Some facts regarding immigration

I am aware that some residents of Castle Point have a few concerns about immigration and I would like to address these concerns and bust a few myths.

The British are largely a tolerant nation, with a highly developed sense of fairness. Some of the immigration concerns I have had communicated to me during my campaigning are the result of fears that fairness and equitable treatment are not what is happening.

Immigrants from within the EU have the same rights as British people living in other EU countries, It must be borne in mind that something like a million Brits live in the EU outside of the UK and are entitled to benefits; some do claim.

Immigrants from outside of the EU cannot claim benefits unless they have been here for two years and paid into the system. The only exception is genuine asylum seekers who are here fleeing persecution.

The right to permanent settlement after a few years is disappearing when the points-based system is fully implemented in 2011. The latest figures I have seen also show that less than 3% of migrants claim benefits.

Migrants from outside the EU are only eligible for council housing or homelessness assistance in limited circumstances, for example where they have been granted permanent settlement or have been recognized as refugees.

Through reciprocal arrangements, UK residents living in the EU have the same rights as EU citizens have here as regards to housing. Migrants get no special priority and all applicants are dealt with in accordance with council rules.

Readers may be interested to note that applications for asylum are at their lowest level for seventeen years. Net migration to the UK is also falling, at 147,000 in the year to June 2009.

No charm

The Conservative Party’s candidate for Castle Point has written on the subject of immigration, and in doing so has demonstrated that the nasty party tag still applies.

Ms Harris remarks that she was handed an anti-BNP leaflet from a union representative, with no indication of whether she supports the unions’ noble cause. She goes on to attack Labour’s record on immigration, completely ignoring the appalling record of the last Conservative administration.

She finishes with a swipe at the civil service, indicating that they are not doing their jobs properly.

I would like to place on record that I think our public servants do a fine job, for a far smaller remuneration than any Member of Parliament, and with no recourse to generous expenses.

I think that immigrants, by and large, have made a positive impact to the UK and its economy. I accept that a wide-open door is wrong, but wonder what pieces of Labour legislation she opposes? Perhaps she does not want a unified border police or the Australian points system.

I am also exasperated by her linking of asylum with immigration. Most asylum seekers are fleeing persecution and we cannot put arbitrary limits on their numbers Of course we should validate their legitimacy but we must tread with caution else we risk sending people to their death.

Sorry Rebecca, you may be a charming person but this is a charmless post by you.

Myopia

Stephen Glover’s article in the Daily Mail shows that it is he who is myopic.

I will not deny that there is great concern over immigration in Castle Point and beyond, but I believe that Mr Glover ignores some obvious truths.

Firstly, like it or not we now live in a global village. Nothing can turn back time or reverse progress. We all take advantage of better travel opportunities and many of us enjoy working as well as holidaying on foreign soil.

I heard that the UK is second to Mexico in the numbers of its citizens living outside of its borders. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander – we cannot expect the world to welcome us with open arms if we do not extend that welcome to those who come here.

Besides, in a pure numbers games we stand to gain from the system as it is now; a universal ‘send them back’ policy would see a huge jump in these islands’ population.

Secondly, when it comes to housing Mr Glover seems to blame the homeless. The issue is not who is where in any particular queue; it is that there is not enough housing to satisfy demand. Rather than looking for ways to deny people housing why not support a program of house-building?

As to the issue of migrant labour under-cutting local wages, then I agree that is appalling. But who are the guilty here? Surely not the workers – a migrant will want as much money as anyone else, it is just that he (or she) can work for less. No, the guilty are the unscrupulous employers whose desire for a quick buck means that they are quite happy to employ anyone who will maximise their profit margins, even at the expense of their neighbours’ jobs.

This is where the anti-union policies of the 1980s have backfired. Who is fighting the corner of those building workers faced with massive wage cuts or penury? Where are the shop-stewards for the factory workers demanding the correct rate of pay? Unionising migrant labour and re-empowering trades unions is the solution here.

I do not want a return to barmy militant union leaders hell-bent on the downfall of capitalism. I do want proper workplace representation that means my job is not under threat because there is someone in another land prepared to undercut me. I am happy for competition in a level playing field and accept that smarter workplace practises must be accepted.

My cure for the immigration problem? – more house-building and stronger unions.