Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dehumanising the newcomers

The definitive guide to how the anti-migrant arguments, the barefaced lies and naked bigotry were feverishly circulated in the days before the 2016 referendum and how migrants were made scapegoats for the misery caused by the government’s own drastic spending cuts – for a buckling NHS, a cash-starved school system and falling wages happened is in a study from King’s College London, which analyses almost 15,000 articles published online during the Brexit campaign by 20 news outlets, including the BBC and all the national papers. 

Researchers found immigration to be the most prominent issue in the 10 weeks running up to the vote, leading 99 front pages. Of those, more than three-quarters were from the four most virulently leave newspapers: the Sun, the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. Brexiteers fed their papers’ scare stories about immigration – no matter how scurrilous. 

“When not associated with rape, murder or violence, migrants were often characterised as job stealers or benefit tourists,” observes the academics’ report. So grab-handedly abhorrent were these newcomers that they were simultaneously taking our jobs and stealing our dole money. Or else they were jostling British mothers out of maternity wards and cramming their kids into British classrooms.  One day the target is immigrants without documents; the next it’s a “swarm” of Poles.

Racial prejudice is not just normalised but tacitly encouraged by cabinet ministers. Yet time and time again, the politicians’ claims were false. Study after study has failed to find any evidence of significant undercutting of wages. Far from jumping the queue, analysis published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows they are much less likely to be on benefits or in social housing than their UK-born counterparts. Migrants from eastern Europe pay billions more in taxes to Britain than they take out in public spending. Far from squeezing hospitals and schools, they subsidise and even staff them. Rather than take jobs, they help create them. What has drained money from our public services and held down our wages is the banking crash, and the Tories’ spending cuts. 

As former Bank of England rate-setter David Blanchflower concludes in a forthcoming book on Brexit and Trump: “Government-imposed austerity has meant their money [migrants’ taxes] has not been used to finance the services they are entitled to, hence the overcrowding.” In one of the most breathtakingly cynical moves of our time, the very same ministers making the cuts looked at the fallout they created – and blamed migrants.

The Tories haven’t created this climate alone, of course. From Tony Blair to Ed Miliband, Labour leaders have marched alongside, muttering about “legitimate concerns.” Imagine Labour repealing gay marriage to placate misguided voters, or restricting women from working in order to boost wages for men. You cannot. But torching non-British workers in order to score political points is still deemed acceptable. Among the six tests Labour’s Keir Starmer has set for Brexit is the familiar dog-whistle about “fair management of migration”.

Home Office mistreatment of immigrants affects thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, according to new research which concludes that the “dehumanising” approach is systemic. The report, published by Refugee Action, alleges that “systemic failures” in the Home Office’s approach to asylum claims “dehumanises, disempowers and damages” those who have come to the UK fleeing persecution or war.

 By the end of 2017, 14,306 people had been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for more than six months, which is the current “service standard” for asylum claims. This is a 25% increase from 2016, despite the number of applications for asylum falling in 2017. The report also details the number of incorrect decisions on asylum claims made by the Home Office. In 2017, 35% of asylum appeals resulted in Home Office refusals being overturned. For certain nationalities more than half of all appeals were upheld, including cases of people from Yemen (70%), Libya (61%), Somalia (54%) and Afghanistan (52%).

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said, “The human issues here are the length of time to take decisions, and the absolute lack of clarity on how long those decisions might take,” said Hale. “So people who are waiting two, three, four years, but without knowing if indeed it might be 15 years. People have been left in limbo – a time in which they have got incredibly low levels of income, no right to work, no place they can make their own in terms of housing. They really are abandoned...The vast majority of the British people, I’m absolutely certain, would recognise we’ve got to find better ways to do this, that we can be a country that is compassionate, that is supportive of people who have had to flee the conflicts that are reported on our TV screens.”

The report describes the allowance given to asylum seekers of £37.75 per week as “problematic”.

The point about opinions is that they can be shifted.

No comments: