What if the immigration debate ended but nobody noticed?

There is no difference between the parties now. I know that sounds like the hyperbole of a political try-hard, but I think it’s true. In the early 2000s Labour solved the problem of asylum seekers and it took everyone a long time to realise. At some point in the last few years the problem of European migration was solved and people still haven’t noticed. The rhetoric will vary but the UK’s immigration policies for the next generation are set. Unless the UK leaves Europe we know what immigration policy is going to look like. 

Refugees

In the early late 1990s, southeastern Europe tore itself apart and refugees started to appear in the UK. Labour passed lots of laws that stripped refugees of their rights. It worked, but Labour get little praise for their achievement.The numbers of asylum seekers in the UK sank from 84,130 in 2003 to under 20,000 from 2009 onwards. The asylum seeker question is settled. They should be prevented from arriving, but if they make it here we don’t let them work, give them the worst housing and £5.23 a day each for food, sanitation and clothing.

Asyum UK

Despite the number of refugees staying high globally, Labour successfully helped the UK dodge its internationally responsibilities towards the world’s refugees. Labour don’t get any thanks from the Tories or Lib Dems but everyone is a Blairite now when it comes to asylum policy. There are no suggestions we weaken sanctions or accept more refugees, the matter is dead. All eyes are on the politics of European migration.

Refugees Global

In 2004 the UK, Ireland and Sweden opened their borders to the A8 ex-communist states, the rest of Europe waited to see what happened. We received not 10,000s of migrants as predicted, but 100,000s. Just as the asylum problem was “solved” a new front opened. Europe, specifically poor Eastern Europe, is the political problem and as John Rentoul points out, there’s very little between the main parties on migration. At Question Time on Thursday Rachel Reeves and Michael Heseltine both banally agreed it had been a mistake to let in the Poles.

Just as the asylum problem was solved and nobody noticed so has the problem of European migration. If in 2017 we vote to leave the European Union then we will see a drop in migration. Much more likely though is us staying in Europe and accession states having their free movement restricted. How this policy will manifest is difficult to predict but each party will follow a similar line. Migration will stay in the low 100,000s because the UK, for all its faults, is much better than most other places and we won’t leave the EU. Asylum Refugees will remain betrayed and politically unimportant and non-EU migrants will remain able to move here for family reasons or if they’re rich, well educated and have a corporate sponsor.

People will keep moaning about immigration, but “Europe and immigration” now means “what do we do with Ukraine and Turkey.” Geopolitically Europe wants them in their sphere of influence but don’t want to deal with over 100 million new European citizens. On immigration the parties are agreed. On geopolitics too they want Turkey and Ukraine to be in the European sphere of influence. Managing this will be a huge challenge but its a very different immigration debate to the one we’ve been having for a decade and a half. That debate is over but I’m not sure anybody has noticed.

 

The Tories are very good at controlling our border

So are the Labour Party. In fact, the British state is excellent at controlling our border, if you mean keeping people out. They are so secure that word has got around and most people don’t even bother trying to get in. Berghain has a reputation for exclusivity, but it is nothing like as selective as the British state.

One of Parliament’s least pleasant anti-immigrant, anti-science libertarians published this earlier:

Climate change denial aside, the comment on controlling our borders really rankled. Sure, lots of people have moved to the UK in the last decade, but a lot less than would like to. Douglas Carswell is pretty deluded if he thinks it’s only Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians who want to move to the UK.

Gallup conducted a survey in 2007. Doubtless it’s a little out of date now, but it’s still useful. They asked where people would live if they could live anywhere in the world. They constructed a representative data set and worked out how many people worldwide wanted to move where. The US came top, as you’d expect, and the UK came second. [1]

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150 million people want to move the US and 45 million want to move the UK. That will be a conservative figure as some people would move the UK were it the only option realistically open to them.

So how many people actually make it into the UK? Well, to be fair I’ll use gross migration and include Brits who are just coming home. Net migration is the common figure, but it subtracts those leaving from the gross figures. I want to use the most upwardly biased figure possible. So, for good measure, I’ll take the gross number from Migration Watch: 503,000 by their reckoning.

45 million people want to move here (conservatively) and (as an upper bound) 503,000 actually did last year . That means every year just 1% of those who want to move the UK actually can and do. This figure isn’t meant to convince anyone who doesn’t already agree, but just so you know, anyone who says the British state can’t control its borders is a fucking idiot, Douglas Carswell included.

