THE BLOG

We Should Be Angry, But Not About Immigration

08/05/2013 15:23 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 10:12 BST
AP

Earlier today the UK's new tougher stance on immigration was announced by a woman whose family come from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha lineage. She spoke in a parliament whose principles originate from the ideas of a Frenchman, Simon de Monfort.

The Queen, who has announced her fair share of immigration legislation over the years, stood opposite the Prime Minister and shared his legislative vision with the Parliament and the country. The speech itself might have been written before the local elections last week (the ink of the parchment takes a few days to dry apparently) but it's clear that the Government is continuing its attempt to muscle in on UKIP's territory by scapegoating immigrants for society's ills. Among the dozen or so bills in the speech the new immigration legislation is the one they have focused on most heavily.

It isn't only monarchs and noblemen whose foreign-born families have contributed to life in the UK. Indeed you needn't go far from the Queen's throne in Parliament to get a sense of what immigration has brought to the country. Many of the buses which rattle around Parliament Square, taking Brits and immigrants alike to their own places of work, are driven by people who weren't born in the UK. Across the river at St Thomas' hospital, and in our healthcare institutions across the country, you'll find non-British workers looking after our mums, dads, brothers and sisters.

Of course the Government would be quick to voice its acceptance of the type of immigrant who works hard and contributes to society. But the fact is that this 'type' of immigrant actually makes up the vast majority. Indeed immigrants are less likely to be dependent on the state than their British-born counterparts. They are half as likely to claim working-age benefits and new arrivals to the UK are less likely than Brits to be allocated social housing. Of course the Government knows this, but continues to focus on the evils of immigration in order to shore up their right flank against an insurgent UKIP.

The actual legislation announced by the government is both baffling and worrying. For a government committed to fighting red tape it's surprising to see them burdening almost two million buy-to-let property owners with the responsibility of checking the immigration status of potential tenants. And the proposals to cut legal aid and healthcare to migrants will restrict vital services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

It is now time for us to stand up for immigrants. The vast majority of them, just like the majority of everyone else, are decent people who make significant contributions to their communities.

When people are struggling to pay the rent and jobs are scarce it's hugely convenient for the Government to divert our eyes towards a foreign threat. We should be angry, but not at immigration. We should be fuming at successive governments who haven't ensured we have decent homes or jobs that pay enough to get by on. We should be raging against tax cuts for top paid executives and cuts to social care. Let's not let the Government get away with distracting us by talking up the dangers of immigration, it'll only let them off the hook for the mess they're making.