Has the government been “inept” in its immigration policy?
Unusually the Home Secretary Alan Johnson has admitted the Labour’s policy on immigration has been inept. They never understood the problem many of their previously core supporters had with immigration and as with being extremely relaxed about people getting filthy rich labour has been relatively relaxed about immigration. In particular by not sorting out failures in the system despite them being pointed out again and again.
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Inhumanity of over-zealous detention
The use of detention has increased significantly under the Labour Government, along with the opening of several new detention centres. The result of the Immigration Act in 2000 has been that asylum seekers and “illegal immigrants” can be detained indefinitely and without the involvement of a court. Shockingly, this also involves the detention of families, for whom detention should be a last resort and for as short a time as possible but in practice, families can often be detained for several months at a time. A recent report by Sir Al Aynsley-Green found that detention causes significant physical and mental problems for both children and their parents.[[http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/27/children-refused-asylum-detention-centres]] It also found that whilst detention should be a last resort to prevent those facing imminent deportation from going on the run, around half of these families go on to be returned to the community.
The use of detention, in the main, is expensive, inhumane and unnecessary and has done nothing to improve the immigration situation for the Government, immigrants, or the wider population.
Failure to challenge inaccuracies
Whilst we see numerous headlines highlighting various falsehoods regarding immigration, the Government has done little or nothing to challenge these. For example, whilst it is a common misconception that immigrants come to the UK to claim benefits, the reality is that in the tax year 2002/3, of the 272,000 of people who were given a National Insurance number on arriving in the UK, only 8% went on to claim benefits.[[http://www.globalissues.org/article/537/immigration]] Another well publicised fallacy is that Asylum Seekers come to the UK and either take all of “our” jobs or live off benefits. The reality is that those claiming asylum are not permitted to work and have no recourse to public funds. They are therefore left to live of any savings they may have and the generosity of family, friends, communities and charities. For those who become destitute, they can opt for Home Office accommodation, which means being uprooted to practically anywhere in the UK, and being given food vouchers, not money, which can be both distressing and humiliating for those who have already experienced trauma.
If the Government were to be committed to reducing racism and xenophobia, both of which are becoming rife in the media and some sections of society, it would seem logical for them to publicise more accurate figures. This kind of publicity might also go some way to challenge the upsurge of the BNP.
What do you think?