it is widely shared among the chief negotiators of the Troika&mdash;is to stockade all economic and political power at the level of the nation state, the better to apply &lsquo;post democratic&rsquo; shock doctrine to the extremities of neoliberal-resistant Euroland.</p> <h2>A new urban dark age</h2> <p>One of the most visible consequences of the devolved austerity of the on going financial crisis is that cities around the world are literally being switched off. Civic leaders across the United States and Europe no longer have the money even to keep streetlights on all night. Throughout most of July, the Greek Central Union of Municipalities decided to suspend all municipal services because the central government has committed itself to sacking 15,000 public sector employees by the end of 2014 and to transferring another 12,500 to new positions this year. </p> <p>Under the instructions of the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Sch&auml;uble and the Troika, the Greek <a href="">parliament passed the bill</a> by all of 3 votes in the face of angry protests. But as the uneven geography of the new austerity intensifies we can expect to see more allied municipal and regional contestations of this nature. The keenly fought battle over an independent Scotland, and the recent speech by the leader of Plaid Cymru, <a href="">Lean Wood</a>, on the need for a national-regional alliance as a counter-balance to the economic strangle-hold of the City of London, are examples of a more assertive territorial politics in the context of the UK which are beginning to find echoes in England&rsquo;s cities and regions, as <a href="">Alan Harding</a> pointed out in his keynote lecture to the University of York&rsquo;s Centre for Urban Research&rsquo;s <em>Post-Crash City</em> conference.</p> <p>The Federal Republic of Germany has 130 billion euros in combined municipal debt with no prospect of Angela Merkel coming to the rescue any time soon&mdash;this in part explains the widespread hostility in Germany to further bail-outs for the government of Greece. <a href=""><em>Der Spiegel</em></a> reports that even the small town of Goslar in Lower Saxony needs to cut its spending by half to balance its books. The mayor has therefore decided to turn off the streetlights at midnight in a bid to save money. He is likely to be elected unopposed at the next election. <a href="">Matthias Bernt</a> has shown that in East Germany, rather than &lsquo;growth coalitions&rsquo; we are now seeing &lsquo;grant coalitions&rsquo; as entire cities find themselves dependent on welfare hand-outs from Berlin. How long this internal solidarity will continue as Germany increasingly polarises between a conservative west and a socialist east remains to be seen. But with Anglo-American style workfare being enthusiastically rolled out by the Merkel government, the idea that Germany has somehow managed to escape the global financial crisis through export led growth needs qualification. In 2008 (when the EU27 recorded its lowest unemployment figures for some years) unemployment rates of over 15 per cent were recorded in Halle, Leipzig and Berlin [<a href="">Eurostat</a>].</p> <p>In England and Wales some &pound;7.5 billion is being cut from local authority budgets up to 2015&mdash;still only 40 per cent of the City bonuses paid in 2007&mdash;but amounting to a 25 per cent cut in budgets meaning some local councils will be unable to meet their statutory service obligations. Some may even follow West Somerset into bankruptcy. According to the Local Government Association, the Conservative-Liberal Democratic Government has no plan for managing the serious problems with local authorities finances or service provision. This is seen as a problem because &lsquo;in the current funding environment&hellip;there is an increased risk that a number of councils become financially unsustainable&rsquo;.<a href="#_edn3">[iii]</a> Outsourcing and the strategic abandonment of all but essential services is becoming the norm in local authorities in many parts of England and Wales&mdash;with the deepest cuts affecting the larger and poorest conurbations outside London.</p> <p>In the United States, Motown&mdash;the once great city of Detroit, home to Ford and General Motors has officially <a href="">filed for bankruptcy</a>. Its state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr is threatening &lsquo;haircuts&rsquo; for municipal bond holders but also redundancies and pension withholdings for municipal workers.&nbsp; Decades of the erosion of the city&rsquo;s tax base by mostly white population flight and the contraction of the auto industry has left the city bankrupt and deemed unworthy of &lsquo;too big to fail&rsquo; bail outs from the state and federal executives. As<a href=";"> Jamie Peck</a> pointed out in his keynote speech &lsquo;Pushing Austerity&rsquo; for the <em>Post-Crash City</em> conference, dozens of smaller US cities are also on the point of bankruptcy and many are reducing their local governments to fire and police services, and some such as <a href="">Josephine County</a> in Oregon, not even that. Worse even than Goslar, the city of <a href="">Highland Park</a> in Michigan has had all its street lights removed because it is unable to pay its electricity bills&mdash;just one of the many cities that are going dark right across America as a result of austerity-driven public divestment and a political climate that is increasingly hostile to the provision of collective goods through taxation.</p> <h2>Conclusion&nbsp;</h2> <p>For the still powerful financial masters of the universe like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, the problem with the world&rsquo;s economy is that it suffers from an excess of democracy and political permeability. The emergence of the Troika demonstrates the advent of an incompetent, fractious yet powerful para-sovereign cartel that is partly dependent on the constitutional legitimacy of national-state executives but strongly conditioned and staffed by a small coterie of international financial elites. The <em>raison d&rsquo;&ecirc;tre</em> of the Troika and its equivalent in the United States surrounding Ben Bernanke&rsquo;s Federal Reserve Bank and the &lsquo;too big too fail&rsquo; behemoths of Wall Street is the maintenance of an unregulated financial system that nevertheless makes full and extensive use of national sovereignty to meet the costs of its morally hazardous gambling addiction.</p> <p>At each descending territorial scale, the cascading revanchism of austerity capitalism intensifies and depoliticises&mdash;denying regions and cities the resources to sustain economic life and growth and instrumentalising their political leaders as agents of self-inflicted social harm. In her final book published in 2004, <em>Dark Age Ahead</em>,<em> </em>Jane Jacobs wrote:</p> <blockquote><p>Post-agrarian states do not increase their wealth by aggrandizing territories and seizing lands and natural resources&hellip;the key to post-agrarian wealth is the complicated task of nurturing economic diversity, opportunity, and peace without resort to oppression. Dark Ages and spirals of decline are in prospect for agrarian cultures that can&rsquo;t adapt themselves to generating wealth through human ingenuity, knowledge and skills.</p></blockquote> <p>The 2007-8 financial crisis and its long aftermath has seen the domination of the world&rsquo;s economy by those who have used their ingenuity, knowledge and skills to generate wealth only for a tiny fraction of the world&rsquo;s population&mdash;while impoverishing and commoditising the rest. Cities and regions which have been too long the victims of this asymmetric warfare of accumulation by dispossession must become the rallying grounds of a counter-movement that re-socialises the economy as a medium of exchange based on principles of care and solidarity. Without concerted collective action against the dehumanizing logic of the self- regulating market, the threat of a long de-civilising spiral of decline remains an all too real prospect. Another world is not only possible, but as Immanuel Wallerstein insists, creating an alternative to capitalism is an urgent and essential task for the long time survival of human society.</p> <hr size="1" /><p><a href="#_ednref">[i]</a> John Lanchester, <em>Cityphilia</em>, London Review of Books, 3 January 2008 <a href=""></a></p> <p><a href="#_ednref">[ii]</a> J.P. Morgan, &lsquo;The Euro area adjustment: about halfway there&rsquo;, Europe Economic Research, 28 May 2013</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href="#_ednref">[iii]</a> Department for Communities and Local Government: Financial sustainability of local authorities - Public Accounts Committee <a href=""></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><img src="" alt="" width="170" /></p><p><em> </em></p><p><em>This article is part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and the Centre for Modern Studies at the University of York. It was funded by the University of York's Pump Priming Fund, the British Academy, and York's Centre for Modern Studies.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? EU United States Germany UK Greece Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Neoliberalism crisis and the world system Simon Parker Sat, 20 Jul 2013 09:00:46 +0000 Simon Parker 74184 at Press hysteria and UK government migration research: a contagious syndrome <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A social scientist unpicks the flawed methodology of Home Office research on migration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Home Office Report, <a href="">Social and Public Service Impacts of International Migration at the Local Level</a>, has generated some predictable headlines and scare stories in <a href="">The Daily Mail</a> and <a href="">The Telegraph</a>, as a recent <a href="">article in The Conversation</a> points out. But what jumped out at me after reading the report is not so much the policy implications of its findings, but the meagre evidence base from which its conclusions are drawn. Here is a telling confession from the report’s authors: </p> <blockquote><p>"It was initially hoped that more data might be available to enable a clearer quantitative assessment of the impacts of different types of migrants, however it proved impossible to find data that was capable of being disaggregated in this way."</p></blockquote> <p>In other words, the authors don't have the data to draw any robust conclusions about the impact of immigration on local communities, services and economies. Even they admit that "a combination of statistical profiling, consultation with local authorities and other service providers, and discussions with relevant experts" is no substitute for a proper quantitative survey of the entire United Kingdom.</p> <p>The report admits that international students (the exclusion of whom makes up the bulk of the government’s immigration reduction figures) and skilled European Economic Area workers (whom UKIP and much of the Tory party would like to ban) have a low impact on public services. Low skilled workers present a more "mixed picture", although the authors lack the data to demonstrate exactly how the costs and benefits stack up. </p> <p>Then we get to "asylum-seeking and refugee groups" who are likely to have "the highest impact on services compared with other groups, especially in health, because of their particular characteristics and needs". Well yes, one might expect people fleeing from persecution, rape, violence and torture to have elevated health needs—that's the whole point of humanitarian protection! </p> <p>Even so the refugee and asylum-seeking population is a small fraction of the annual net migration totals – less than 20,000 last year compared to 153,000 immigration arrivals for the year ending September 2012. But one has to dig deep in the report to find an acknowledgment of this. Given that the NHS treats 1 million patients every 36 hours, even if we include all those whose asylum claims have yet to be decided, the impact of refugees and asylum seekers on the NHS is in fact modest. </p> <p>‘Impact’ is a complicated noun. If you experience an impact while driving a car it is invariably bad news, while the impact of better nutrition among 0-5 year olds in Sub-Saharan Africa will be positive for their life expectancy. Depending on context and content, an impact can be positive or negative. Except, that is, when it appears in a Home Office report or statement when the meaning of impact is always negative. Rather bizarrely for a research project that was almost entirely reliant on qualitative interview and focus group evidence there is no annex containing all the 'impact statements' that were put to the informants. Instead only a sample of the statements can be found by reading through the whole report. </p> <p>Here is a telling example from the Home Office report related to Health:</p> <blockquote><p>"the high birth rates of some migrant groups produce additional demands on midwifery, maternity and health visiting services for asylum-seeking and refugee families (58%) and low-skilled migrant workers (52%)"</p></blockquote> <p>If we take out ‘the’ and ‘some migrant groups’ the tautological premises of the statement are immediately obvious. In other words if one accepts as true the statement that more babies are being born to migrants then it must also be true that this will increase the demand for maternity services. The logic of the argument is this </p> <p>A → B → C&nbsp; </p> <p>Where&nbsp;A = immigrants, B = deficiency or abnormal propensity, and C = public cost bearing outcome or service denial.</p> <p>Given this, it is surprising that 100 per cent of respondents did not say "well yes of course, that’s obvious". What no doubt constrained a significant minority from responding in this way is an understandable recoil at the prospect of the inevitable "Pregnant migrants over-run the NHS" type headlines that such pointless ‘research’ statements evoke.</p> <p>Here’s another "when I turn the light out I notice it’s darker" example:</p> <blockquote><p>"The online panel also agreed, across all groups, with the statement that ‘when migrants lack English language skills, health service visits and appointment times are appreciably longer’".</p></blockquote> <p>Did any of the experts on the panel stop for a second to challenge the absurdity of such statements and suggest that a better question might be "Without foreign born doctors, nurses and ancillary workers the NHS would cease to function"? The fact that migrant NHS medical staff are more likely to be providing treatment to British born patients rather than the other way round is never discussed, even though a recent ICM poll for British Future (<a href="">PDF</a>) found that over half of all respondents believed that the NHS could not survive in its current form without the presence of foreign doctors and nurses.</p> <p>No one is denying that movements of population through internal and international migration and increases in the natural birth rate require public resources, infrastructure and ‘social cohesion’ efforts. This has been a necessary feature of our history since the earliest beginnings of human civilisation. As the anthropologist James C. Scott writes in <em>Seeing Like a State</em>, the division of populations into (bad) nomads and (good) sedentary types advances a state agenda that sees all unplanned population movement as subversive of government and hence in need of surveillance and control. &nbsp;</p> <p>The headline writers of the Daily Mail and The Telegraph do not have to work hard to find ‘scientific’ support for their stigmatising narratives around the ‘toll’ and ‘burden’ of migration in this Home Office report, it is well embedded in Theresa May’s insistence that migrants and their family and loved ones only have value if they can demonstrate a net economic benefit to UK plc. Immigration Minister Mark Harper was able to instrumentalise the contribution of over 80 academics and ‘experts’ who took part in the research by drawing the quite erroneous conclusion that </p> <blockquote><p>"This report highlights the significant impact high levels of migration have had on UK communities. It emphasises the importance of protecting our public services and taking a robust approach against those who come here to exploit our welfare system."</p></blockquote> <p>No mention in Mr Harper’s statement that his conclusions are drawn from what the report’s own authors describe as "an informed but impressionistic assessment of the relative impacts of the different types of migrants mentioned here". Nor is there any acknowledgment that the report was entirely one-sided in focusing only on housing and service demand ‘impact’ while entirely ignoring the cultural, educational, scientific and economic benefits that migrant communities bring. Social scientists should be wary of collaborating in and endorsing government research that creates dangerous categories of ‘social impact’ on the basis of nationality and labour force characteristics, especially ones that mistake opinion for demonstrable population effects. There are better and more important targets for our collective energies.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/king-nigel%E2%80%99s-speech-recasting-us-and-them">King Nigel’s speech: recasting &#039;us&#039; and &#039;them&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/nando-sigona/life-in-limbo-for-uk-s-irregular-migrant-children-and-families">Life in limbo for UK’s irregular migrant children and families</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk ShineALight Shine A Light Simon Parker Wed, 10 Jul 2013 23:01:26 +0000 Simon Parker 73944 at Workfare and the state of exception <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The retrospective legalisation of workfare has deprived rightful claimants of £130 million. Alongside the lives wrecked in its wake, the ‘emergency’ legislation has exposed a chasm at the heart of Britain's parliamentary democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>“Sovereign”, the Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt once wrote, “is he who is above the law”. Schmitt rather approved of sovereigns—or rather dictators—and disapproved of judges and the rule of law, especially of the liberal variety. But Schmitt justified the legitimate use of arbitrary executive power only in the emergency circumstances of what he termed “a state of exception” where the enemies of the nation are circling and its state institutions are too enfeebled to act in their own defence.