Farrukh Dhondy | Don’t Tories know immigration can bring UK into a globalised world?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Columnists

The ambivalently named Illegal Migration Bill is now passing through the House of Lords. It’s in trouble

Britain's first Indian-origin Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo: AP)

“Poets paint in words, they say
The waters are quiet in the bay
Last night I saw a shooting star
An echo comes now from afar
It’s just the music of The Word
The vibrations that prophets heard
The energy that turned to matter
The Word congeals, prophecies scatter.

From Teriyaki to Therimaaki: A Japan to Jalandhar Journey, by Bachchoo

Things fall apart in the sense that that which is designed to unite begins to divide.

Hey ho… these paradoxes! It’s only a fancy analysis of the progress of Hedgie Sunak and Cruella Braverman’s attempts to frame an anti-immigration policy which they believe will bring voters flocking back to the Tory party. They’re attempting two measures. I believe both will fail.

Cruella Braverman has been spinning these anti-asylum and reduce-legal-immigration webs for months. Under her watch people seeking asylum in Britain, mainly by crossing the English Channel in crowded, risky, dinghies has increased four-fold. These asylum seekers have paid extortionate sums to “people-traffickers” who pack the boats without any consideration of whether they will make it to the opposite shore.

The slogan the headbanger right-wing Tories (Hedgie is not one of these, but is with them on this one) is “Stop the Boats”. Of course, there is no practical way of stopping the boats, apart from murdering their occupants by getting the Navy or coast guard, or perhaps paying the Wagner mercenary army, to fire at and drown them.

The statistics for the number who have crossed and have sought asylum in Britain are very confusing. The home office, the department at present under Cruella’s Titanic captaincy, estimates that between last July and this week 38,000 such immigrant-aspirants without visas landed on the south coast. Estimates, which have Cruella panicking and calling the small-boat phenomenon an “invasion”, vary, but specify that between half a million and even a million asylum seekers will reach these shores before the next general election in the autumn of 2024. Hedgie and Cruella calculate that “stopping the boats”, however impossible that is in a literal sense, is the winning slogan — like “Get Brexit Done”.

Cruella, in addressing a recent right-wing Tory conference, launched her second-prong reduction of foreigners bill. She proposed five ways to reduce immigration, saying that this was the will of the British people. She began by saying the shortages of labour in the health service, in lorry driving and in fruit picking could be met by training the local workforce. I understand doctors and lorry drivers, but training fruit-pickers? “Steady on that ladder, lad?”

She said that skilled employees should be paid more, meaning that junior doctors should be disincentivised from migrating in droves to Australia. Second, she said that legal immigrants, with work permits, for instance, in the scientific industries or the National Health Service, should not be automatically allowed to bring their spouses with them. Third, she proposes sending foreign students home after they finish their studies and banning them from bringing family members with them. If students fail their courses, they ought to leave the country straight away.

The Rishi Sunak Cabinet, by and large, disagreed with all the proposals except the one preventing post-graduate students from bringing their spouses with them. The resistance from the Cabinet was led by the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, who probably considered that the extra stringent proposals on foreign students would stop them coming to the UK and affect the universities and institutions that badly need the fees they bring.

Jeremy Hunt, chancellor of the exchequer, also opposed the proposals. No Cabinet member publicly stated why they opposed them but it’s possible to speculate that Cruella’s proposals for increased wages for skilled workers didn’t quite fit Mr Hunt’s economic plans for the immediate future as he has demonstrated recently by opposing — or at least not providing in his departmental allocation of the budget — the wage demands of doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals.

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, probably through his opposition to increasing the wages of junior doctors, also opposed Cruella’s bill.

So back to the “Stop the Boats” plans: the ambivalently named Illegal Migration Bill is now passing through the House of Lords. It’s in trouble. Its basic provision is that those entering the country illegally — that is, without securing visas beforehand — will not be allowed to seek asylum and will be deported, back to their country of origin or to a “safe” country such as Rwanda.

This week Hedgie, at a conference on Ukraine in Iceland, made an effort to get the European Court of Human Rights to change its ruling which earlier frustrated the home office’s attempt to ship 800 people off to Rwanda.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has come out very openly against this bill, pronouncing it immoral, impractical and disastrous for the reputation of Britain as a compassionate, law-abiding country. It is more than likely that a large proportion of voters will agree with the archbishop rather than fall for the dog-whistle xenophobia on which Hedgie and Cruella rely.

We all know that we live in a nasty world in which 100 million people live in war-torn, disaster-devastated or desperately oppressive nations and places. Of course, there is no argument for throwing open the doors to all and sundry without a properly thought-out, humanitarian policy of asylum and a non-xenophobic assessment of the benefits immigration has brought and can still bring to Britain in our globalised world.