Playing the Race Card

The two main parties are demonstrating, yet again, that immigration controls are explicable only by racism.

The Conservatives say they intend to adopt quotas on immigrants, including asylum seekers. When Blair promised to halve the number of asylum applications, this amounted to much the same thing. The difference is that Labour hopes to deter and physically prevent refugees from travelling to Britain by yet more brutally repressive measures, whereas the Conservatives refer vaguely to ‘24-hour security at ports’, and their quota policies, even supposing they were practical, would mean breaking several international treaties. In both cases, the intended result is that people would have even less hope than they now do, under the arbitrarily unjust refusal system, of finding safety in Britain.

All this is happening when United Nations population projections show that European countries have ageing and/or declining populations, and need more workers. Labour is shamelessly poaching skilled people whose education has been paid for elsewhere, promising to do so even more blatantly in ‘Making migration work for Britain’ (published 7 February 2005). But it has also acknowledged there are labour shortages in ‘unskilled’ sectors. Apart from increasing the age of retirement, and forcing more women and sick people into the labour market, the obvious solution is immigration.

The government talks about ‘managed’ immigration. Some say this does imply an economic rationale for immigration controls. Controls create extreme vulnerability even for immigrants with permission to work (since permission depends on their employers). This can potentially undermine the position of other workers, and so promote the government’s project of ‘flexibilisation’ (or precarisation). But the government also regularly promises to ‘crack down’ on ‘illegal’ workers, the ultimately exploitable workforce. Employers lobby for freer access to cheap labour from abroad.

The real arguments for immigration controls, throughout their short history, have not been economic self-interest, but racism. Their introduction in Britain (in 1905 against ‘aliens’ and in 1962 against Commonwealth citizens) followed agitation from far right and racist organisations. The shameful antics of Labour and the Conservatives are now, they tell us, in response to pressures from the BNP and UKIP. Both appear to believe that votes are to be won from pandering to racism, and thus feeding and nurturing it.

It would be better to tell the truth: that immigrants are good for the British economy, that asylum seekers are mostly highly educated at others’ expense, that there are rather few of them (compared to both the existing population and returning British people and other white immigrants), that immigrants make a large net contribution to public finances, that the financial ‘burden’ of asylum seekers arises solely from the attempt to keep them out, that the vast majority of asylum seekers are from countries where there has been recent military intervention by the West (in particular from Iraq immediately before the invasion), that others are overwhelmingly from countries whose repressive regimes are armed and supported by the West, that people do not uproot themselves from their families and cultures unless they are exceptionally desperate or exceptionally enterprising, that the repression of migrants and refugees threatens the human rights not just of them but of all of us, that British ‘identity’ is impossible to define, and so on.

But the real point is that no amount of economic or other sorts of national self-interest, and none of the rather small reductions in the numbers of immigrants that the parties claim they will achieve, can justify the suffering that is imposed on innocent people in the name of ‘controls’. It is time for the right to free movement, together with equal rights for all residents, and the right for people to decide for themselves where they wish to live and work, to be asserted as basic human rights.

Note: On April 2 2005 there will be a second European day of action on migrants and refugees, whose main slogan will be the right to freedom of movement and settlement (;

Teresa Hayter is the author of Open Borders: the Case against Immigration Controls (Pluto Press, 2nd edition 2004), and is one of the authors of the No-one Is Illegal manifesto (  Published in Red Pepper, March 2005.

Mansoor Hassan and Family Defence Campaign

Mansoor Hassan and Family Defence Campaign

Supported by the National Union of Journalists




The background Mansoor Hassan , his wife, Aqila and four children are from Pakistan. Mansoor is an investigative journalist. As a result of his exposures of political, criminal and social corruption he was forced to flee the country in 2002 and seek asylum in the UK. Like thousands of other applicants his case was refused and his family are under immediate threat of deportation.