</p> <p>In Giorgio Agamben’s account, what Schmitt prospected, and what has become the common fate of the so-called advanced liberal democracies, is the triumph of “constituted power” in the guise of the sovereign dictator over “constituent power”, or the norms of law and the norms of the realisation of law (in German <em>Rechstverwirklichung</em>)[1]. </p> <p>We see this most strikingly in the case of the ‘War on Terror’ with its extra-judicial prison camps for enemy combatants who are afforded none of the rights and protections of the Geneva convention, in the use of state orchestrated kidnap and extra-territorial secret rendition, in the ‘offshoring’ of torture based interrogations and in the use of ‘signature killings’ through presidentially approved drone strikes.</p> <p>However, that is not to say there are no circumstances in which a state of emergency can be justified. As Lord Hoffman declared in the Belmarsh judgment (<a href=";others.pdf">A and others vs SSHD</a>, 2004), which ruled unlawful the indefinite detention without charge or trial of foreign terror suspects </p> <p>There have been times of great national emergency in which habeas corpus has been suspended and powers to detain on suspicion conferred on the government. It happened during the Napoleonic Wars and during both World Wars in the twentieth century. These powers were conferred with great misgiving and, in the sober light of retrospect after the emergency had passed, were often found to have been cruelly and unnecessarily exercised. But the necessity of draconian powers in moments of national crisis is recognised in our constitutional history. Article 15 of the [European] Convention [on Human Rights], when it speaks of “war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”, accurately states the conditions in which such legislation has previously been thought necessary.</p> <p>As the Law Lords found in the Belmarsh case, where there is no imminent and genuine threat to the survival of the nation, such emergency powers have to remain firmly locked away, and the ordinary administration of justice allowed to pursue its work—even in the face of a real and on going terrorist threat.</p> <p>So much for the judges. In a state of emergency, freed from the constraints of the rule of law, the sovereign is able to define its enemies not only as those who constitute a threat to the security of the state but as any group or individual that act(s) against the will, interests or purpose of the state. Crucially, the decision as to when a state of emergency exists rests with the sovereign, or rather in the case of the United Kingdom, with ‘the Crown in parliament’.</p> <p>….</p> <p>In the so-called Poundland case, Cait Reilly claimed that the Department for Work and Pensions had unlawfully required her to work unpaid in Poundland for two weeks on a mandatory work placement and Jamie Wilson claimed the Department had unlawfully sanctioned him by withdrawing his jobseekers allowance after he refused to attend a scheme known as the Community Action Programme which required him to work for 30 hours a week for six months, unpaid. The claimants argued that the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment and Enterprise) Regulations 2011 were unlawful because the Regulations failed to provide a description of each Back to Work scheme or the circumstances in which an individual can be required to participate in a scheme.</p> <p>Reilly and Wilson also claimed that the Secretary of State must set out each scheme in a published policy that explains clearly the features of the scheme, including what type of work a person can be compelled to undertake and the circumstances in which they can be required to undertake the work. This they say the Secretary of State manifestly failed to do. They also contended that the Department had failed to comply with its own notice requirements under Regulation 4 of the 2011 Regulations which required that those on Job Seekers Allowance be provided with specific notice of certain matters, such as the details of what is required by way of their personal participation in the scheme and notice of the consequences of not participating.</p> <p>The High Court found partially in favour of the claimants who then sought further leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that had been initially dismissed. All three Appeal Court judges upheld the claimants appeal and ruled that the 2011 Regulations were unlawful and that the Secretary of State had acted beyond the powers given to him by Parliament&nbsp;by failing to provide any detail about the various “Back to Work” schemes in the Regulations. The Secretary of State had in effect bypassed Parliament and failed to get Parliamentary approval for the multitude of back to work schemes he was introducing.</p> <p>&nbsp;Sir Stanley Burton summed up the view of the Court of Appeal thus:</p> <p><em>There is a constitutional issue involved. The loss of jobseekers’ allowance may result in considerable personal hardship, and it is not surprising that Parliament should have been careful in making provision for the circumstances in which the sanction may be imposed.</em></p> <p>While Parliament may have been careful to prescribe the circumstances in which compulsory participation in unpaid training and work schemes can be applied, the Secretary of State subsequently relied on statutory instruments that made anything but careful provision. This was because the intention was to provide maximum flexibility to government officials and minimum transparency or explanatory purpose to those claimants selected for the schemes. </p> <p>In other words, despite Ian Duncan Smith’s increasingly unconvincing denials, the administration of workfare has become a game of maximising sanctions targets, as a <a href="">leaked letter to The Guardian</a> from the manager of a Job Centre in Walthamstow has exposed: </p> <p><em>Guys, we really need to up the game here. The 5% target is one thing – the fact that we are seeing over 300 people a week and only submitting six of them for possible doubts is simply not quite credible.</em></p> <p><a href="">Further testimony from other parts of the UK</a> bears out what OurKingdom contributor <a href="">Aaron Peters</a>, describes as “the weaponization of workfare” and what <a href="">Tony Curzon Price</a> identifies with the “quasi-penal” approach to the management of the labour precariat. </p> <p>This mounting evidence gives the lie to government claims that compulsory work based ‘training’ placements are designed to get the long term unemployed into permanent jobs. Even the Department for Work and Pension’s own <a href="mailto:">data</a> reveals that compulsory workfare placements with young people have a lower success rate in securing jobs for the long-term unemployed than allowing those on job seekers allowance to find their own employment. A <a href="">comparative review</a> of workfare schemes around the world reported in <a href="">Christopher Barrie’s</a> OurKingdom article came to similar conclusions about their lack of effectiveness: “There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”.</p> <p>Most of these schemes are outsourced to multinational private security and detention behemoths including G4S, infamous for its London Olympics security omnishambles, which won the government workfare bid by promising to “send a field operative to a claimant’s door within two hours if that person was non co-operative”. At their <a href="">‘Capital Market Day’ presentation</a> for investors in May 2011, G4S’s former Chief Operating Office, David Taylor-Smith (who was forced to resign over the London Olympics security debacle) boasted:</p> <p><em>Welfare to Work, very, very interesting win this for us. We were seen as the biggest net winner of these recent awards. I’m just reminding those tax payers, if there are British taxpayers in this room [sic], £159 billion spent in this area of government.</em></p> <p>G4S’s ‘Welfare to Work wins’ were estimated to be worth £130 million—precisely equivalent to the total compensation the Poundland case might cost the government but for its use of emergency legislation to overturn the verdict of the courts.</p> <p>Another big winner in the UK’s lucrative workfare market is global data processing to detention outsourcer Serco—profits before tax up by 27% last year with £31 billion “pipeline” in global outsourcing already secured—which also uses mandatory work placements to keep its own company’s labour costs profitably low. </p> <p>A4E, owned (though no longer run) by David Cameron’s former ‘Families Champion’, the public outsourcing millionairess Emma Harrison, continues to rake in large profits from the workfare scheme even though a number of its former employees are on bail following police fraud raids on its Slough offices, while one its former Hull employees has been <a href="">convicted of forgery</a>. </p> <p>French outsourcer ATOS (aka ‘Lourdes’ because you enter sick and leave cured) is in charge of the Community Action Programme pilot. A controversial Paralympic Games sponsor, ATOS is notorious for denying disabled claimants benefits on the evidence of fitness to work reports that are often produced without any medical examination. Unsurprisingly 40% of its refusal decisions are successfully appealed.</p> <p>….</p> <p>Despite the Court of Appeal’s humiliating verdict, which found the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, had acted unlawfully—the response of the government was immediately to draft new regulations to ensure that compulsory ‘benefit only’ work placements could continue [2]. This nevertheless left the problem of potentially up to 300,000 sanctioned claimants whose benefits had been unlawfully withheld, and who might be owed an average of between £530 and £570 each.</p> <p>What the government then did was quite extraordinary. On 14 March, it published a draft bill “The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill”. The weasel words are in Clause 12 of the Bill, which effectively renders lawful the unlawful imposition of sanctions under the pre-existing regulations.</p> <p>A penalty imposed on a person before or after the coming into force of this Act for—</p> <p>(a) failing to participate in a scheme within section 17A(1) of the Jobseekers Act 1995, or</p> <p>(b) failing to comply with regulations under section 17A of that Act,&nbsp;<em>is to be treated as lawfully imposed</em> if the only ground or grounds for treating it as unlawfully imposed is or are removed by subsections (1) to (10).</p> <p>The purpose of the Bill was clearly stated in the explanatory notes:</p> <p><em>The only way to ensure that the Department does not have to make any sanction repayments and can impose sanctions where decisions have been stockpiled, is to press ahead with emergency legislation.</em></p> <p>Far from correcting a “technicality” as Lord Freud claimed in the first House of Lords debate, according to Lord Pannick QC, “the Bill contravenes two fundamental constitutional principles”:</p> <p><em>First, it is being fast-tracked through Parliament when there is no justification whatever for doing so. Secondly, the Bill breaches the fundamental constitutional principle that penalties should not be imposed on persons by reason of conduct that was lawful at the time of their action [3].</em></p> <p>The notion of an emergency is patently absurd because as Lord Pannick went on to point out, while the case is still potentially being litigated, the government is under no duty to pay any compensation to the claimants. </p> <p>The unseemly haste with which the bill has been pushed through the Commons (on the eve of Budget Day) and then the Lords (which was granted all of two days for proper scrutiny) contrasts with the leisurely pace of the government’s response to the initial Court of Appeal judgment, which was delivered on 14 February 2013. Only on 12 March, the last possible day of giving notice to appeal, did the DWP file notice of its intention to contest the judgment. Two days later the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) 2013 Bill was published making the regulations and hence the sanctions retrospectively lawful. </p> <p>It is inconceivable that when his last minute appeal was lodged, the Secretary of State did not have in place plans to frustrate through primary legislation Reilly and Wilson’s prospects of justice in the Supreme Court. In other words, fearing another hostile judgment, the government decided to press the emergency retrospective law button, which inevitably required the cooperation of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.</p> <p>Having agreed to hurry IDS’s Bill through parliament with all the fanfare of a three line whip, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Liam Byrne, wrote on the <a href="">Labour List blog</a>, that this Bill is “categorically not…retrospective legalization of workfare” while admitting that it was indeed retrospective legislation and that a sanctions regime (withdrawing benefit if claimants refused to attend a compulsory training scheme or work placement) has been a central plank of all workfare policy going back to the New Deal of the previous Labour governments. </p> <p>Hate that and you must hate the Labour Party and all it has achieved in power, Liam Byrne warned his detractors. But <a href="">44 members of the parliamentary party</a> were not convinced and decided to rebel, including former Chief Whip, Nick Brown, and the now ex-Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ivan Lewis, Ian Mearns.</p> <p>Byrne also justified Labour’s passive support for the legislation by boasting of “two critical concessions” to get the Bill passed before Easter. These include a guarantee that “people hit by sanctions have an iron-clad right of appeal against a sanction decision” (which is not in the Bill) and that there will be “an independent review of the sanctions regime with an urgent report to Parliament” (which is in the Bill, but it is stretching it to call a report due one year after the Act comes into force “urgent”). All the Secretary of State has to do is to place the said report by an un-named independent person in the House of Commons Library and he has discharged his statutory duties.</p> <p>So does this ‘appeal right’ mean that Reilly, Wilson and thousands of others will receive the unpaid benefits to which they are lawfully entitled? Clearly not, for as Byrne admits, the whole point of supporting the government with re-writing workfare law is to avoid paying the £130 million which the Work and Pensions Minister Mark Hoban has threatened will otherwise have to come from more benefit cuts. This has all the ethical value of a criminal injuries scheme in which the victims rather than the perpetrators have to pay their own compensation. </p> <p>…</p> <p>Powerful criticisms of the Shadow Cabinet for colluding with Ian Duncan Smith and the Coalition have been made by <a href="">Eric Metcalfe</a> who writes that “the bill is simply a stitch-up, making lawful what the courts have held to be unlawful” and <a href="">Owen Jones</a> who describes the affair as “a disgraceful, grubby chapter in the history of the Parliamentary Labour Party”. There has also been a social media storm of protest in the country at large, directed not just at the Labour Party for failing to defend the victims of workfare, but at sections of the trade union movement for refusing to condemn workfare while leaving opposition to grass roots organisations such as the <a href="">Boycott Workfare Campaign</a> or individual litigants such as Reilly and Willson. The campaign group 38 Degrees has also organised an <a href="">emergency online petition</a> which has attracted over 10,000 signatures in less than a week. </p> <p>Both Front Benches can nevertheless take comfort in the fact that the mainstream media—and in particular the BBC—have operated a virtual news blackout surrounding what the <a href="">House of Lords Constitutional Committee</a> effectively describes as a fundamental attack on the British Constitution.</p> <p><em>In scrutinising this Bill, the House will wish to consider whether retrospectively confirming penalties on individuals who, according to judicial decision, have not transgressed any lawful rule is constitutionally appropriate in terms of the rule of law.</em></p> <p>But there is a glimmer of light in the darkness that increasingly surrounds our ailing democracy. As a consequence of the 1998 Human Rights Act, ministers are required to affirm the compatibility of new legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights. This, more than the difficulty of deporting Abu Qatada, is why the Home Secretary Theresa May and her Cabinet colleagues are so determined to get rid of it.</p> <p><a href="">Public Interest Lawyers</a>, the campaigning legal firm acting on behalf of Reilly and Wilson, in their Notice of Objection before the Supreme Court, will contend that the Act passed on 26 March&nbsp;is a clear interference in the judicial process:</p> <p><em>the actions of the secretary of state … represent a clear violation of article 6 [of the European convention on human rights] and the rule of law, as an interference in the judicial process by the legislature.</em></p> <p>The Department for Work and Pensions is betting Ian Duncan Smith’s shirt that the Supreme Court will agree that the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 not only closes all the loopholes of the previous regulations, but that it is also Convention compliant. </p> <p>Yet as Baroness Lister observed in the House of Lords debate, </p> <p><em>the Government seem to be well aware that they are treading on thin ice with regard to the human rights implications of this Bill and that at the very least there is a case to answer.</em></p> <p>She went on to argue,</p> <p><em>This legislation is in effect interfering in the proceedings of the Supreme Court and pre-empting any decision that it might make. This is a serious matter […] The notice of objection [by the claimants’ lawyers] goes on to state:</em></p> <p><em>“Mr Wilson would also wish to contend that the retrospective imposition of benefits sanctions on him represents a violation of Article 1 of the First Protocol” [4].