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[1] If that fills you with dread rather than pride you’re a weirdo.

The Swiss are restricting immigration, but that doesn’t mean immigration restrictions are back

Switzerland just narrowly passed a referendum to restrict immigration. Prior to the 1990s Switzerland operated a quota system and many people could only work in the country for nine months before having to leave. Europeans have long enjoyed the right to live and work in Switzerland but it seems like a return to the old, more restrictive set-up is certain.

Switzerland is one of the most open countries in Europe. As a small manufacturing economy it has to be, it relies on trade, transport links and labour from the rest of Europe. Similarly, as a small country it has to import footballers. Say hello to the new Swiss national squad.

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I don’t have any intention to live or work in Switzerland nevertheless I find it sad when a country restricts the right of people to work. and live where and how they want. Its especially galling as the areas with least migration voted most strongly to restrict it. I don’t know much about p values but I know a sloped line when I see one.

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There’s also a helpful map if that’s more you thing. The south of the country is Italian speaking and has lower (but still non-negligible) migrant populations. The west (Geneva) and north (Zurich) have lots of foreigners. Those with least experience with migrants voted to reimpose restrictions, those with the most experience voted to continue open European borders.

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A similar pattern reproduces itself in the UK. Areas with the fewest migrants are the most likely to wish to see it curtailed. Those with the most neighbours from another country were the least likely to want to see further migration curtailed. The same pattern prevails in the US. If you presume migration is a bad thing this is counterintuitive. If you presume it is a good thing this makes perfect sense. I do have a graph, since you ask, here it is.

Reduce

This isn’t just a historic thing, even in areas that saw the fastest change in the mid-2000s, the white british population were less likely to want to see immigration reduced. However, as you can see, less restrictionist is still quite restrictionist: more than half of the most sympathetic still want immigration reduced.

That’s from IPSOS-MORI’s excellent paper on perception and immigration. Enough meat there for everyone to find something of interest. Do stop reading my blog and download the pdf, I shan’t be offended. Bryan Caplan thinks more immigration is the answer to anti-migrant sentiment. Tyler Cowen thinks that plan has run its course. I’m not so sure.

A few tens of thousand swiss votes the other way and we would be having a different discussion. Until now Switzerland has been the most immigrant tolerant nation in the world – I don’t count Luxembourg, because, seriously, who does? It may have banned Minarets but it homes 300,000 Kosovan muslims.

Switzerland accepts an immigrant inflow equivalent to 1.5% of its population each year. The UK would have to accept double this number of gross migrants to even come close. Even with restrictions Switzerland is likely to accept levels of migration well above the rich country norm. Good for the Swiss. Three cheers for them, even now.

Prisoners, pensioners, death

What the above, possibly slightly fuzzy, graph shows is that immigrants who arrived over 40 years ago (the second column from the left) are about as anti-immigrant as the Brits are on average (the far left column). This is good news in a way. Since it goes to show that sooner or later immigrants to assimilate. Of course, the bad news is that they end up just like us.

Perhaps slavs are more cosmopolitan than Jamaicans, but this just shows older people become more reactionary as they age and that become tend to become more like their peers. In this country that means being anti-immigrant, even if you’re an immigrant. The cognitive dissonance is worth it to fit in and have something to moan about. I empathise, I really do.

You might realise it, but this segues nicely into the government’s incredible plan to introduce prison sentences of 100 years of more in place of life sentences. The sentences need replacing because the European Court of Human Rights has told them life sentences without parole are no longer legal. To skirt this the Coalition are proposing a technical fix in which nothing changes.

Somebody needs to tell the coalition that being technically right only matters at a pub quiz. I’m not a lawyer, but I have a feeling being technically right will enamour them to the ECtHR in the same way being technically right will enamour you to your family in a Trivial Pursuit game at Christmas.

The link is that people change and people die and that by the time you’ve reached old age there isn’t a lot of the young you left.I’m glad Noah Smith has written this, because I had the same idea, but he’s written it up in a much better way than I ever could. Change is death. I’m not much like I was 10 years ago, and I will probably be as different again in 10 more. He writes that this means that there’s not much to fear in dying one day, because you already have. But this view of the world makes dying in prison all the more terrifying.

The man who dies after decades in prison isn’t the same one who murdered another, because they died long before them. If you’re an old Jamaican immigrant you complain about scroungers to your #hardworking Bulgarian nurse and look silly. Under the coalition’s proposed plans, if you’re a prisoner then your old body and older mind will be locked up for good. I can find no solace or justice in that.

