Campaigners call immigration white paper ‘biggest attack on rights in Britain in a generation’

Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Responding to the publication of the government’s Immigration White Paper, Ed Lewis, migration campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

“It is a sad day for global justice when Britain announces plans to further close itself off from the world. The Brexit result did not require an end to free movement - this is a political choice by the most anti-migrant prime minister in living memory.

“The white paper is the biggest single attack on rights we’ve seen in a generation. It will create ‘Fortress Britain’ where migrants come and go at the behest of big business but lack many of the rights which EU migrants have enjoyed to date. It is a recipe for a race to the bottom in terms of worker pay and conditions. As a country that pillaged and exploited the world to gain its wealth - and still does today - it is unconscionable to further close our doors to human beings.

“It is a scandal that the key bits of EU policy we’ll be carrying over are those which have led to thousands of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years. We still want to do deals with repressive regimes to keep refugees out, and leave Greece and Italy as our frontline in the war on refugees.

“In countries around the world the decade-long failure of governments to protect the poorest in society from the impacts of the financial crisis have repeatedly been blamed on migrants. Britain is no different. Only mass popular pressure can force Theresa May’s government to change course.”

On reduced rights for EU migrants:

“The reduction in rights for EU migrants is an attack on the freedom of people across Europe to live and work in the UK. We shouldn’t reduce the rights of EU migrants to those we give the rest of the world, we should do the opposite - defend freedom of movement in Europe and extend it to others outside of the EU. If people are worried about having their wages undercut by migrants, the white paper makes this more likely. You can only avoid this when you give migrants real rights. The white paper is all about removing rights.”

On reducing net migration and the hostile environment:

"The government may have downgraded the net migration target but Sajid Javid has today made clear he still wants net migration reduced. The commitment to reduce net migration has driven a raft of repressive government measures, including the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants, and it encourages people to come to the UK in more dangerous ways to avoid border controls. The government must abandon the goal of reducing migration and scrap the hostile environment - which Sajid Javid has utterly failed to do.

On refugees and global responsibility:

“Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the White Paper is that it wants Britain to sign up to dodgy deals with repressive regimes like Turkey or Egypt in the hope those countries will keep refugees and migrants out of Britain. The result of this policy has been thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and slave camps in Libya. On top of this, the government wants to sign up to a version of the Dublin Convention which leaves migrants in already struggling countries like Italy and Greece. This is truly a charter for making our human rights responsibilities ‘someone else’s problem’.

“Britain is a country that continues to derive much wealth off the backs of other countries around the world. Too often, people are here because of the effects of wars, arms sales, trade deals, tax avoidance and corporate behaviour sanctioned by Britain. It is outrageous to drain other countries of wealth and then refuse to give a place to those who lose out from these policies.

On prioritising high skilled EU migrants:

“A skills-based system that favours higher earning workers is discrimination against poorer migrants, and reinforces the false idea that migrants are responsible for low wages, rather than exploitative employers and government’s repeated attacks on workers’ rights. The income threshold for non-EU migrants has long been a feature of Britain’s cruel immigration system. Whatever the ultimate level, any extension of this system to EU migrants will deepen this inhumane arrangement. It will lock out the people who stand to gain the most by coming here and who also contribute to our society. The freedom to move shouldn’t just be confined to the rich or middle classes."

Photo: Migrant solidarity campaigners on a 'No to Fortress Britain' march in December.