</em></p> <p>Not only is it absurd to resort to draconian retrospective laws that should have no place in a liberal democracy in order to rescue the damaged reputation of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; the contempt for parliamentary procedures, for timely scrutiny and for the opinions of its own expert committees is an ugly chapter in Britain’s parliamentary history from which neither the Coalition Government nor its Labour Opposition emerge with any credit.</p> <p>The <a href="">House of Lords Constitutional Committee</a> reminded Parliament in the words of the late Lord Bingham of Cornhill, of the duty the state owes to its citizens. A duty that with alarming haste and complacency Britain’s national legislature has chosen recklessly to cast aside.</p> <p><em>If anyone—you or I—is to be penalised it must not be for breaking some rule dreamt up by an ingenious minister or official ... It must be for a proven breach of the established law of the land.</em></p><p><strong>NOTE: The Bill was passed on 26 March, to become the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><span>References</span></p> <p>[1]&nbsp; Giorgio Agamben, <em>State of Exception</em>, University of Chicago Press, 2005, p.33.</p> <p>[2]&nbsp; The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Scheme for Assisting Persons to Obtain Employment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/276).</p> <p>[3]&nbsp; Hansard: HL Deb, 21 March 2013, c739.</p> <p>[4]&nbsp; Hansard: HL Deb, 21 March 2013, c746. Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human rights relates to the right to property.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/aaron-peters/weaponising-workfare">Weaponising workfare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openeconomy/tony-curzon-price/will-workfare-be-well-paid">Will workfare be well paid?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/christopher-barrie/from-welfare-to-workfare-how-helping-hand-became-contract">From welfare to workfare: how the helping hand became a contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/aaron-peters/supply-side-and-plan-straightest-path-to-human-tragedy">Supply Side and Plan A - the straightest path to human tragedy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/richard-whittell/learning-to-work-for-nothing">Learning to work for nothing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Democracy and government Economics Equality Shine A Light Simon Parker Thu, 28 Mar 2013 16:27:58 +0000 Simon Parker 71879 at UK’s persecution of kidney transplant patient Roseline goes on and on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Actor Colin Firth condemns Home Secretary's challenge to court judgment allowing transplant patient's right to life.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Home Secretary Theresa May has challenged <a href="">last month’s court judgement</a> that overruled her decision to deport transplant patient Roseline Akhalu to her death. But&nbsp;May’s challenge has been denied, which means that the government will now need to seek leave to appeal to the Upper Tier of the Immigration Tribunal to pursue its stated intention of returning 49 year old Akhalu to Nigeria, where the Home Office has accepted she would die within matter of weeks.</p> <p>Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth has condemned the Home Office's continued attempts to return Ms Akhalu to Nigeria.</p> <p>“Rose is a harmless, much loved individual —&nbsp;entirely welcome in her community here in the UK —&nbsp;and this wrangling over her fate smacks of persecution,” said Firth. “The apparent determination of the Home Office to inflict suffering on her is incomprehensible. Her case has been made, her legal position ruled on. The Home Office should respect those decisions, respect this woman and her terrible predicament —&nbsp;and proceed with compassion.”</p> <p>Summarising her case on <a href="">OurKingdom last month</a>, Akhalu’s advocates, Public Interest Lawyers, stated: “Roseline, a Nigerian university graduate, came to the UK in 2004 on a Ford Foundation scholarship to do a Masters degree in Development and Gender Studies at Leeds University. Soon after arriving and whilst here lawfully she was diagnosed with renal failure and began treatment. In 2009 she had a successful kidney transplant. Roseline needs to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life or the transplant will fail. However, such drugs are prohibitively expensive in Nigeria and so, if deported, Roseline would be unable to afford them and she will die within four weeks.”</p> <p>Friends and supporters of Akhalu, who is a community volunteer, greeted the court’s latest decision with joy and relief.&nbsp;</p><p>Esmé Madill (my partner) who has organised a <a href="">petition</a> of more than 1,500 signatories in support of Akhalu’s said:&nbsp;“We see this latest ruling as a vindication that Roseline has not only a moral right to life but also strong legal grounds for remaining among her many friends and fellow parishioners in Leeds.&nbsp;The judge has made it clear that the Home Office’s grounds for challenging the immigration tribunal’s decision were spurious and that they have no basis in law. It is time that the Home Office stopped this vindictive and unnecessary vendetta against a sick and defenceless woman whose health has been worsened by the stress of not knowing what the future holds for her.”</p> <p>Roseline’s MP Greg Mulholland commented: "It is great news that the tribunal has rejected the Home Office's application to appeal the judge's ruling last month that Rosaline should be allowed to remain in the UK."</p> <p>But, he warned: “Of course there is still the option for the Home Office to go to the Upper Tribunal to appeal the decision. The Home Office should, however, now acknowledge that they are fighting a losing battle and that to continue fighting this decision in the Upper Tribunal would not only be a waste of time, but a continued drain on the public purse. The cost of the battle to have Roseline deported is now exceeding the cost of her much needed treatment in this country, which is absurd.”</p> <p>Tessa Gregory, of Public Interest Lawyers, said: “We welcome the ruling of Immigration Judge Gibb who has rightly upheld the determination of the First Tier Immigration Tribunal in relation to our client Roseline Akhalu. We would urge the Home Office now to accept the court’s verdict without imposing further unnecessary suffering and anxiety on our client and further costs on the taxpayer.”</p> <p>OurKingdom has followed Roseline Akhalu’s story closely since May 2012, when it published <a href="">her own account of the cruel and degrading treatment</a> she suffered at the hands of the Border Agency and its contractors during her second period of detention. OurKingdom’s coverage has underpinned a media campaign that achieved exposure of Akhalu’s plight in today’s <a href="">Mail on Sunday</a>.</p> <p>Akhalu’s&nbsp;friends and supporters continue to ask people to sign the online <a href="">petition</a> urging the Home Office to let her stay in the UK.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/ourkingdom/roseline-lives-court-overrules-uk-government-decision-to-condemn-kidney-trans">Roseline lives! Court overrules UK government decision to condemn kidney transplant patient to death</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/few-days-left-to-prevent-uk-transplant-patient-s-perilous-removal-to-nige">A few days left to prevent UK transplant patient’s perilous removal to Nigeria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/esme-madill/nation-s-decency-put-to-test-decision-due-on-transplant-patient-s-perilous-r">A nation’s decency put to the test: decision due on transplant patient’s perilous removal to Nigeria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/esme-madill/uk-court-halts-kidney-transplant-patient-s-deportation-and-colin-firth-lends">UK court halts kidney-transplant patient’s deportation, and Colin Firth lends support</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/esme-madill/roseline-s-journey-kidney-transplant-patient-meets-uk-border-agency-contract">Roseline’s journey: a kidney transplant patient meets UK Border Agency contractors</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight Civil society Democracy and government Equality Shine A Light Simon Parker Sun, 23 Dec 2012 14:40:37 +0000 Simon Parker 70129 at Pandering to the bigots? An exchange on Ed Miliband, immigration and the nation-state <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is Labour justified in speaking to the British people's fears on immigration, or are they legitimising the far right? How far do the English retain their racist attitudes, or is England at ease with its modern multiculturalism? And what is the case for secure borders in a world where the role of the nation-state is under question? In the following exchange, Anthony Barnett of OurKingdom and Simon Parker of Refugee Action York cut to the heart of the immigration question.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Last June, Simon Parker sent Anthony Barnett an article for possible publication on <a href="" target="_blank">Ed Miliband's immigration speech to the IPPR</a>. Anthony responded, not planning for this to be published. What followed in the intervening months was an intense exchange on the left, the immigration question and the future of the nation-state. It was sent round the OK editorial team, and we decided with Simon to publish the dialogue in full, below.&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong>Simon Parker</strong></p> <p>When Ed Miliband rose to address the Institute of Public Policy Research in June, one might have thought he would be spoiled for choice in terms of the policy areas with which to belabour an increasingly unpopular coalition government.</p> <p>Tax evasion and corporate greed, the potential collapse of the Euro, the privatisation of the NHS, the raiding of public pensions, compulsory workfare for the unemployed, the removal of housing benefits for the under 25s, the outsourcing of police, prison and probation services, the squandering of £10 billion on a nuclear weapons system we could never use, the attack on comprehensive education and social mobility.</p> <p>One could, unfortunately, go on…</p> <p>No, instead the Labour leader chose to grasp a different nettle and turn his attention to “people's concerns on immigration”.</p> <p>On the face of it, what could be wrong with wanting an “open discussion” about immigration? We have, as Miliband reminds us, experienced “the largest peacetime migration in recent history” and polls and focus groups regularly reveal that immigration is second only to the economy as a key issue for voters. However, Ed Miliband’s achievement in this “nuanced and intelligent speech”, according to <a href="">John Harris,</a> was to understand popular fear around immigration not as an index of xenophobia or racism but as a manifestation of “an economy that is fast eating away at people's security”.</p> <p>Taking his cue from David Cameron’s “I met a 40 year old black sailor from Plymouth” approach to immigration research, Ed Miliband’s speech was scattered with anecdotes from constituents and party members. Thus we learn of a local Labour Party member who claimed that a chicken factory in Doncaster was employing Eastern European workers from a recruitment agency for less than minimum wage and that “they were sleeping nineteen or twenty to a house”. Although happily we were assured, Miliband’s informant “got the union involved to sort it out”. Doing a passable impression of Frank Field and Immigration Watch’s Sir Andrew Green in their Today programme pomp, Miliband solemnly declared:</p> <p>“But there are lots of stories like this, of wages having been pushed down. They are the hidden stories of Britain. They are the stories that make people angry.”</p> <p>We are no longer invited to challenge, as Gordon Brown so fatefully did, the disturbing narratives that emerge from modest witnesses like Gillian Duffy - <a href="">who point out</a> that due to the arrival of thousands of workers from Eastern Europe and “other sections”, “the country is in a state”. Clearly ‘something needs to be done’, even though as Mrs Duffy and Ed Milband both accept “we are in Europe and we just have to accept them”.</p> <p>But the “nasty, brutish and short term” UK labour market that Ed Miliband suddenly appears to lament was not created in the last two years. It is the result of three decades of ‘nasty and brutish’ neoliberal governments in which, during its New Labour incarnation, Miliband played a number of key economic roles including at Cabinet level. According to an <a href=";ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a">Oxford University COMPAS</a> study conducted in the last years of the Brown government, “Britain’s labour force is one of the least well-protected in the OECD”. &nbsp;The report goes on to quote a TUC estimate that “there are at least two million vulnerable workers, i.e. in ‘precarious work that places people at risk of continuing poverty and injustice resulting from an imbalance of power in the employer-work relationship’” (p 33).</p> <p>Contrary to the impression given by Miliband’s informants, the indigenous working population has little to fear from East Europeans taking their jobs, as the COMPAS study explains “…if there are negative impacts on wages and employment [as a result of net labour migration] they are experienced by: <em>previous immigrants</em>, especially those with limited English language skills; manual workers in jobs that do not require language proficiency; individuals on benefits or otherwise marginalised in the labour force” (p 47 emphasis added).</p> <p>Ironically, where there are the largest concentrations of children of immigrants, like the Milibands, in Ed’s beloved London—levels of racism are <a href="">among the lowest</a> in the country. And as most of the rest of the country languishes in recession, London’s highly globalised economy continues to grow, precisely because, as <a>Saskia Sassen</a> points out, ‘informalisation is actually linked to key features of advanced urban capitalism’. This is not without its costs—but the low wages, substandard housing and precarious employment that results from informalisation is paid for by the migrant workforce as a direct result of the labour market deregularisation that Miliband’s party once championed.</p> <p>Although the Labour leader is right to point out the folly of Theresa May’s pledge to cut off the migrant fuel supply to the British economy, he is caught in the bi-polar disorder of his own rhetoric,“promising to look at caps, limits and numbers” while pledging to exclude Croatian workers for as long as European law permits – &nbsp;at the same time as holding the door open to the other 440 million inhabitants of the current EU member states.</p> <p>But even this discussion misses the point, because Miliband’s intervention was not so much about the caustic effects of globalising neoliberalism on Britain’s ordinary households and families—it was about bigotry. Or more precisely, it was about Ed Miliband apologising for his predecessor’s use of the ‘B’ word to describe the many existing and potential Labour voters who are “worried about immigration”.</p> <p>A bigot, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is an “obstinate and intolerant adherent of a creed or view”. &nbsp;But unlike Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband claims not to have met any, and certainly not in his own constituency.</p> <p>“…when I talk about immigration I know I must be true not just to my mum and dad but to other parents across the country, like those in my constituency, Doncaster North. They are worried about the future. They want there to be good jobs. They want their communities to grow strong. They worry about immigration. They worry it might make things harder rather than easier for them and their kids. Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration, does not make them bigots. Not in any way.”</p> <p>The perverse logic is undeniable—“worrying about immigration” and holding “obstinate and intolerant” ideas about immigrants are not the same thing, even when that worry is an obstinate and intolerant one.</p> <p>The conceit at the heart of Ed Miliband’s speech is that if you take away the negative economic and public goods effects of immigration, such worries will subside and eventually disappear. Ed’s father Ralph had a more perceptive understanding of the John Bull psyche. &nbsp;Soon after his arrival from Belgium in 1940, Miliband père confided to his diary:</p> <p>“The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world... When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent in general and for the French in particular…Since the defeat, they have the greatest contempt for the French Army... England first. This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.”</p> <p>Ed Miliband’s intention is not to challenge that great contempt for the continent, but to channel it through what he most feels comfortable with—supply-side tinkering:</p> <p>“…if we are to address people’s concerns, I believe Labour must change its approach to immigration. Recognising the costs as well as the benefits. And above all recognising that we can answer people’s concerns about immigration if we change the way our economy works.”</p> <p>Insisting that employment agencies employ more workers from the UK, obliging local authorities to enforce minimum wage laws, requiring local employers to tell Jobcentre Plus when they have more than 25% foreign workers, will not induce the voters of Doncaster or Rochdale to love their East European neighbours. But it will, as the Daily Mail headlines assure us, take away the association of rascism or bigotry with the expressed need for an ‘open conversation’ about immigration.</p> <p>For Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, the lesson of the last general election was not the absence of policies that connected the party sufficiently with the voters, but a perceived lack of sympathy between the leadership and “the concerns of working people”.