Stop LGBTQ campaigner being deported to Russia

Via Stavvers, who I’m pretty much just going to repost.  Find your MP’s contact details here and use this  model letter as a minimum. It will take you under a minute. Other options follow in Stavvers post:

Irina Putilova is a Russian LGBTQ activist. She fled the country and sought asylum here in the UK because the persecution of queer people and activists in Russia put her in danger.

Unfortunately, UKBA do not want Ira to be safe from imprisonment, from raids and state harassment, from attacks. Yesterday, she was taken to Yarl’s Wood–the detention centre which deported a witness to institutional sexual abuse. She risks deportation within days, and it is very likely that she will be imprisoned indefinitely if she is sent back to Russia.

Ira’s case is complex, and it is thoroughly inappropriate to fast-track sending her back into danger, even by the standard of the skewed and violent rules created by abusive xenophobes.

There are some things you can do which could help Ira and persuade the government not to send a queer person into a situation which could endanger her life. Please share her story, and make sure it is visible. Ask journalists to cover what is happening. You can also write to your MP asking them to make a statement in support of Ira–there’s a model letter here, and you can get your MP’s contact details here. Tomorrow–the 8th–there will be a solidarity demo at 6pm outside the UKBA offices at London Bridge, which you might like to attend.

And finally, remember that what is happening to Ira is sadly far from unusual. The immigration system is racist, and exploits intersecting oppressions. You might like to become active in “No Borders” work to try to end this system once and for all.

No person is illegal. Ira must stay.

People who have died a violent death in UK immigration detention centres

Posted without comment.

People who have died a violent death in UK immigration detention centres (*suicide) Siho Iyugiven (27), 5/10/89*, Kurdish, Harmondsworth Kimpua Nsimba (24), 15/6/90*, Zairean, Harmondsworth Robertas Grabys (49), 24/1/00* Lithuanian, Harmondsworth Mikhail Bognarchuk (42), 31/1/03*, Ukrainian, Haslar Olga Blaskevica (29) 7/5/03, Latvian, Harmondsworth Elmas Ozmico (40) 12/7/03, Kurdish, in hospital from Dover Kabeya Dimuka-Bijoux, 1/5/04, DRC, Haslar Sergey Baranyuk (31) 19/7/04*, Ukrainian, Harmondsworth Tran Quang Tung (35), 23/7/04*, Vietnamese, Dungavel Kenny Peter (24) 7/11/04*, Nigerian, in hosptial from Colnbrook Ramazan Kumluca (18), 27/6/05*, Kurdish, Campsfield Manuel Bravo (35), 15/9/05*, Angolan, Yarl’s Wood Bereket Yohannes (26), 19/1/06*, Eritrean, Harmondsworth Eliud Nguli Nyenze (40), 15/4/10, Kenyan, Oakington Muhammed Shuket (45), 2/7/11, Pakistani, on way to hospital from Colnbrook Brian Dalrymple (35), 31/7/11. Colnbrook Ianos Dragutan, (31), 2/8/11*, Moldovan, Campsfield Khalid Shahzad, (52), 30/3/12, Pakistani, on train from Colnbrook Alois Dvorzac, (84), 10/4/12. Canadian, in hospital from Harmondsworth Prince Kwabena Fosu, (31), 30/10/12, Ghanaian, Harmondsworth Tahir Mehmood, (43), 26/7/13, Pakistani, Pennine STHF Remembering also Joy Gardner (40), 28/7/93, Jamaican, killed by police while being deported Jimmy Mubenga (46), 12/10/11, Angolan, killed by G4S guards on BA flight (via Close Campsfield)

People who have died a violent death in UK immigration detention centres (*suicide)

