Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Complete Control

I watched Jeremy Paxman interview Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, last night. He gave him a seriously rough time and I don't think he came off too well. I had hoped, for the sake of continuing social justice and a calmer approach to issues like crime and immigration, that Labour would have a minority government requiring the support of a substantial Liberal Democrat bloc to govern. This would, hopefully smooth some of Labour's neo-Tory rough edges like detention without trial and ID cards and such excesses that will only fuel resentment among immigrants in general and Muslims in particular.

But this British election is turning out to be dangerously more cynical than I feared and maybe another huge Labour majority is required. The Tories' election strategy is crystal clear - play to fears and prejudices, xenophobia and racism. Middle Class liberals, particularly young adults, won't bother to vote and enough of the working classes, being persuaded that immigrants are the reason for their deprivation, will join the Little Englanders and vote for the tough Tories.

The "Tory" press in Britain is leading the charge on their behalf. Last week the Daily Mail ran a story about immigrants in Calais queuing in droves to enter Britain, complete with pictures. However on Sunday the Observer, investigating the claims, ran a counter-article asking "where all the asylum seekers had gone" i.e. no queues and interviews with African men claiming that entry to Britain is impossible.

Of course all of this is relevant to Ireland too, for we seem to be following in Britain's footsteps. We don't have immigration on anything like the same scale yet the Irish people already resent the few we have. The referendum of last June proved that. The rumours, the lies, the Chinese whispers. People believing only what they want to believe (immigrant mothers chucking brand new prams in the river because they know the State will give them another one, for God's sake!).

Here's the truth about immigration as far as I'm concerned:
  1. An aging Europe requires a huge influx of immigrants to work and, therefore, pay the taxes that will in, in turn, pay our pensions and our healthcare. Why? Because we're not having enough kids and we're having them later in life.
  2. Immigrants, historically, are net economic contributors to society. Look at the US for proof of this - the most succesful society in the history of the world that exists solely because of mass immigration.
  3. Immigrants work, pay taxes and, even if drawing welfare, still spend money. After all the foundation stone of capitalism and the global market is a perpetual increase in consumption. As populations drop the requirements for goods and services drop and, ironically, this leads to unemployment and another layer of people who can't afford to buy existing goods and services - constant economic stagnation, as the people of France are discovering.
  4. People claim that only skilled migrants should be allowed into a country i.e. those that will not become a "burden" on the state. But this does not take into account the destabilising affects of skilled people leaving their own communities behind.

At a moral level I believe that all people really are equal - I don't just say that and add qualifiers that, because I'm lucky enough to have been born in my Safe European Home, I therefore, somehow, deserve better opportunities from life than others. The term "economic migrants" is used in disparaging terms. I really don't know why. What's wrong with moving to lands of greater opportunity? Does anyone really believe that Africans, for example, only want to sit around drawing welfare? And is it fair to generalise about entire continents?

If people believe that large-scale immigration causes social problems then they have to accept that these social problems are based on racism pure and simple. People that come from another country are different so, therefore, they deserve less. Self-segregation is rampant because the hosts don't want to know and the immigrants know this and often don't want to know themselves. If that sounds unfair then ask if the race riots of 2001 in Northern England would have happened if there had been a mass movement of other English people into those towns.

If anyone reading this from Europe or America was denied passage to another country they would feel, rightly, aggrieved yet this is the reality facing the vast majority of the world's population. A species that evolved by migration over many thousands of years has spent less than a hundred restricting the free movement of people.

I support genuinely free trade, I'm no anti-globaliser. But free trade without free movement of people is immoral and it is time that people in authority or positions of influence started educating the masses on the true meaning of equality.

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