</p> <p>Miliband’s message to <em>l’Angleterre profonde </em>from a polyglot global metropolis that increasingly speaks beyond and against its values is “we hear you, we respect you and we want the country to be more like you.”</p> <p>It is a limited and limiting vision of Britain, and one that will do nothing to breathe new economic life into its most blighted communities. It may, however, achieve its intention of persuading Mrs Duffy and her fellow immigration worriers back into the Labour fold. After all, as Ralph Miliband wrote some 50 years ago:</p> <p>“Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic—not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system. Empirical and flexible about all else, its leaders have always made devotion to that system their fixed point of reference and the conditioning factor of their political behaviour.”</p> <p>While the Scottish Parliament shows itself to be capable of cultural and constitutional innovation and openness, the Westminster parliamentary system speaks in an increasingly introspective monotone to a complex social reality that cannot be captured and which does not recognise itself in the besieged caricature of Ed and Dave’s Little Britain. As George Galloway has shown in Bradford West, Labour could pay a heavy electoral price for ignoring that complex reality in favour of a policy of ‘England first’. The lowest hanging political fruit are also often the first to rot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett</strong></p> <p>Dear Simon,</p> <p>Thanks very much for this. It made me read the speech on immigration and while I'm very critical of Ed Miliband – I was at his <a href="">British/English speech</a> given in the same month at the Royal Festival Hall and felt the smack of John Major – I'm not sure what you are arguing here.</p> <p>There is a logic to Miliband’s approach. I'm not defending it, but it’s surprisingly coherent and stems from his argument that the UK needs a 'responsible' capitalism, not the neoliberalism that New Labour championed.</p> <p>Of course, you can attack him for being in that government: he joined it late and was not responsible for creating New Labour but he was in the Cabinet that oversaw it as you argue. But he says he is changing Labour policy in two ways. First, he supports immigration: &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>“There is nothing wrong with anyone employing Polish builders, a French chef, or a Swedish childminder. I am not going to promise ‘British jobs for British workers’.”</p> <p>Second, he says that Labour was indifferent to its impacts:</p> <p>“…by the end of our time in office, we were too dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price. By focusing too much on globalization and migration's impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth – and the people who were being squeezed. And, to those who lost out, Labour was too quick to say 'like it or lump it' ... immigration in the last few years collided with a labour market that is too often nasty, brutish and short term.”</p> <p>Like you I'd be much more critical, but by the standards of UK politics this is a clear shift from New Labour. It's also coherent in that he is saying that by ‘responsible capitalism’ he means more skills, training, at least the minimum wage and effective enforcement of it - i.e. there is some kind of actual policy being promised. Here's a cut and paste of the section:</p> <p>“We need to enforce the laws we currently have on the protection of wages. It is one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government that we introduced the national minimum wage.</p> <p>It was a great Labour innovation that we should put an end to the idea of poverty pay.</p> <p>But unfortunately, too many people are not receiving its protection.</p> <p>We need to toughen up the enforcement of the minimum wage so that employers understand not paying it is a real risk.</p> <p>Just seven employers have been prosecuted since it was introduced.</p> <p>We should increase the fines on employers who breach the law and pay below the minimum wage.</p> <p>These fines are currently set very low – at £5,000 – and should be increased to at least something that would act as more of a deterrent, and should at least be doubled.</p> <p>And we should consult on the idea of local authorities playing a role as well as the HMRC in enforcing the minimum wage.”</p> <p>Again, this is well short of being enough but it isn't vacuous. It isn't dog whistle. He is saying he welcomes immigration but Labour will do something to stop it depressing wages and making employment conditions worse, it will police this and insist UK companies are not let off the hook of training and skilling. I was quite surprised at the coherence. Of course, there remains the question, will he actually do what he says, but that is a different critique. &nbsp;</p> <p>Then you quote from Ralph's wartime diary saying that the English are “the most nationalist people in the world” and then say his son is failing to confront this and seeks to merely channel it. &nbsp;The second quote from Ralph about the Labour Party is fair game but what are we to make of this first? Why should the private views of the father be visited upon the son 70 years later? And you seem to be saying that they are true, ie that <em>you</em> agree the English - now, today - are the most nationalist people in the world. If this is what you think then you should say so. Personally I disagree. I think this is a more multi-cultural country than the USA where racism is deeper, England is less nationalist in some ways than Germany, certainly than Russia, and China is fantastically nationalist. The implication is that you think most English are indeed bigots. If so, you mustn't hide behind Ralph's views from the 1940s.</p> <p>In the speech his son is saying the opposite. But then you accuse, or imply, that Miliband is actually a small-minded person when you say we are in fact a country "which does not recognise itself in the besieged caricature of Ed and Dave's Little Britain".</p> <p>However, Miliband opens his speech saying "The Britain I believe in is a confident and optimistic country, not one which is insecure and inward looking. If people are looking for a politician who says immigration is just bad for Britain, that's not me." This is the opposite of a besieged Little Britainism.</p> <p>Are you saying that the English are very nationalist and Miliband is refusing to confront this and is an evasive cosmopolitan? Or are you saying that he is, despite what he says, a Little Briton, a besieged figure while the country is expansive and tolerant?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Simon Parker</strong></p> <p>Dear Anthony,</p> <p>Many thanks for your detailed and considerate reply to the Miliband and immigration piece. I don't think the speech is vacuous but I cannot agree that it is “surprisingly coherent”.</p> <p>Yes, there are several points where Miliband stresses the benefits of immigration but these are grace notes in an overture that has a much darker theme:</p> <p>- we let too many immigrants in</p> <p>- we allowed local communities to be overwhelmed by foreigners</p> <p>- we allowed immigrants to depress wages and take jobs</p> <p>- we called people who complained about these things bigots when we should really have said that we share their concerns</p> <p>- we can't turn the immigration tap off due to globalisation etc - so no 'British Jobs for British Workers' - but let's at least try to ensure *less* foreign workers for British employers.</p> <p>We clearly disagree about the likely impact that Miliband's proposed changes to minimum wage regulation will make to the low paid—which should in any case not be conflated with labour migration unless one takes the Migration Watch line. We of course used to have perfectly good institutions to do this. They were called Wages Councils but they were abolished, except in agriculture, by the Tories in 1993 and although the Labour Party had ample opportunity to bring them back in over 12 years of government they never did.</p> <p>Which takes me to your apparent acceptance that Miliband is something other than a creature of New Labour. The 'this has nothing to do with me Guv' hand-washing on the deregulation of the British labour force and the neoliberalisation of its public services is entirely unconvincing. Yes, Miliband was a parliamentary latecomer, but during the whole of Brown's tenure at the Treasury, Ed was Brown's chief economic and political advisor and he played a major role in drafting the Labour Party manifestos, especially the last one. I should have put this in the piece because it nicely highlights a continuity between 'New Labour regime Ed' and 'post New Labour Ed' which the latter is desperately keen to deny.</p> <p>In the 2010 Manifesto Miliband wrote “We understand people's concerns about immigration—about whether it will undermine their wages or job prospects, or put pressure on public services or housing—and we have acted. Asylum claims are down to the levels of the early 1990s and net inward immigration has fallen. We will use our new Australian-style points system to ensure that as growth returns we see rising employment and wages, not rising immigration—but we reject the arbitrary and unworkable Tory quota”.</p> <p>Spot the difference between this and his IPPR speech this June? I must say I can't – except that rather tellingly the header for this section of the manifesto reads “Crime and Immigration”. Perhaps that will be the title of another speech on a subject Miliband has promised to return to.</p> <p>In your reply you quote the follow section of the IPPR speech:</p> <p>“we were too dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price. By focusing too much on globalization and migration's impact on growth, we lost sight of who was benefiting from that growth – and the people who were being squeezed. And, to those who lost out, Labour was too quick to say 'like it or lump it' ... immigration in the last few years collided with a labour market that is too often nasty, brutish and short term.”</p> <p>This section of the speech is another good example of what I'm talking about. Is this a <em>mea culpa </em>or a jibe at Brown – and if the latter, again, who was advising Brown during the heyday of globalised UK growth? Again Ed tries to distinguish, in an interestingly Kleinian way, between the good 'responsible capitalist' breast and that of the bad 'irresponsible capitalist' when actually, as some of us learn when we grow up, they belong to the same mother.</p> <p>So he reassures the North London dinner party set that they can keep their Swedish 'nannies' and their Polish builders because exploited migrant labour is essentially a problem for those who worry about immigration in places like Doncaster North and Rochdale.</p> <p>There is one message for the cosmopolitan liberal elites who rather like and indeed benefit from labour migration and cultural diversity - the class to which Ed and David belong - and there is another for the voters of Doncaster North and 'the squeezed middle' which says rather the opposite. “England first” as Ralph Miliband wrote. This is what I meant by Ed and post New Labour's bipolar disorder—or in old parlance schizoid character.</p> <p>The issue I have with this though, is not that we shouldn't tackle minimum wage evasion and improve the job prospects of those who don't have the education, skills or personal qualities to find any sort of employment. My question is why conflate this with immigration when a) you have admitted that there is nothing to be done anyway, b) even if every foreign born worker was sent back to their country of birth to tomorrow it won't tackle the unemployability problem which has very little to do with an unwillingness to work for minimum or sub-minimum wage.</p> <p>In defence of Gordon Brown, at least he tried to explain to Mrs Duffy that as many people from Britain had migrated to other parts of the EU as were living here. However inept, there was an attempt to challenge commonplace prejudices with some real factual counter evidence.</p> <p>Under Miliband that impulse – that dare I say Old Labour instinct – has entirely gone. My main intention in writing the article was to challenge Ed for saying it is no longer acceptable to call bigoted attitudes on race, immigration and cultural diversity bigoted. This is an exercise in ideological closure that you do not need to have read Derrida to understand. It is also, in my view and I hope some of the readers of Our Kingdom and openDemocracy, a dangerous exercise that needs to be challenged and opposed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett</strong></p><p>Dear Simon,</p> <p>My point about the IPPR immigration speech’s coherence was that I expected something vacuous and found that Miliband’s argument against treating immigrants as cheap, disposable labour fitted into his positioning as favouring responsible or better capitalism as against rapacious capitalism. Personally, I'd be much more interested if he made his ambition how to create a better socialism, or at least a better social democracy. Now that would be interesting! Nor am I convinced that he is the man to reform capitalism. But he took a line of approach and this speech fitted into it, building on and reinforcing his 'message'. In this sense it was coherent and this surprised me.</p> <p>Your language in places troubles me. "Grace notes" suggests that you regard everything he says that is positive about immigration as made in bad faith while the word "overture" suggests you think he is in fact conducting a generalised attack on immigrants. But capitalism demands immigration and he is the leader of the Labour Party which is full of immigrants. He can't attack them even if he wanted to. It seems to me that the problem he is trying to solve is the problem he says he is trying to solve: namely, how to win over working class voters, traditional Labour voters who know that the Party is not going to stop immigration. His answer is that Labour must address their fears honestly.</p> <p>I'm not going to 'defend' him. The question is, are any of these statements dishonest, and if so, how dishonest?</p> <p>Are you saying, as you seem to be, that we should let many more immigrants in, that this will have no distressing effects on local communities, that it won't depress wages or take jobs and that anyone who complains is a racist bigot? Surely in agricultural labour, warehousing and building for example, non-unionised immigrant labour depresses wages – isn't that the point? Can't someone who is not a bigot complain about this?</p> <p>I am not predicting any impact of Miliband’s verbal attack on low wages. My point is simply that this makes sense in terms of his presentation. There is a real question of politicians' commitments meaning nothing. He should make an issue of this and demonstrate how his commitments are clear and will be delivered, such as stopping people being paid below the legal minimum. But until he makes an irreversible noise I'll join you on the sceptical seating.</p> <p>Ed is a product of New Labour. Of course. He was also the only leadership candidate who said the Iraq war was wrong. He emphasised this in his acceptance speech to the fury of his brother. This means he is not just "nothing other than the creature of New Labour". Which is why the Blairites tried to get rid of him until he brought down Murdoch - something no pure New Labourite would have done. It seems to me that he does not deny his part in the Blair/Brown regime or say it has nothing to do with him. I wish he'd make much more of a split from it and it is appalling that he is seeing Blair who is profoundly unpopular in the country. He is not "desperately keen to deny" continuity but he also says he wants to be different in relationship to neo-liberalism. Saying he is just the same as the rest of them is no good. What is interesting is the nature of the differences and whether there is there a moral grounding or principle to any differences - will they be dynamic and open up a new direction, or are they cosmetic and likely to lead to repetition?</p> <p>Your response to my quote from the speech clearly expresses our differences and where our arguments might converge. You ask rhetorically “is this a jibe at Brown?" which allows you to ignore that indeed it is. You deny his attempt to be different, and then ask, "who was advising him"? So not only has he not really changed his mind, it's just a "jibe", he can't change his mind because he is what he was. All of which means you can't hear what he is trying to say to the voters.</p> <p>Your Kleinian point is serious. Is the distinction he is attempting to draw between a long-term responsible investing capitalism and a short-term, predatory speculative capitalism, garbage? Is the love-hatred we naturally feel towards our mother being projected onto the beastly provider that has built the wealth and culture of our singular world? Is it possible to have a regulated capitalism with full-employment, no one earning less than a living wage, and universal health and education services? If not, what is to replace it? The question for Miliband becomes: is it credible to offer significant improvements on the capitalism we have?</p> <p>His speech is cleverer than I realised! The job description of a political leader is to address 'the nation' while appealing to different classes, regions and interests that might oppose each other. It is not a rational occupation. But are not you being inconsistent too? Are you saying immigration that helps the middle class elite is bad while that which makes voters worry up north is good?</p> <p>I'm not attempting to defend his speech. But it seems to me part of his argument is that what is being expressed in racism and prejudice against immigrants are concerns about housing and employment, poor education and the speed of change. If so, you have to address these if you want to confront the racism.</p> <p>What Duffy said afterwards was that she objected less to being called a "bigot" than the fact that Brown referred to her as "that woman."</p> <p>Why do you say the Old Labour instinct has entirely gone? In the public argument Brown had, he recognised Gillian Duffy’s concerns as legitimate and sought to respond; isn't this exactly what Miliband is doing?</p> <p>Where does Ed say “it is no longer acceptable to call bigoted attitudes on race, immigration and cultural diversity bigoted”? It is indeed terrifically important if he is refusing us the right to denounce bigotry and racism. I have not read anything by him that suggests he thinks the English Defence League or the British National Party are expressing acceptable concerns. They are a common enemy. Perhaps over-generously I read him as saying that while there are racists who oppose immigrants, not everyone who opposes more immigration is a racist.</p> <p>I want to make one last point about your quote from Ralph Miliband's diary. The assumption is that England has not changed and is still the country it was 70 years ago, in its attitudes, its nationalism and its racism. I don't think so. I think there has been a huge, positive change towards multi-racialism and multi-culturalism and this is now a different country in this respect. Even though the political and constitutional system has not changed and is deeply inscribed with imperial insignia, supremicism and prejudice, the country mostly is not. Indeed, I'd argue that for peculiar reasons it is no longer patriotic to be fascist in England. You can't say this of France, Germany, Italy or obviously Spain, as yet, where everyone fears a fascist claim upon country and flag. I am not saying that English patriotism is necessarily democratic! But this is another discussion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Simon Parker</strong></p> <p>Dear Anthony,</p> <p>Your last set of comments are very helpful in both defining the common ground that exists between us and highlighting where differences still remain on the question of ‘post’ New Labour and immigration.</p> <p>Let me briefly address each of them in turn before addressing the wider ‘English/British question’ at the end.</p> <p>You are right to point out that there are aspects of the speech where Miliband does express a concern about the exploitation of foreign workers—he mentions the Morecambe Bay Chinese cockle pickers tragedy, for example, and the previous Labour government’s introduction of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (though he missed a trick in pointing out that the Cameron-commissioned Beeson report called for its abolition). But the speech is very ambiguous about whether ‘responsible capitalism’ should take a position on levels of migration. If Miliband is saying that the responsible capitalist is an employer who agrees to pay a living wage, invests in employee skills and training and has a strong local attachment to the community—very few people would disagree. But despite denying the speech is embracing a ‘British jobs for British workers’ approach—Miliband does seem to be suggesting that it is irresponsible of companies to hire foreign workers particularly where there are concentrated pockets of unemployment in certain parts of the UK.</p> <p>Despite providing no evidence that foreign migrants are displacing British born workers, Miliband makes the claim that</p> <p>“Where there are sectors in which the migrant share of the workforce has dramatically increased, it can be a sign that we haven't done enough to equip young people with the skills they need to compete.”</p> <p>But we don’t need to use migrant labour participation rates as a sign of poor levels of skills and education because as Danny Dorling and colleagues have shown, the long-term data analysis reveals a consistent social geography of poverty and non-employment that considerably predates the “dramatic increase” in the migrant workforce (See <a href="">‘Poverty and Place in Britain, 1968-99</a>’). What Miliband ought to have said is that in many parts of the UK it is often migrant entrepreneurs and business owners who are providing the few opportunities for youth employment at a time when traditional mass employment sectors such as construction and manufacturing are contracting.</p> <p>Let me try and condense the remaining responses to your other comments.</p> <p>Is the speech an attack on immigration? You say it isn’t because of the Labour Party’s composition, Ed Miliband’s own family history etc. I think the more positive noises in the speech are ‘grace notes’ precisely for the same reason. Miliband is talking to two constituencies simultaneously, a metropolitan liberal cosmopolitan one and the much larger public that comprises Labour-oriented white working class voters plus Miliband’s ‘squeezed middle’—those on low or middle income who are affected by inflation, wage freezes and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty.</p> <p>This is why the speech is so replete with contradictory messages. But the dominant message for me, and certainly in terms of the way the speech was reported, relates to Ed’s re-calibration of the political debate around a national defensive populism which although coming from a different direction is convergent with David Cameron’s infamous denunciation of ‘state multiculturalism’ at the Munich Security Conference in February 2011.</p> <p>The major difference between my position and the one you articulate in your most recent comment, which despite your denial does sound to me like a defence of Ed Miliband’s argument, is when you refer to the “distressing” effects of immigration on local communities — inviting me to contradict your claim that immigration “won’t depress wages or take jobs and that anyone who complains is a racist bigot we should attack as such”.</p> <p>The Compas study that I cited in my original article should have dealt with this claim that both you and Miliband appear to make. Yes, there can be negative effects on vulnerable local labour markets as a consequence of inward labour migration but this will tend to be at the bottom of the employment pyramid where the work is low paid, unskilled, seasonal, unpleasant and anti-social. I should have also pointed out that if one were to attempt to reverse these alleged negative effects on local jobs and wages by removing the foreign born workforce from Britain, not only would calling a minicab, catching a bus or finding a take-away in most cities be practically impossible—most NHS operations would have to be cancelled, many residential care homes would have to be shut down, and schools, factories, public buildings, offices and streets would remain uncleaned and unguarded.</p> <p>When I said that Miliband is “seeking to reassure the North London dinner party set that they can keep their Swedish 'nannies' and their Polish builders because exploited migrant labour is essentially a problem for those who worry about immigration in places like Doncaster North and Rochdale”, I wasn’t at all suggesting that “immigration that helps the middle class elite is bad while that which makes voters worry up north is good”.&nbsp; I am sure we both agree on the need to ensure everyone employed in the UK has a contract of employment that provides the same basic protections, minimum level of salary and rights regardless of national origin wherever they live and work.</p> <p>Since I think migration is good for both Primrose Hill and Rochdale I can’t identify with the ‘we’ that is invited to end further immigration, and not only because as Mrs Duffy observes “there is nothing <em>we</em> can do about it”. So when you say, “while there are racists who oppose immigrants not everyone who opposes more immigration is a racist”, that may be true, but the consequence of saying that Labour was too inattentive to migration fears in office, as <a href="">Shamit Saggar</a> has pointed out, “will only incentivise Conservative right-wingers to exploit immigration as an electoral issue in the second half of the parliament”.</p> <p>In this vein, Miliband talks about “secure borders” as the last fetishistic relic of the denuded nation state. As you point out capitalism requires open markets and that includes labour markets. But throughout the world, citizenship has become a conditional and restricted category which sovereign states wield in an increasingly desperate attempt to restore their popular legitimacy in the face of globalising neoliberalism.</p> <p>Therefore I think the situation from a public policy perspective is a good deal worse than in 1940 when, other than the obstacles of wartime transportation, there were no legal barriers to the entry of potentially 600 million Empire subjects to the mother country.&nbsp; One can argue about the United States being a more racist country than the United Kingdom, but despite the shameful attack on the basic rights of Latino and Hispanic residents in <a href="">Arizona</a> which the Supreme Court has mostly repealed, it was a black President of the United States who promised to offer a path of citizenship to the thousands of undocumented migrant children who, as Obama <a href="">insisted</a>, have the right to call themselves Americans (a gesture that prompted Obama’s presidential rival Mitt Romney to ‘<a href="">out nice’</a> the Democrats by promising to go even further in regularising long-term undocumented migrant US residents). There are many thousands of children in the UK whose lives are similarly in limbo through no fault of their own and to whom Miliband, like Obama, could have stretched out his hand. But their concerns and their worries seem not be on the Leader of the Opposition’s agenda.</p> <p>At the same time, as you rightly point out, it is important to insist that from a social and cultural perspective the majority of the British public is far more tolerant and comfortable with the practical realities of multiculturalism than Tebbit and Cameron will ever admit.</p> <p>As Max Weber remarked <a href="">in his lecture</a>, ‘Politics as a Vocation’ over a century ago</p> <p>“it is immensely moving when a mature man—no matter whether old or young in years—is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: “Here I stand; I can do no other.” That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position. In so far as this is true, an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts but rather supplements) which only in unison constitute a genuine man—a man who can have the 'calling for politics.'”</p> <p>This is why Miliband ought to be taking a stand in celebrating diversity as a source of strength and pride rather than as a pretext for diversionary arguments surrounding an economic crisis, the cause of which is to be found in the structural contradictions of unconstrained self-regulating markets, not the movement of labour within and across an increasingly irrelevant and archaic configuration of national borders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett</strong></p> <p>Dear Simon,</p> <p>Five issues are posed by this exchange:</p> <ol><li>What should we think about immigration, especially given the way it is exploited as an ‘issue’ by racists and xenophobes? </li><li>Have the English-British lost their racist attitudes in any fundamental way over the last seventy years?</li><li>What is Labour’s current policy in this area given Ed Miliband’s speech at the start of the summer?</li><li>How should the Labour leader’s policy be assessed and criticised?</li><li>What is the future of the nation and national politics in the 21st century? </li></ol> <p>The exchange between us began over the fourth issue: I was concerned with <em>the way </em>you criticised Ed Miliband’s speech. Having read your article, submitted to us for publication, I pushed it back at you over what I felt was a mistaken tone, a kind of knowing cynicism that undermined the credibility of your critique. My rapid response was an editorial one not written for publication. OurKingdom runs a very relaxed policy with different voices, attitudes and qualities in what we publish. I may have over-reacted in that I am writing about Miliband’s politics myself, on the closely related issue of Englishness. I wasn’t against publishing what you wrote but I questioned it. This has grown into a multi-part exchange for publication. Your last response with its more definitive conclusions forces me to address the other issues as well, directly. But I also want to return to my original concern with how those on the left should engage with Labour policy if we are going to write about it as activists, working to influence what is happening here.</p> <p><em>First, immigration.</em></p> <p>I am in favour of People Flow. That is to say I support replacing <em>the term</em> ‘immigration’ with ‘people flow’ and I want to see our politicians embrace the reality of the international movement or flow of people, with all our different beliefs and cultures, in positive terms. I back the approach set out in the <a href="">Demos/openDemocracy People Flow debate</a> of 2003, which argued that the movement of people should be “managed not controlled”. The debate originated with the work of Theo Veenkamp who was a senior civil servant in the Dutch administration. It was then edited by Tom Bently at Demos and by Rosemary Bechler at oD. </p> <p>Veenkamp argued that politics would be poisoned by toxic prejudices unless the positive energy of immigration was embraced and people smuggling, criminality, absurd rules preventing asylum seekers from working, failure to ensure that incomers earn their claim on welfare, and other issues were not addressed. He argued back in 2003 that it was the right time for this argument, in a period of economic strength and confidence in Europe. The debate that followed was massive and far-ranging, including even <a href="">a contribution</a> from here in the UK by the ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett. Veenkamp’s far-sighted warning and Bentley’s work to promote it was ignored.</p> <p>Their approach was embedded in making existing realities legal, workable and more productive, organised around a Copernican assertion: that immigration is not an exceptional, external interruption into normally existing society. The norm is people flow. The movement of people within and across societies is ordinary and cannot be stopped. It is what we are. They identified an evident truth and in doing so attempted to turn the preconceptions of political rhetoric upside down.</p> <p>What I mean by this analogy is that Copernicus realised that the sun did not go round the earth but that the earth circles the sun. People Flow sees that we, the people, do not exist in permanent political communities that immigrants come into or leave. On the contrary, our communities – nations, regions, cities, villages and local networks – are forms of movement, they are liquid not solid and herein lies their true humanity. We should embrace and manage this, not defy it.</p> <p>If Miliband was influenced by any approach it was a different one – that of Blue Labour (see the <a href="">debate on OurKingdom</a>), which seeks to reach out to the conservatism of Mrs Duffy. A central part of Blue Labour’s critique of New Labour is its opposition to the commoditisation of people by corporate interests endorsed by Blair when he was Prime Minister. Against this Blue Labour emphasise the capitalist inhumanity of mass migration that dissolves community and turns residents as well as incomers into units of labour.&nbsp; There is a truth to this argument, which Ed picks up on. But at the same time communities of fate can also be forms of inhumanity, while the freedom to move and the need to be open to the other is profoundly human, even if Blair traded on this rhetoric to benefit his corporate friends.</p> <p>I am still not clear where you stand on the basic issue of open borders. It seems that you want all borders to be open with no restrictions on the movement and settlement of people, not at some time in the future as many of us would, but now. Obviously you could not get democratic support for this in our existing political community. The question then is, is <em>everybody</em> who opposes opening borders racist and bigoted?</p> <p>On the other hand, if you agree that there have to be some controls, as I do and as the original People Flow approach supports, you can’t deny the legitimacy of debate over what such controls should be and how they should deal with cheating.</p> <p>You suggest that Miliband is exploiting such issues because he is pandering to prejudice that he should be confronting. But if you are going to accuse him of being confusing and contradictory you need to be clear about whether they are legitimate issues at all, if only in the mouths of others.</p> <p><em>Second: have the British changed?</em></p> <p>Have the British changed since the 1940s? There is lots of intolerable racism and prejudice around, but the British have changed a great deal. The country may be much more openly capitalist and individualist and outspoken and less corporatist, deferential and collectivist, and this has not proved good news for socialism. But in terms of the acceptance of people from other backgrounds as being British, the political and elite classes who are the most deeply prejudiced, have been obliged to concede that their policies of divide and rule on ethnic grounds have largely failed. There is an English question here, which is another matter, but most people in England see themselves as British and now oppose racist prejudice as part of this self-perception. This is a big change. </p> <p>I don’t think you have answered my unease at your use of the expression of frustration in a father’s diary against the son. Trying to show that the US is less bigoted than the UK does not address this and we can leave the point. But being clear about whether things are changing in the UK or not &nbsp;is still necessary if you are to condemn Ed’s approach. You say that the Labour leader’s “conceit” is to assume that if economic and social conditions improve bigotry will “subside and eventually disappear”, whereas his father understood that, “The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world...”. I thought you didn’t mean what this implies: that the English are still just as rabid people, and their prejudice will not be assuaged by material improvement. Clearly, if this is what you are claiming and the claim is accurate, the duty of any democratic party leader must be to confront the rabid mentality of voters whatever the electoral costs.