Siho Iyugiven (27), 5/10/89*, Kurdish, Harmondsworth

Kimpua Nsimba (24), 15/6/90*, Zairean, Harmondsworth

Robertas Grabys (49), 24/1/00* Lithuanian, Harmondsworth

Mikhail Bognarchuk (42), 31/1/03*, Ukrainian, Haslar

Olga Blaskevica (29) 7/5/03, Latvian, Harmondsworth

Elmas Ozmico (40) 12/7/03, Kurdish, in hospital from Dover

Kabeya Dimuka-Bijoux, 1/5/04, DRC, Haslar

Sergey Baranyuk (31) 19/7/04*, Ukrainian, Harmondsworth

Tran Quang Tung (35), 23/7/04*, Vietnamese, Dungavel

Kenny Peter (24) 7/11/04*, Nigerian, in hosptial from Colnbrook

Ramazan Kumluca (18), 27/6/05*, Kurdish, Campsfield

Manuel Bravo (35), 15/9/05*, Angolan, Yarl’s Wood

Bereket Yohannes (26), 19/1/06*, Eritrean, Harmondsworth

Eliud Nguli Nyenze (40), 15/4/10, Kenyan, Oakington

Muhammed Shuket (45), 2/7/11, Pakistani, on way to hospital from Colnbrook

Brian Dalrymple (35), 31/7/11. Colnbrook

Ianos Dragutan, (31), 2/8/11*, Moldovan, Campsfield

Khalid Shahzad, (52), 30/3/12, Pakistani, on train from Colnbrook

Alois Dvorzac, (84), 10/4/12. Canadian, in hospital from Harmondsworth

Prince Kwabena Fosu, (31), 30/10/12, Ghanaian, Harmondsworth

Tahir Mehmood, (43), 26/7/13, Pakistani, Pennine STHF

Remembering also

Joy Gardner (40), 28/7/93, Jamaican, killed by police while being deported

Jimmy Mubenga (46), 12/10/11, Angolan, killed by G4S guards on BA flight

(via Close Campsfield and Alex Marsh)

Here’s how you work out how many Bulgarians and Romanians are coming to the UK next year

bulgaria-romaniaConcluding his piece Tom Harris says “No one any longer believes government estimates of how many are likely to come here anyway.” No wonder when our elected representatives refuse to explain why the government was wrong in the past. Instead of publicising pieces attacking migrants MPs like Tom should be educating the public. Instead it is going to fall to me.

The original sin of the last decade’s immigration debate is that UK governments have purposefully underestimated the number of expected immigrants. This persistent myth acts as a golden thread connecting immigrant bashing in the same way as youcan’teventalkaboutit, flood metaphors and the same persistent negative stereotypes.

In 2004 eight ex-communist states joined the EU. Their democratisation has been one of the crowning achievements of the European project and to the UK’s eternal credit as principled liberal democracy the UK was one of the few countries not to impose immigration restrictions on these A8 countries.

Christian Dustmann was the lead author on the now infamous Home Office report which predicted an average annual net immigration of 5,000-13,000 from these A8 countries. Needless to say the report wasn’t very accurate. It massively underestimated the pent up demand of Poles to search for a better life and poorly predicted the behaviour of other EU states. It did so because it lacked good data. Tom Harris is happy to pretend we still don’t know what’s going to happen, but that’s not true.

According to ONS data, annual net immigration of A8 nationals during 2005-06 was 66,000, more than four times higher than predicted. But according to data from the Worker Registration Scheme that was set up in May 2004, the average annual number of A8 workers registering for employment during 2005-06 was 216,000, almost three times the ONS figure because the ONS excludes people staying for less than a year.

This is what happened. In 2004 73 million Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, Slovakians, Hungarians and Slovenians gained access to the labour markets of the UK, Ireland and Sweden, a combined population of 74 million. Those were the only three countries to open their doors to their new democratic neighbours, something which Dustmann did not anticipate.

Next year the 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will be allowed access to the combined labour markets of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK, a total of 293 million people.

The average GDP per capita of these counties in 2004 was $8,300, ranging from $6,000 in Latvia to $16,000 in Slovenia. Today Romania’s GDP per capita is $8,000 and Bulgaria is a little poorer at $7,000. The obvious conclusion from these stats will jump out at anyone, January 1st will be a non-event. Half as many people will get access to a labour market four times the size.

Although the UK jobs market is still depressed and in a worse state than Germany’s it is in a better state than southern Europe. A back of the fag packet prediction with much better data and assumptions can get us a realistic picture of what will happen in January. If we had a 200,000 person increase in migration from A8 accession migrants we’ll see an eighth of this.

Conservatives and Labour know they can make hay from immigration. Although they’re both terrified of the public on the subject they know that there are votes in immigration baiting. There’s not much in the numbers and that’s why some in Labour are picking on Roma and David Cameron is reannouncing old immigration policies as new.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that we’ll get between 20,000 and 30,000 more people a year from Romania and Bulgaria coming to work in the UK.  This is a lot less precise but a lot more accurate than anything else you will hear on the topic. Don’t let the scaremongers win on this one.