THE BLOG

The Government's Crackdown on Illegal Immigration Will Benefit Nobody

22/05/2015 17:08 BST | Updated 22/05/2016 10:59 BST

This week, the government announced plans to crack down on illegal immigration, introducing a raft of measures which include confiscating the wages of those who work in the UK without a visa.

These plans do nothing but illustrate the government's lack of compassion, lack of perspective and ultimately their lack of will to genuinely address the economic anxieties of the people of Britain.

The measures Cameron has announced will criminalise those working here illegally, allow their wages to be seized, and expand the scope of the 'deport first, appeal later' system. They are designed to appease the government's critics as the ONS revealed that net migration has risen to 380,000 - another clear failure of the government to meet its own arbitrary target. The new policy announcement, however, is at best totally illogical: the figures announced yesterday are for legal immigration, and will not be affected in the slightest by tightening laws on illegal immigration.

At worst, however, this is the most dangerous kind of scapegoating; linking overall immigration figures in both the media and the public consciousness with illegality reinforces the already pervasive idea that all immigrants are somehow illegitimate, needing constant supervision and strict regulation.

These measures are also deeply worrying in that they represent a significant step-up in the government's willingness to force those who are 'undeserving' into poverty. Thus far, they have been content to steadily withdraw benefits, refusing to help many of those who need it on the grounds that that help has not been earned. Now, however, they are going further: confiscating earnings on the grounds that they should not have been earned in the first place. These policies are the product of a party more concerned with appeasing anti-immigrant sentiment than on ensuring the well-being of the people it governs.

In the end, this policy will benefit nobody. Not those who are trapped, often through no fault of their own or through life events that might happen to any of us, in irregular immigration status; not those who are here legally and find themselves increasingly branded as a problem; and not the British-born workers whose wages are being depressed not by migration but by the failure of big businesses to pay their staff a living wage - and the failure of the government to make them.

This is a victory only for ignorance - a victory of rhetoric over logic, of posturing over compassion. It is a victory for those who seek to demonise immigrants, who seek to pull up Britain's drawbridge and banish diversity from our society.

If we are to really address people's concerns about immigration, we need to do two things. First, recognise and communicate that pressures on schools, hospitals and other public services are not the result of immigration but of harsh government cuts; that wages are low not because of foreign-born workers but because our welfare system and low minimum wage subsidies companies, allowing them to pay inadequate wages; and that jobs are not 'stolen' by migrants but are lost when the government fails to invest in industries and public services. And second, we need to create an immigration policy that is fair and compassionate, that does not discriminate, and that allows people to feel invested in our society instead of alienated from it.