</p> <p>You reply that “the situation from a public policy perspective is a good deal worse than in 1940” because then all Commonwealth citizens had an unrestricted right of entry, even if it was logistically impossible for them to exercise this right. But we are talking about popular prejudice and whether it is still rabid, not public policy. You add as a welcome fact that the public is “far more tolerant” and “more comfortable” with multiculturalism “than… Cameron would admit”. However, it seems to me that this is the premise of Miliband’s approach that you denounce as a&nbsp; “conceit”.</p> <p><em>Three: Miliband’s policy</em></p> <p>What is Ed’s policy? On reflection I agree with you that he was playing with prejudice by saying that Labour ‘understood’ the concerns of the Mrs Duffys and that this runs the risk of legitimising the BNP and the EDL rather than undermining them by stealing their clothes.</p> <p>But he is trying to build a coherent strategy calling for “responsible” capitalism that Labour will introduce under his leadership. Whether he is a plausible leader of such parliamentary capitalism is another matter. I won’t repeat my argument about why I don’t see it as a break from past Labour policy and the launch of a new one opposing immigrants and immigration. I have to respond to you when you write of my view, “Is the speech an attack on immigration? You say it isn’t because of the Labour Party’s composition, Miliband’s own family history etc.” But I never said his policy is in any way determined by his family history, not least because immigrants can be notoriously prejudiced. I simply pointed out that Labour can’t develop a policy of attacking immigrants (not immigration) as it has a significant number of members and supporters who vote for it because they see it as the party that does most to protect immigrants.</p> <p>Some of Ed’s close supporters have insisted to me that he is at the start of a journey. The parliamentary party is much more Blairite and opposes him. He must be judged as someone on a learning curve. But I think you are probably right that he is seeking to articulate a “national defensive populism” (in contrast to the Blair’s corporate, manipulative populism I denounced in 1999). Doubtless he sees himself fighting an election in the depths of an economic crisis when the pollsters tell him voters want reassurance. The pity of it is that there is a hunger for an energetic fight-back, which, if Ed does nothing to respond to, will turn towards Boris Johnson if it has not done so already. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Four: how to assess a leader’s speech</em></p> <p>How should we go about criticising a speech like Miliband’s on immigration? It’s important for the left in particular not to be holier than thou, given the massive, historic defeat we have been responsible for (so far, I would add). Also, the role of any leader is not to be logical, it is to bring together as wide an alliance of supporters as possible, including people who disagree with each other but look for hope in that leader. To pull this off is not contradictory, it is politics. We therefore need to ask what politicians are doing and where they are heading. </p> <p>You do exactly this when you analyse Ed’s strategy as “national defensive populism” and this illuminates. You don’t do it when you presume to know that his praise for immigration is made in bad faith while the tolerance he extends to understanding the causes of prejudice is the overture to his dark real agenda. </p> <p>He is a young and ill-prepared leader who got where he was because he was the only contender to show any significant commitment to changing from New Labour. He is also thoughtful, has an exceptional experience of witnessing how government works, and faces the most profound economic crisis since the 1930s. It’s silly to insist that he is just the same as his predecessors in quite different circumstances.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Five: the future of the nation</em></p> <p>Does the nation state with its borders have a future? You say not, claiming borders to be “increasingly irrelevant and archaic”. Here we fundamentally disagree. Indeed, your language is close to that of Blair and other advocates of neo-liberal globalisation as they fly across borders in first class comfort. Globalisation is creating different kinds of relevance for nations, states and the borders between them – not their irrelevance. </p> <p>The most advanced and promising multi-national experiment ever seen, the European Union, is surely an object lesson. It is creating more intense national differences by the minute. The tragic reason is surely that its architects saw nations and borders as petty obstacles to progress - and democracy and referendums as threatening forms of backwardness and populism. Democracy, the liberty and equality of self-government, in an epoch of increasing flow and change depends upon national forms of expression.</p> <p>The hollowing out of the state by marketisation is not a sign of the irrelevance of the nation but of its enduring importance as perhaps the only instrument able to counter global corporate interests. This is why if we are to have egalitarian policies and a more open political culture in Britain we need a much more democratic constitution, because <em>in its present form</em> it is arbitrary, unaccountable and unrepresentative – conveniently so, of course, for the vested interests that seek to influence it.</p> <p>We need distinct and defined body politics and therefore borders, if of a different kind to the 20th century, for the differences nations represent are not “increasingly irrelevant and archaic” – on the contrary. In the era of globalisation they need to be re-imagined and reorganised as plural, open societies, but they retain their place as the main (but not the sole) starting point of politics, not least when it comes to people flow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Simon Parker</strong></p> <p>Dear Anthony,</p> <p>I’d like to start by circling your five points with the fiery rings of Danny Boyle’s spectacular portrayal of British history in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. From green and pleasant land to dark satanic mills to the tragedy of war, women’s suffrage, and the triumph of a post-war welfare state. Each of these achievements was built with the help of ‘outsiders’—from the islands of Britain and Ireland, from mainland Europe and more recently from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. “Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,” declares Caliban in <em>The Tempest</em>—London 2012’s inspired and inspiring imagined community—a place of “Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not…”</p> <p>Over the course of the summer, even Conservative political commentators felt obliged to condemn Tory MP Aidan Burley’s description of the opening ceremony as ‘leftist multicultural crap’, and we witnessed a palpable shift in the national popular away from the defensive vision espoused by Ed Miliband in June to a much more inclusive and unapologetic celebration of diverse Britain; a mood which thanks to the Paralympic Games, as Lord Coe rightly observed, has changed not just the public perception of disabled athletes but of disabled people in general.</p> <p>Having opportunistically rolled out the No.10 red carpet to Mo Farah, a Somali Muslim asylum seeker who learned to run in a comprehensive school in Sheffield, would David Cameron have made exactly the same speech that he gave to the Munich Security conference about state sponsored multiculturalism having failed? One suspects not.</p> <p>Would Ed Miliband have been so ready to align himself with the concerns of Mrs Duffy over migration given that without it <a href="">Great Britain would have lost one third of its Olympic team</a> and even more of its medals?</p> <p>Again one would hope not.</p> <p>But sadly, as the camaraderie and internationalism of the Olympic summer of 2012 fades into memory—the monotonous drone of migrant bashing once more fills the national eardrums.</p> <p>Migration Watch’s Sir Andrew Green has managed to persuade over 144,000 people to <a href="">sign an e-petition</a>, thus sparking a parliamentary debate calling for more drastic action to be taken in order to reduce immigration lest Britain becomes swollen by foreign bodies to a population in excess of 70 million. Of course the <a href="">Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants</a> careful demolition of MW’s spurious data and dodgy projections cut no ice with the Home Secretary who has been only too thrilled to wield the visa axe on 2,000 innocent and unsuspecting overseas students <a href="">from London Metropolitan University.</a> Victims of an absurd audit policing that if the same scrutiny were to be applied to the UK Border Agency itself, as countless Parliamentary Committees have testified, would have resulted in the UKBA’s own visa issuing powers being removed. In a further attack on the right to family life, from July, marriage to a non-EU citizen is denied to everyone on or below the average income of all but two of the UK’s regions—a vicious economic apartheid that can only now be stopped by successful court challenges.</p> <p>So should Labour, and in particular Ed Miliband, return to the ‘business as usual’ debate on immigration?</p> <p>Let me reply by way of the five points you raise in your last response.</p> <p><em>‘People Flow’.</em> This term certainly has a less prejudicial connotation than immigration, but just as with the attempt to rebrand ‘asylum seeking’ as ‘seeking sanctuary’ it is impossible to destigmatise a despised group lexically. I absolutely agree with you when you say that ‘immigration is not an exceptional, external interruption into normally existing society. The norm is 'people flow’. You then write, "our communities: nations, regions, cities, villages and local networks are forms of movement, they are liquid not solid and herein lies their true humanity. We should embrace and manage this, not defy it". That is precisely right, but I would want to see management of such movements not in terms of control which inevitably means the state acting as a racist, sexist, classist, homophobic gatekeeper, but manage as in respond to the social and economic consequences and needs of population movement on a planetary level rather than through the outmoded and illogical mechanism of the nation-state. I will return to the subject of ‘open borders’ and the nation in my response to point five.</p> <p>‘Blue Labour’ strikes me as being no less of an oxymoron than ‘responsible capitalism’ or ‘caring Conservatism’. &nbsp;Its leading ideologue, Maurice Glasman, seems to believe like UKIP that we should re-negotiate the EU treaties allowing free movement of labour and halt immigration from the rest of the world. I fail to see where the progressive or ‘Labour’ element is in this, though it is certainly a position that would find favour with many Conservative MPs and voters.</p> <p>No I don’t think that everyone who believes in some form of immigration or border control is a bigot or a racist, though it is almost always the case that bigots and racists are strongly in favour of maximum immigration controls (ideally zero) and even the forcible removal of those who they consider to be ethnically, culturally, or religiously different to themselves. The problem, as Enoch Powell argued, is that immigration is not and has never been primarily a question of numbers (he notoriously never counted the immigrants from the Old Commonwealth), it is about who and what we want to be as a country. Those who oppose migration will continue to oppose it even if the economic benefits can be clearly demonstrated and the overall population remains stable because most anti-migrant voters see immigration as an attack on their cultural and national identity and that prejudice extends to second, third and fourth generation immigrant communities.</p> <p><em>Have the British changed?</em> I think you are right to say that “in terms of the acceptance of people from other backgrounds as being British, the political and elite classes who are the most deeply prejudiced have been obliged to concede that their policies of divide and rule on ethnic grounds have largely failed”. The British public, which itself has become more ethnically diverse since the 1960s, has become more accepting of ethnic, cultural and religious difference. But we must be cautious of assuming that in tough economic times that hard-won tolerance is something on which liberalism and progressive politics can rely. Although the BNP lost six council seats in the local elections in May, as <a href="">Daniel Trilling</a> points out, in the 2010 general election the BNP’s vote actually went up to 563,331. It is quite possible that UKIP will emerge as the largest party in the forthcoming European elections and this will harden the determination of anti-European MPs in the Conservative Party to push for a referendum on withdrawal from the EU. If that were to happen it is Enoch Powell’s vision of Britain rather than Harold Wilson and Edward Heath’s that is likely to triumph, and that would surely be a disastrous and retrograde step for the prospects of an inclusive and cosmopolitan Britain.</p> <p>Since Ed Miliband sought to legitimise his speech by reference to an immigrant father who still commands wide respect on the left as a radical intellectual I think it is entirely legitimate to draw attention to Ralph Miliband’s views on the British and English nationalism. Unfortunately the kind of rabid nationalism that Ralph Miliband complained about in the 1940s is still present in large parts of the media, in the political establishment and among a significant section of British society. Yes I do think, as you say, that “the duty of any democratic party leader must be to confront the rabid mentality of voters whatever the electoral costs”—hence my disappointment at Ed Miliband’s willingness to appease rather than to confront and challenge such views.</p> <p><em>Miliband’s policy.</em> Thank you for acknowledging that Ed was “playing with prejudice by saying that Labour ‘understood’ the concerns of the Mrs Duffys” and for accepting that such statements serve to legitimise the views of the far right rather than persuading voters to support anti-racist parties, which let us hope the Labour Party still thinks itself to be. It is hard not to see Miliband’s speech as an attack on immigration—especially given the way that it was spun to the popular press—and because he promised to put in place new regulations and restrictions that would in effect favour British born workers.&nbsp; There is a real risk that defensive national populism will force Labour to fight the next election on precisely the sort of chauvinist, anti-European ground that would favour Boris Johnson and the new breed Tory right. It is a fight that Labour cannot win because the Tories will always be more credible as the nasty party on immigration. Ed would be far better off plugging away at the coalition’s disastrous economic policy and denouncing its vicious revanchist war on the poor (especially poor women), the elderly, the disabled and ordinary working families.</p> <p><em>Assessing a leader’s speech.</em> My reason for offering a critical response to Ed Miliband’s speech was not to be ‘holier than thou’ but rather to challenge the often gushing endorsements that I read from even left-of centre commentators whose writing I generally admire, such as John Harris. It was also an attempt to argue that Ed does not have to cling to fearful, concerned Britain as his political touchstone. The Olympics have shown that there is a popular pride in diversity and our migrant history that can be channelled towards a more positive and inclusive sense of what it means to be British and to work, study or take refuge here.</p> <p>As you say, Ed has “exceptional experience of witnessing how government works”, not least because he was so central to its economic policy-making team. Politics may not be logical but it shouldn’t induce a sense of collective amnesia when it comes to the responsibility of political leaders for their past involvement in what was a Murdoch-craven, corporate capitalist worshipping, international law breaking cabal. I am not accusing Miliband of bad faith when he praises some of the positive aspects of immigration, but simply observing that the speech was an interesting example of the bipolar disorder that appears to require a pro-migrant narrative for progressive middle class voters and a ‘sharing of concern’ for those mostly working class voters who see few or no positives from immigration.</p><p><em>The future of the nation.&nbsp;</em>Unlike Tony Blair I have not done much first class flying across national borders, but I must take issue with the suggestion that those like me who are critical of national states and hope for their eventual demise are somehow ‘advocates of neo-liberal globalisation’. Such a characterisation couldn’t be further from the truth. Nation-states are the architects and engines of neoliberal globalisation not its victims.</p> <p>So your point about Europe is a good one, but I would see the faltering of the European integration experiment not as a consequence of the exertion of too little national sovereignty, but rather that there has been far too much of it. Especially since the introduction of the Euro and the increasing dominance of the Federal Republic of Germany over European monetary policy and the European debt crisis which is literally stripping Greece (and arguably Italy, Spain and Ireland) of its sovereignty. </p> <p>You say that “Democracy, the liberty and equality of self-government, in an epoch of increasing flow and change depends upon national forms of expression”. But history shows that nationalism also fuels racism, xenophobia and bigotry. I’ve just returned from a conference in Cyprus—where many hundreds of families still do not know where their missing loved ones are buried decades on from the brutal civil war that also witnessed members of the same community and even household murdered in the cause of ‘national unity’. During the recent occupation of the buffer zone in Nicosia in protest at the continued division of the island by the military and in solidarity with the global ‘Occupy’ movement, a graffitied slogan on one of the squatted buildings read: ‘nationalism is the ideology of death’. We do not need to look too far back in history or too far afield today to recall the genocidal horror of nationalist and colonialist wars.