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Asylum a non-issue? - Grin with cat attached
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Asylum a non-issue? May. 30th, 2002 10:27 am
The UK has a population of 60 million. Annual influx of asylum seekers and refugees is around 70 thousand. That's about 0.1% . And yet these people are treated as "Britain's biggest problem", kicked around as a "political football", victimising them for votes. The very language of the debate is inherently xenophobic, talking of the "asylum-seeker problem", and denying both their human rights and our national duty to take in refugees.

Now I'm not going to say that we need to have a totally "open door" policy, as I've not studied the issues this would lead to, but to claim that we need either a crackdown or the proposed isolationist policies is absurd. It would be a welcome change to see politicians concentrate on real issues, and not pander to (and augment) the xenophobic minority.


In other news, have left all my UK banknotes in the wrong pair of jeans. Having 50-odd euros really doesn't help with lunch :/ Mope levels are down, too, thanks in no small measure to Karen *hugs*

From: robinbloke
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 02:36 am (Link)
It's the current media topic; government isn't issue driven, it's hysteria-media driven. "That which keeps you popular and out of the tabloids bad books must be delt with.". Sadly.

True

From: wechsler
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 02:39 am (Link)
In our risible form of "democracy", it's the media, especially the tabloids, that really elect the government.
From: ajva
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 02:38 am (Link)
I read that George Carey (Archbishop of Canturbury) recently commented that we should let everybody in, including if they're "economic migrants" rather than "political refugees", because what difference does it really make given the condition they're leaving behind?...
From: wechsler
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 02:44 am (Link)
As I've said, I don't know the numbers, but I suspect if </hyperbole>we start letting entire countries in<hyperbole> we might start feeling some genuine strain.
From: adjectivemarcus
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 02:49 am (Link)
I doubt that would happen, or even near happen. Once a certain percentage of their population jump ship any country would change.

I think...

From: ajva
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:17 am (Link)
Well, it's an interesting thought experiment, isn't it? I mean, if you're not going to advocate an open-door policy, then exactly how are you any more liberal than the xenophobes?

(please note: I'm using the word "you" in the impersonal third person sense rather than "you" meaning Wechsler. I'm certainly not singling you [Wechsler] out as I think my own views are probably quite close to yours!)

Because the thing is, if you ask the "xenophobes" why they object to people immigrating in large numbers, most of them will not take the outright racist BNP "we don't want *any* foreigners here" line. Most of them will say something very similar to you i.e. "we should have some, but not so many that we're overrun". In fact even the BNP would say that they don't want to be overrun, it's just that they go to the lengths of saying we shouldn't have any. Actually, their stance, though repulsive, is actually a hell of a lot more consistent than ours! Who says where you should draw the line? Do we make the process as difficult as possible, so that we are setting putative immigrant against putative immigrant in some kind of Darwinian game, and we will be happy to let the winners into Britain because they are "fit" to live here? Because frankly, that seems to be what we are doing at the moment. The only real debate is about how difficult we make the test, and thus how strict the artificial selection is.

The only other logical choice is to have a completely open door policy, at which point even liberals will start to think "but we've already got a housing crisis/widespread unemployment/overburdened NHS/[your own social bugbear here]" etc. etc., and suddenly it's a whole different story.

And the reason for this? We know, deep down, that we enjoy material comfort at the expense of other people. We know that if we have the opportunity to buy a packet of rice for the equivalent of 15 minutes' wages, a bowl of exotic fruits for similar and cheap clothes made of beautiful fabrics in the local supermarket, to eat and dress like a monarch of old at home and never fear starvation, it is because other men, women and children have slaved in the paddy fields, amongst the fruit trees and in the sweatshops of countries a lifetime away from us. We need them to stay there. If they did not do the work - and more to the point if they did not do it for so little money - we would have to work harder, or pay more, and suddenly our lives would not be as comfortable. Suddenly we would be in danger of becoming poor too. We have to stop people getting into our countries, we have to justify keeping them out, because otherwise the ridiculousness and injustice of the disparity in global wealth shames us too much. If we do not take responsibility for helping the less developed nations become wealthier, then the other prong on the pitchfork is that we must stop people from trying to join our gravy train. And what capitalist country could act any other way, given that there is currently no way to help a country become significantly wealthier which is consistent with environmental sustainability. We would have to become environmentally friendly ourselves too, but this is a cause which clashes with capitalism itself in so many ways.

This is your "asylum" problem, in a nutshell. The face-off used to treat it is called "Realpolitik". :o(

Re: I think...

From: wechsler
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:28 am (Link)
Likewise, not specifically directed against you (as I agree with much of this), but a favourite quote:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." (Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882).

All "Realpolitik", indeed all life, requires compromise. The key in both is finding the best avaiable compromise.

Re: I think...

From: ajva
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:41 am (Link)
Excellent quote! :o)

Re: I think...

From: djm4
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:55 am (Link)
I agree with both of you on this (and bravo to ajva for articulating beutifully one of the issues that keeps this particular liberal awake at nights sometimes), although I believe there are consistent positions between 'let no one in if it's going to damage/alter our standard of living' and 'let everyone in who asks', it's just that those are the easiest to justify because it's very clear where one is drawing the line.

The problem, as with so many things, is that I am trying to draw a line across a continuum with many variables. I'm trying to sort people into 'let in' and 'keep out' based on a highly complex set of criteria, and what's more the decision to let in one person may affect the decision to let in another. And I never know if I got it right, because I don't get to know what would have happened if I'd made the other decision.

The problem is not so much with coming up with a consistent position, but in applying that position consistently to the very real problem of who to let in and who not to. Mind you, I'm not sure that's an important difference.

Re: I think...

From: zotz
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 04:09 am (Link)

We need them to stay there.

99% or so of them will. Those who come over tend to be well-educated and well-motivated - a friend of mine who lived in the States was lamenting that his wife got to teach children of refugees English, which was great because they were all really keen, while he was teaching children of foreign diplomats and businessmen, who were completely insufferable and couldn't be bothered. After all, they were rich and they weren't staying permanently, so why should they bother?

There's a sound economic argument too. Lots of jobs are going begging because locals aren't interested. Historically, this country's done very well out of immigration, and I don't see any evidence that that's changed. We'll need immigrants and their children to pay our pensions, for a start.

So there you go. I genuinely do advocate an open-door policy. The country's nowhere near full.
Outside the South-East, there are whole estates of houses going begging. You can get two-for-one deals in some parts.

One last thing to remember is that the current wave of refugees has peaked. 10% fewer people arrived last year than the year before. this issue's going to go off the boil before long whatever the government decide.

good stuff

From: ajva
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 04:12 am (Link)
So there you go. I genuinely do advocate an open-door policy.

Can I just clarify that I do too? :o)

I was just attempting to describe another train of thought.

Re: good stuff

From: djm4
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 04:35 am (Link)
Actually, so do I. It's just that I can see circumstances under which I'd want to close it in future, although I'm not sure it'd be ethical to do so.

And I can certainly see parallel universes in which I, as a gay man in Amsterdam, would be very concerned about an influx of refugees that was arriving in sufficient numbers to change the culture to make it less tolerant of me.

Re: good stuff

From: ajva
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 06:21 am (Link)
Excellent point. I have to admit I've been finding the Pim Fortuyn stuff fascinating.
From: feanelwa
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:01 am (Link)
heard this morning they're considering making people apply for asylum from the country they're running away from.
how many times??
...that's why they're running away!
it's like talking to a brick wall sometimes...
grr!

and the other thing,
Having 50-odd euros really doesn't help with lunch :/
i'm sorry but that sounds so sweet! awww! bless! ~hug~ and, er, hope you get some lunch somewhere.
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
From: wechsler
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 03:17 am (Link)
The Refugee Council, among others, highlights the fact that initial decisions made on asylum seekers are often wrong, leading to many legitimate persons being rejected. If, as the government, wishes, they can kick people out after this, they can both cut legitimate intake and avoid being proven wrong.

The government really doesn't live being told it's wrong; hence the plans to reduce public right of information or appeal in the case of major construction projects. It's called the "fast-track" proposal; once more, rights are removed under the pretence of "efficiency".
From: zotz
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 04:12 am (Link)

Having 50-odd euros really doesn't help with lunch :/

It can get you into nightclubs though.

We had two more people pay in Euros at the Calling on Tuesday.

From: hfnuala
Date: May 30th, 2002 - 04:38 am (Link)
I think M&S take Euros...

I find immigration a touchy topic since I'm basically an immigrant myself. But because I'm Irish there is an open door policy for me and there has been since independance. And I don't really see why that should be so, so I suffer from liberal guilt about it.

Seriously, why does the UK take any Irish person regardless of their situation back in Ireland (given that leaving Ireland is no longer an econmic necessity unlike, say, 20 years ago) while at the same time making life very difficult for people coming from places where there is civil war, no economy and many clear reasons for leaving.