Labour’s position on immigration is trying to ride two horses, surrendering free movement whilst trying to not appease racism. Simon Hannah from Tooting CLP says there are many questions left unanswered.
When the 2017 manifesto For the many not the few turns to the perpetual political football of immigration, it states that Labour will “replace income thresholds with a prohibition on recourse to public funds”.
Now clearly the income thresholds is an attack on the Tory police of only allowing people to move to Britain if they are earning pretty substantial incomes (currently £60,000), but is Labour’s alternative any more humane?
What do Labour members think that a ‘prohibition to recourse on public funds’ means? Does it mean that immigrants that are in the UK will not have access (or have even less access) to welfare? What about health care or education for children? That the Tories are immoral because you have to earn over £35k to come here but Labour will make it so that if you are temporarily unemployed you are forced to leave the country or starve to death?
The government has a website which outlines what ‘no recourse to public funds’ currently means—you can read it here.Is Labour planning on extending that policy further?
When it says Labour will work with businesses and trade unions to “identify skill shortages”—does that mean that only people who are useful to the economy can come here? Are people just cogs in a capitalist machine to benefit the British economy? Are we putting profit before people?
When it says “we will institute a new system which is based on our economic needs, balancing controls and existing entitlements.This may include employer sponsorship, work permits, visa regulations or a tailored mix of all these which works for the many, not the few”, are we saying that immigrants can come to the UK but be at the mercy of their bosses? What kind of impact will that have on people’s rights at work, their desire to join a trade union or lodge grievances if they know their immigration status relies on their bosses liking them?
The people at the heart of the Labour left project and many of the newly inspired activists in Labour have far better anti racist policies than we presented in the 2017 manifesto. Do we have the courage to be truthful to our actual beliefs about the rights of immigrants and the benefits of immigration or will we triangulate to appeal to the racists
and the nationalists?
That is a fundamental question—if we waiver on this then what else will we sacrifice for power?
Progressive immigration policies would start from seeing immigrants as people, not a political problem to solve.
This means no more detention centres or deportations. It means fast routesto citizenship,free applicationsif you have been living in the UK and paying taxes. It means visas not being primarily linked to employment. It means allowing asylum seekers to work or claim benefits that they can live on.
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