</p> <p>A desire to prevent any further slaughter between Europe’s warring national states underpinned Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s aspiration to build a new community of nations in Europe founded on the principles of peaceful cooperation. The free movement of labour in the European Union should therefore be celebrated not least because prejudice and chauvinism are best countered by the direct experience of other cultures and countries. If one wishes to maintain strong national borders, one has to accept the need for border guards, biometric surveillance, detention camps and immigration prisons, which has made the global state security industry such a very profitable experience for its investors and such a miserable one for its victims.</p> <p>I cannot imagine an open, plural society that would devote its energy and resources to such a relentless and often tragic control of its borders. However, like the late Sir Michael Dummett I can envisage some rare situations in which one could justify restrictions on population flow in order to prevent the deliberate minoritisation of an existing population (such as in Tibet by the Han Chinese, or Fiji where the British settled more Indians at one point than existed among the indigenous population, or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories). The other would be over-population where the level of natural resources is simply insufficient to sustain life (or a decent quality of life). But before embarking on such Malthusian meditations it is worth remarking that no Western European country is close to being genuinely ‘over populated’, that Britain is only the 39th most populated country in the world and that even a rise to 70 million would put Britain in 31st place with considerably more living space than the Dutch currently enjoy.</p> <p>Clearly we are a long way from a Labour leadership that would even begin to make such a case, but like so many apparently unpopular and impossible demands in previous episodes of Britain’s political history, from the abolition of slavery to votes for women, no great reform was ever achieved by taking the settled view of the majority as its starting point.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> uk uk Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Anthony Barnett Simon Parker Fri, 21 Sep 2012 16:57:29 +0000 Simon Parker and Anthony Barnett 68209 at Child detention goes on and on in the UK <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Most children detained in the new “I can’t believe it’s not detention” facilities are held for more than 72 hours. </div> </div> </div> <p>Despite coalition government pledges that the new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ in the Sussex village of Pease Pottage would be used as a ‘last resort’ and that children would normally be held for less than 72 hours, a <a href="">Freedom of Information request</a> from the campaign group ‘No-Deportations’ discovered that of the 11 children who entered Cedars pre-departure accommodation in September 2011: 3 children spent 1 day in detention, 2 spent 2 days, 2 spent 4 days, 3 spent 7 days, and the remaining child, having spent 4 days in detention was still detained as at 30 September 2011.</p><p>All six children kept imprisoned for more than 72 hours would need to have had their detention personally approved by Immigration Minister, Damian Green, a man who rashly promised that he would dress up as Father Christmas if a single child was kept in detention last Christmas (one child actually was but Green did not don his Santa suit).</p> <p>Of the 10 children being detained in ‘Cedars’ who left in September 2011, 7 were removed and 3 were granted temporary admission or release. This means that even by the Home Office’s own admission 30 per cent of the children detained should never have been arrested in the first place—despite the fact that every family admitted to Pease Pottage was meant to have been vetted and approved as 100 per cent deserving of removal by the Home Office’s so-called ‘Independent Family Returns Panel’.</p> <p>The 11 children were in 8 families; including 7 single mothers and 1 mother and father. According to the Home Office, none of the children leaving Cedars in September 2011 were returned to detention again in September 2011 (the latest date for which figures have been published on occurrences of people entering detention), but we do not know if any families held in September were subsequently re-detained in October. Home Office figures for October reveal that 3 of the 7 children held under immigration powers were detained in the high security immigration removal centre Tinsley House. Unless forced to disclose data by the Freedom of Information Act – tellingly the Home Office does not release figures on the length of detention or the number of re-detentions, or those held at ports of entry for less than 24 hours.</p> <p>Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the Liberal Democrat conference in September that the coalition government had ended child detention. Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, justified her charity’s involvement in the new family detention centre at Pease Pottage on the grounds that <a href="">‘children and families may need to be kept in secure pre-departure accommodation for a very short period of time’</a>.</p> <p>Given that medical evidence has demonstrated that even short periods of detention can cause <a href="">significant harm</a> to children—the fact that a leading children’s charity is complicit in keeping children detained at Pease Pottage for up to a week is an absolutely disgrace, and vindicates all the warnings that <a href="">End Child Detention Now</a> and fellow campaign groups have made about the collaboration of charities with the UK Border Agency.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Democracy and government Equality Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Simon Parker Fri, 25 Nov 2011 16:27:25 +0000 Simon Parker 62839 at Hard-hitting play on asylum system is a favourite of the Edinburgh Fringe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simon Parker, Coordinator End Child Detention Now, reports from Edinburgh on Catherine O’Shea’s chilling take on the UK asylum system </div> </div> </div> <p>Catherine O’Shea’s award winning new play, <em><a href="">Fit for Purpose</a></em>, has rightly been described by <em>Scottish Life</em> as one of the three best intellectual picks of the Edinburgh Fringe. In a festival that has increasingly become a recruitment fair for Britain’s got comedy talent, a play that deals with the mistreatment of female asylum seekers can be a hard act to sell. Yet when I saw the play for the first time on Sunday I felt that the moving depiction of Aruna and Kaela’s flight from Somalia and their shocking experiences in detention, played so wonderfully by Antoinette Tagoe and Zeni Sekabanja, should be essential viewing.</p><p>The play is the result of several years of careful research and collaboration by Catherine O’Shea with refugee campaign groups including the All Africa Women’s Group and End Child Detention Now. The characters and story lines are carefully reconstructed from the accounts of women who had been detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre where a hunger strike, which was followed by the violent removal of a number of women protestors to Holloway prison in January 2010 forms the background to Aruna and 13-year-old Kaela’s detention.</p><p>However, it is not until the end of the play that we discover the reasons for Aruna’s refusal to engage with the hunger strikers and her complicated relationship with Kaela. Director Tanja Pagnuco skilfully allows this story within a story to unfold gently and insistently in a tug of war between Kaela’s desperate need to make sense of her past life in Somalia and to claim even a broken and painful identity and Aruna’s desire to forget and erase a past which continually threatens to drag her back into a world of fear, exploitation and suffering.</p><p>For the UK Border Agency caseowner and the ‘Safeco’ immigration detention centre guards, Aruna’s story is greeted with immediate hostility and suspicion—‘Why have you damaged your fingerprints?’—barks the border guard before the two are handcuffed and sent under prison escort to ‘Fast-track’ detention. While in Yarl’s Wood we hear how the interpreter induces Aruna to remain silent about the extent of the trauma she faced in Somalia in order not to bring shame on her community. Because she is denied the help of legal representation, Aruna cannot know that failing to disclose such evidence in an asylum interview will result in her being ‘disbelieved’ and that she and Kaela’s asylum application will be denied. The brief hopeful experience of liberty after Aruna and Kaela are released from detention turns once more to despair as their appeal is rejected and all support from the Border Agency is withdrawn.</p><p>Families like Aruna and Kaela’s who cannot be returned because countries like Somalia lack functioning governments or even airports, are forced into destitution to reassure the British public that an asylum policy once seen as a ‘soft touch’ is now in former Home Secretary John Reid’s telling phrase—‘fit for purpose’.</p><p>At the discussion panel about the play that I took part in on Monday, one of the audience asked how we might confront the huge public hostility towards asylum seekers that perpetuates such inhumanity. It was encouraging that the panel —&nbsp;chaired by Frances Edwards of Edinburgh University Student Action for Refugees and which included Margaret Woods from the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Labour MSP Neil Findlay, Nina Murray of the Scottish Refugee Council, and former child detainee Pinar Aksu —&nbsp;all agreed that grass roots campaigns to defend asylum seekers could be effective and that prejudices can be overcome when people see refugees not as some alien species but as their neighbours, fellow parents and class mates. &nbsp;</p><p>We all felt that <em>Fit for Purpose</em> had succeeded in making real and meaningful the experiences of detained women and children that would otherwise be ignored or denied. The Pleasance and the cast and creative team all deserve a huge round of applause for breathing new life into political theatre and for representing this challenging issue in such an inspiring and compelling way.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Culture Equality International politics Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Simon Parker Tue, 23 Aug 2011 09:52:50 +0000 Simon Parker 61073 at The UK continues to detain children, a year after the Coalition's pledge to end it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A year ago, the Coalition pledged to end the practice of child detention in the UK. Yet the real agenda of the UK Border Agency has not changed. The detention and enforced removal of children remains a key aspect of immigration control. Can the government be pressured into honouring their promise?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A year ago, the coalition pledged to halt all child detention by this very day. Yet the recent news that six children were held in three separate detention facilities by the UK Border Agency in March comes as no surprise to campaigners who have warned that the UKBA is deliberately flouting Nick Clegg’s pledge to end the ‘moral outrage’ of child detention.</p> <p><a href="">Home Office statistics</a> reveal that four children — one aged under five — were held in Tinsley House, near Gatwick Airport in March 2011. An older teenager was held at Gatwick’s Brook House and a child aged between 12 and 16 was detained at <a href="">Colnbrook</a>, the Harmondsworth facility built to category B prison standard. In February a child aged between 12 and 16, believed to be unaccompanied, was held at the Campsfield House immigration removal centre for adult males near Oxford.</p><p>This month new ‘pre-departure accommodation’ is due to open in a former special needs school in the village of Pease Pottage near Gatwick. Tinsley House is being expensively refurbished as a high security detention facility to accommodate families deemed too “disruptive” for Pease Pottage – in other words, anyone who protests against alleged mistreatment or lack of due process, including those engaging in <a href="">hunger strikes</a>.</p> <p>Central to the Border Agency’s <a href=";index=426290&amp;DB=8&amp;DT=4">planning application</a> to Mid Sussex County Council was that the new facility at Pease Pottage will<em> </em>‘have a homely feel’<em>. ’</em>Most importantly. . . the facility will be part-operated by a well known national children’s charity [Barnardo’s], who are already working with the UKBA in relation to its design and way it will function.’</p> <p>The Council took on trust the UKBA’s claim that ‘the security for the site will not be greatly different to the existing school’. Homely design functions include a 2.3m perimeter fence, floodlighting, CCTV, internal and external room locks, and a new internal fenced ‘buffer [area]…to prevent the opportunity for people with access to the boundary fence from having contact with the occupants’.</p> <p>Little mention was made in the public planning hearing that the firm responsible for security will be G4S—a company that may face <a href="">corporate manslaughter charges</a> as a consequence of the tragic death of Jimmy Mubenga while being restrained by four of its security guards on a flight to Angola.</p> <p>A number of charities and campaign organisations who took part in the government’s child detention review process last summer feel frustrated and betrayed by the UKBA whose real agenda has never changed from regarding detention and enforced removal as a key aspect of immigration control. But few have publicly opposed the coalition government’s enforced returns policy for families, or the retention of Tinsley House as a family detention facility, or the opening of Pease Pottage.</p> <p>Other groups have gone beyond passivity and thrown their weight behind the government’s new detention policy. Citizens UK, the self-styled ‘home of community organising in Britain’, has, bizarrely, claimed credit for single-handedly ending child detention, while collaborating with the UKBA, specifically helping to ensure that asylum seekers go quietly. Citizens UK is identifying ‘community sponsors . . . who have a pre-existing relationship of trust . . .with an asylum seeker’, offering ‘ongoing, pastoral support to the individual/family going through the asylum process which is of benefit to both the applicant and UKBA’.</p> <p>By contrast, the ‘<a href="">Keep Your Promise’</a> campaign, launched at the beginning of the year by End Child Detention Now, has resulted in over 2,000 postcards being sent to 10 Downing Street from dozens of faith groups, refugee community organisations and local Student Action for Refugees groups calling on Cameron and Clegg to honour their commitment to end child detention. A parallel <a href="">campaign</a> against the collaboration of Barnardo’s with the detention of children has successfully targeted the charity’s network of shops and fund-raising events.</p> <p>The UKBA says the new system’s fairness and kindness will be ensured by a new ‘Independent Family Returns Panel’ providing ‘independent advice . . . on the method of removal . . . of individual families when an ensured return is necessary’. Yet the panel has no powers to challenge or overturn a decision to seek removal, and the UKBA or the immigration minister can ignore its advice, if for example the panel recommends that a family should not be detained.</p> <p>The new chairman of the Independent Family Returns Panel is Chris Spencer, who was made <a href="">redundant</a> from his £120,000+ post as director of Children’s Services at Hillingdon Council in February. While seeking to assure <a href="">Children and Young People Now</a> that he has not always seen ‘eye to eye’ with the UKBA, Spencer nevertheless envisaged circumstances in which ‘detention at Tinsley House’ could be ‘used as a last resort’ for families if ‘every other avenue’ has ‘been explored fully prior to detention of the whole family’. <em></em></p> <p>Chris Spencer’s new job reprises his role as joint chair of a QUANGO known as the ADCS/ADASS Asylum Seekers Task Force on which representatives from the UKBA and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services met to discuss and plan UK asylum policy, and in particular the safeguarding and welfare of children.</p> <p>Spencer’s fellow joint chair at ADCS/ADASS, Pauline Newman (formerly Director of Children’s Services at Manchester City Council), has also been chosen by the government to serve on the Independent Family Returns Panel along with John Donaldson, former head of Immigration and Emergency Services at Glasgow City Council and Philip Ishola head of the Asylum and Immigration Service at the London Borough of Harrow, all of whom were previously members of the Asylum Seekers Task Force.</p> <p>In its contribution to the <em><a href="">Review into Ending the Detention of Children for Immigration Purposes</a></em> the Asylum Seekers Task Force (along with the English, Welsh and Scottish Local Government Associations) set out its position on the detention of children and families. Far from seeing its role as defending and protecting vulnerable children and families, it is clear that the members of the Task Force, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, sought to push for a more aggressive and proactive stance to enforced family removals by the Home Office:</p> <p><em>'While it is accepted that removal of families that do not wish to leave can be extremely difficult, <strong>it is suggested that UKBA must put more resource and effort into increasing the removal rate of failed asylum seekers</strong>. A more proactive removal and enforcement policy to address key issues in removing unsuccessful asylum seekers is needed to reinforce the message that <strong>not complying does have consequences</strong>.'