Wednesday, 9 November 2011

No borders

Home Secretary Theresa May continues to flounder over allegations that she ordered immigration officers to relax passport controls for both EU and non-EU nationals.  Labour has predictably jumped on the issue to claim that "Britain's borders aren't safe under the Tories".  What very few people question is the need for immigration and passport controls in the first place.

Immigration controls are usually presented as natural and having always existed.  Neither of these things is true  In Britain, immigration controls date from the Aliens Act 1905 which resulted from an anti-semitic campaign by the far-right British Brothers League to restrict Jewish immigration from the Russian Empire. 

It is true that if the entire population of the world decided to move to London tomorrow, it would cause problems in housing, transport etc.  But how likely is that if immigration controls were scrapped?  As it stands, the entire population of the rest of the European Union (somewhere between 400-500 million people) have the right to live in Britain, as did all Commonwealth citizens up to the 1962 Immigration Act and as have Irish people since Ireland gained its independence in 1922.  The actual numbers of immigrants has largely depended on the economic conditions in the countries they came from, the demand for labour in Britain and access to cheap long-distance transport.

The fact that the EU allows free movement of its (mainly white) citizens but restricts entry to Arab, African, Asian and Hispanic people outside it is clearly racist.  The fact that Britain is an island also probably has something to do with the obsession about controlling borders.  The Schengen Agreement means that citizens of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and other EU countries can travel between them without a passport. 

And let's not forget that the immigration laws are routinely used to intimidate and victimise migrant workers, as in this case of a cleaner and RMT member currently facing deportation.

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