</em></p> <p>And what might those consequences involve?</p> <p>In short: the detention of children.</p> <p>Referring to the pre-existing child detention policy in Scotland, the Asylum Seekers Task Force and the Welsh, Scottish and English Local Government Associations remarked:</p> <p><em>'The government may wish to <strong>consider placing limits on the use of detaining children</strong>, while they develop alternatives. This could include <strong>limiting the use of detention to families who are immediately removable and for a short, limited period of time</strong>. Children should not, under any circumstances, be transported from Scotland to Yarlswood [sic] to be detained. <strong>It may be appropriate to make the decision to detain subject to external review</strong></em><strong>.'</strong><span></span></p> <p>In other words, despite the government’s stated policy not to detain children, the body whose senior membership overlaps with the new so-called Independent Family Returns Panel thinks that the detention of children should be ‘limited’ rather than abolished, and only when and if the government thinks it appropriate. The same ‘if it pleases the minister’ approach applies even to the policy of externally reviewing the decision to detain.</p> <p>When the formal recruitment to the ‘independent’ panel starts next month, the UKBA will once again be doing the recruiting.</p> <p>Some final questions for Anne Marie Carrie, the Barnardo’s chief executive who insists she will speak out if children are ‘routinely detained’ in the ‘homely’ surroundings of the Pease Pottage pre-removal detention facility.</p> <p>If, as claimed, families will be detained only as a ‘last resort’, why is the Independent Family Returns Panel scheduled to meet twice a week and why will the new facility operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year round? And how many children’s drawings of security guards dragging parents into vans will the charity’s play workers pin on the wall before Ms Carrie speaks out against, or better still gets out of the detention trade? </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Democracy and government Equality International politics people flow: migration in europe Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move Simon Parker Wed, 11 May 2011 14:33:48 +0000 Simon Parker 59442 at Simon Parker <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simon Parker </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Parker </div> </div> </div> <p>Simon Parker is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Director of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of York (UK) and lead&nbsp;investigator for the UK Economic and Social Research funded project: ‘<a href="">Precarious Trajectories: Understanding the Human Cost of the Migrant&nbsp;Crisis in the Central Mediterranean</a>’. In addition to the politics of asylum&nbsp;and migration his other research interests include urban studies and urban theory, socio-spatial informatics, and comparative European politics (with particular reference to Italy). Simon is a co-founder of Refugee Action York and the UK-based campaign group End Child Detention Now.</p> Simon Parker Tue, 25 Jan 2011 14:08:06 +0000 Simon Parker 57714 at An end to child detention?: how a High Court judgement brings us closer <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In a landmark judgment on child detention at Yarl’s Wood, Judge Wyn Williams found that the UK Border Agency failed to uphold its own rules and breached claimants’ rights to freedom, privacy and family life. The coalition government’s plans to continue detaining children until May now look to be in ruins. </div> </div> </div> <p>In the High Court on Tuesday, Mr <a href="">Justice Wyn Williams</a> might have driven the last nail into the coffin of Britain’s infamous and long-running child immigration detention policy. The detaining of children for immigration purposes <a href="">has been denounced</a> as a ‘scandal’ and a ‘moral outrage’ by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, yet the current Home Secretary has spared no expense in expertly and robustly defending the policy.</p><p>The action was brought at the end of last year by <a href="">Public Interest Lawyers</a> on behalf of a Malaysian family of three and a Nigerian mother and her baby. <a href="">Liberty</a> and <a href="">Bail for Immigration Detainees</a> supported the action (Suppiah and Others vs SSHD and Others). In a <a href="">judgment</a> that noted Nick Clegg’s repeated disavowal of child detention as morally repugnant, the judge found that:</p><blockquote>“The Defendant’s current policy relating to detaining families with children is not unlawful. There is, nonetheless, a significant body of evidence which demonstrates that employees of UKBA have failed to apply that policy with the rigour it deserves.”</blockquote> <p>Specifically, the UK Border Agency were held to have breached the families’ rights to liberty, privacy and family life (their Article 5 and Article 8 rights), though not Article 3, which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. <br /> <br /> The Home Office does not contest that both families were arrested in the early hours of the morning, were given only a short time to pack, transported in locked and caged vans, and that a very young girl was body searched with her arms outstretched to the obvious distress of her mother.</p><p>Reetha Suppiah and her two sons, and Sakinat Bello and her baby, were then locked up at the infamous <a href="">Yarl’s Wood Detention centre</a>. As with many thousands of families to be sent there, soon after being taken into detention the children became sick and suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. Reetha’s eldest son continues to suffer from a fear of authority and recalls seeing ‘policemen everywhere’ in detention.<br /> <br /> In finding that “the detention of children is not something which should ever be lightly countenanced or allowed to continue except in such circumstances which clearly justify it and which do not reasonably permit of alternatives”, Justice Williams gave a clear and resounding rebuke to the policy of previous home secretaries, immigration ministers and their senior civil servants.<br /> <br /> As is now <a href="">well documented</a>, government ministers did not detain families for the ‘shortest time necessary’ and ‘as a last resort’, but partly in order to deter would-be future asylum seekers. As Justice Williams noted, quoting the UKBA head of detention, Dave Wood, the risks of families absconding remain very low. According to the Agency’s own guidelines, detention should be reserved only for those who have previously failed to comply with bail or reporting conditions or who present a threat or danger.<br /> <br /> Home Office officials will try to save some face by pointing out that the policy of detaining families is not in itself unlawful. Meanwhile, everyone from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister downwards will insist that even if it is lawful, detaining families with children is no longer government policy and is soon to be brought to an end.<br /> <br /> But in the light of Justice Williams’ verdict, which the Home Office has said it will not appeal, can a cash-strapped UKBA really run the risk of paying out six figure sums in compensation to every asylum seeking family it detains between now and May?<br /> <br /> If the newly re-purposed Tinsley House ‘pre-removal’ facility results in children spending weeks or months in semi-detention, allowed out without their parents only in the company of government-approved ‘minders’, how confident will the Home Office’s lawyers be about going back to the High Court to argue the ‘last resort’ and ‘shortest possible time’ case?<br /> <br /> This judgment lays to rest the ghost of New Labour’s ‘compassionate detention’ past. But the sound of the clanking chains of privatised detention regimes to come can just be heard on the distant fringes of Gatwick.<br /> <br /> Nick Clegg has every reason to fear the voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth (and not just the ‘angry white’ ones) for back tracking on his election promises. Now, in the words of the late <a href="">Lord Bingham</a>, he and his government have to worry about the revival of an "older and nobler tradition…the remedy of habeas corpus, the most potent safeguard against executive tyranny the world has devised".<br /> <br /> If ‘executive lawlessness’ cannot and will not be addressed by <a href="">parliament</a>, then as Tom Bingham so powerfully argued, it is the duty of the justice system to protect the liberties and rights of subjects, whatever their immigration status or nationality.</p><p><em>Simon Parker is a co-ordinator of </em><a href=""><em>End Child Detention Now</em></a><em>&nbsp;and Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Culture Democracy and government Equality Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Simon Parker Thu, 13 Jan 2011 15:08:37 +0000 Simon Parker 57557 at On Her Majesty’s Deceitful Service: The Woolas Case and the Ignoble Lies of the British State <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The legal declaration that Phil Woolas knowingly lied and his election was void has reignited a debate on politics as a black art. Now it seems the dark spirit is animating government and official statements are not to be believed either. </div> </div> </div> <p>I have been closely involved in the campaign to end child detention in Britain. One of the most disturbing aspects of the experience has been to witness government ministers making claims about the status of immigration detainees that they must know to be false. Claims which their civil servants must have helped to manufacture <span>despite all the available evidence</span><span>. On top of which, far from challenging what can become a cascade of dissimulation, most sections of the press and the broadcast media continue to report these official lies as if they were true.</span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>So it is doubly welcome that the judiciary, at least, has found that a politician who in the process of winning a parliamentary seat by the narrowest of margins, knowingly lied about his opponent in an election campaign. As a result </span><a href="ourkingdom/ryan-gallagher/woolas-judgement-lying-about-other-candidates-banned-in-uk-elections"><span>the judges have ordered the election to be re-held</span></a><span> and banned the offending candidate from participating in elections for three years.<br /></span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>However, rather than raking over the coals of the Oldham East and Saddleworth election campaign, we should examine Phil Woolas’ record as Immigration Minister. The judgement should alert us to Woolas’ serial lying about asylum seekers as a Minister of State and his personal implication in what Nick Clegg rightly called ‘</span><a href=""><span>state sponsored cruelty’</span></a><span> towards detained children. So far this connection has failed to evoke a single reflection from the front, back or middle benches of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Neither did any of the major media coverage seem to consider that Woolas’ record as a minister might have a bearing on his conduct as a ‘stirrer up of white folk’ in Oldham, with the notable exception of </span><a href=""><span>Peter Oborne in the Telegraph.&nbsp;</span></a><span></span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><a href=""><span>Woolas’ ‘disgraceful’ exclusion</span></a><span> from the party by Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, we are told, has evoked the sympathy of numerous Labour backbenchers as well as the promise of financial backing from Cherie Blair and Gordon Brown. Harman has been invited to ‘examine her conscience’, while veteran Tory, Edward Leigh joining the fray, declared, ‘It is for the people to evict Members of Parliament, not the judges’. Meanwhile, in </span><a href=""><span>Comment is Free</span></a><span>, Dan Hodges portrays the ex-MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth as a ‘fall guy’ who has been ritually sacrificed ‘to the conscience of the liberal left’.&nbsp; ‘No one has fought longer and harder against racism and intolerance’, than Phil Woolas we are assured.</span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>At the </span><a href=""><span>Bevins Prize</span></a><span> presentation for investigative journalism, which was won by my fellow </span><a href=""><span>End Child Detention Now</span></a><span> campaigner and OurKingdom contributor, Clare Sambrook, Andrew Marr told the audience that the ‘children of people who have come in completely as of right to seek asylum are incarcerated in a way that is utterly against all our best traditions’. The man behind the previous government’s odious policy of arresting and imprisoning many hundreds of children and babies was none other than Phil Woolas. &nbsp;During Woolas’ stint at the Home Office, some 1,300 children were held in detention centres between July 2008 and September 2009 alone. In 2008, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons found that the average period of detention had almost doubled, while the Home Office’s own statistics showed that </span><a href=""><span>29% of children were detained for more than a month</span></a><span> on the personal authority of the Immigration Minister. This despite clinical evidence, as three Royal Colleges of Medicine have recently confirmed (</span><a href=""><span>Guardian Letters</span></a><span>, November 10) that detention causes long term mental and physical harm to children.</span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>Woolas sought to justify imprisoning kids on the grounds that it was the parents’ fault for ‘choosing’ detention over repatriation, since only families who had exhausted the appeal process and had no right to remain could be detained. In fact, as I pointed out in a </span><a href=""><span>Guardian comment</span></a><span> earlier this year, a significant number of families have been detained prior to their cases being adjudicated under the ‘fast track’ system. Also, many of the children who spent time in detention were subsequently released and granted leave to remain. </span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>Yet Woolas continued to repeat these misleading claims to Parliament and to the media as often as he could. In a word, he lied, but more seriously he lied as a Minister of the Crown and his Home Office civil servants, far from resigning or protesting, took pride in selling the ‘all detained families are illegal’ nonsense to an ever eager tabloid audience. Ed Miliband suddenly no longer has room for Woolas in his front bench team, but misleading the public on the issue of child detention has been no barrier to </span><a href="ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/has-meg-hillier-gone-mad"><span>Woolas’s loyal deputy</span></a><span>, </span><a href=""><span>Meg ‘we deport a failed asylum seeker every eight minutes’ Hillier</span></a><span> or Alan ‘</span><a href=""><span>allowing asylum seekers to work is utter nonsense</span></a><span>’ Johnson joining the ‘post New Labour’ cabinet. </span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>The cynical and partisan reason for New Labour’s child detention policy was the perceived need for ‘</span><a href=""><span>a clear tough policy’</span></a><span> on immigration by using detention as a means of actively discouraging new asylum applications, thereby taking the immigration debate deep into ‘enemy territory’. Woolas told </span><a href=""><span>The Scotsman</span></a><span> <span>last year that it was ‘a horrible reality’ but unless failed asylum children were kept under lock and key, human trafficking and ‘dead bodies in lorries in Calais’ would be the result. The Home Office has never produced any credible evidence that the detention of families results in fewer unfounded asylum applications, but it serves the bogus ‘lesser of two evils’ agenda with which New Labour attempted to justify its inhumane treatment of defenceless children.</span></span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>Jack Dromey and Harriet Harman may suit the role of the Shadow Cabinet’s Monsieur et Madame Defarge, but the new Labour leadership has so far shown no interest in ‘examining its conscience’ over the shameful imprisonment of thousands of traumatised children, or even bothering to say ‘sorry’ for one of the most disgraceful episodes in the party’s history, or for its policy of lying in office. And where are the protests from civil servants drafted in to knowingly mislead the public?</span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>Phil Woolas is no longer an MP, but the bitter legacy of New Labour’s detention complex endures.&nbsp; The government’s disgraceful announcement, sneaked out in a </span><a href=""><span>new prisons business plan</span></a><span> (page 18, Milestone F for the curious), that the </span><a href=""><span>detention of children and families at Yarl’s Wood will continue</span></a><span> <span>until at least March of next year is a broken coalition government promise that will be paid for in the unnecessary suffering of potentially many more innocent children.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>We must do all we can to bring this scandal to an end – write to your MP, contact the press, mark the anniversary of Universal Children’s Day with local vigils (Links and further information are available on the </span><a href=""><span>End Child Detention Now website</span></a><span>). </span></p> <p class="MsoBodyText"><span>Let us ensure that the lesson we draw from the Woolas case is not simply to require greater honesty from parliamentary candidates, but that in the discharge of their public duties, no minister or civil servant should be permitted to abuse their power and privilege by obscuring or denying the truth.</span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk ShineALight UK Democracy and government Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light Simon Parker Tue, 16 Nov 2010 11:40:16 +0000 Simon Parker 56873 at