The asylum claim There are many ways in which Mansoor is now in danger in Pakistan

• He exposed one government minister (Tareen) for selling adulterated pesticides • He exposed another government minister (Mehmood Khan) for involvement in murder of a woman (a so-called “honour killing” following her refusal to enter into a marriage) • As a result of the above he was beaten up in his newspaper office, his car was rammed from the road and his father’s house burned down • He exposed a murderer (Nazara Hotti) who subsequently shot him • There was subsequently an attempt to poison him and his family resulting in their hospitalisation • Finally, in exposing a narcotics gang linked to government politicians he was issued with an ultimatum by them to leave the country

The legal case – a miscarriage of justice. Mansoor’s case was heard by an Adjudicator (an immigration judge). Mansoor suffered a complete miscarriage of justice. The Adjudicator believed most of the above evidence. He also recognised the ongoing links between gangsters and politicians and the police (“the background information does confirm that members of the Pakistani intelligence services and politicians have been involved in narcotics trading …..”, “the police have taken strong action against individual journalists”). However in spite of all this Mansoor was refused asylum! Prepared to Struggle

Mansoor along with his family is a fighter. He is now fighting for asylum. If Mansoor had been working as an investigative journalist in this country, he would be seen as a hero – and that’s why the National Union of Journalists is supporting him.

The local newspaper has run a campaign in Mansoor’s support. Hundreds of petitions have been signed. Mansoor’s family have played an active part of the community. He has served as a parent governor and their children go to local schools. Mansoor’s wife is a voluntary classroom assistant and works with children of other refugees.

No-One Is Illegal!

By a stroke of the Home Office pen Mansoor, his wife and four children have been defined as “illegal”. They share this (non) status with thousands of others.

But how can a person be illegal? Only actions can be illegal – and Mansoor has not engaged in unlawful actions. We say No-One Is Illegal! We say everyone should have freedom of movement.



Mansoor is a member of the National Union of Journalists. The union is supporting Mansoor in his campaign. We ask you to join in this support by:

• Writing a letter to the Home Secretary demanding asylum for the family. Write to David Blunkett MP, Home Office, Queen Anne’s Gate, London SWIH (quote the Home Office reference number :H1093727) • Sending a copy of your letter to your MP (at the House of Commons, London SW1), to Mansoor’s MP (Tony Lloyd MP) and to the campaign • Sending money to the campaign; cheques to be made out to “NUJ Manchester Branch (Mansoor)” and sent to the address below • Signing the petition • Ensuring that all organisations to which you belong do the above. We would particularly ask trade union organisations at branch, regional and national level to reproduce this leaflet in their union’s name and circulate it. • Inviting Mansoor to speak at your organisation’s meetings • Coming to our weekly campaign meetings – and asking your organisation to send a delegate to these. They are held every Wednesday at 7.00pm. (for now) at NUJ offices (see below) opposite Chorlton St bus station, Manchester

Mansoor Hassan and Family Defence Campaign Address: NUJ, 5th floor Arthur House Chorlton Street, Manchester M1 3FH Email : Phone : 0161 237 5020 Websites:,

Solidarity Not Pity

Rethinking campaigns against deportation

Whose reality is it anyway?

“If a young person tells me they were raped, I say good! Tell me the details. The more sordid the better”

This quotation is not from a predatory male. It is from a feminist lawyer who has devoted two decades to fighting racism and preventing her clients being deported. In the article from which this quote is taken the lawyer says she “had become an unwitting party in the oppression of children and at the same time she felt that she had little option”.

There is obviously something strange and dubious happening here. And what is happening is the fighting of deportation/removal cases on so-called “compassionate” grounds. This practice has become so routine and unquestioned that it is possible to provide a league table of typical grounds. These are (1) adverse effect on welfare of children (2) ill-health (3) domestic violence (4) family separation. (5) old age

What is immediately clear from the above is that the people most vulnerable to immigration enforcement are the young, single, healthy and childless. What compassionate grounds remain open to them? None.

Compassionate grounds as spreading illusions – the legal and the political

The purpose of this debate initiated by he No One Is Illegal group is to stand present reality on its head. It is to challenge one of the central orthodoxies of resisting controls. It is to question ideologically one of the weapons used by all of us who are opposed in one way or another to immigration controls. It is to redefine as at the most problematic and at worst as reactionary something which is normally seen as unquestionably progressive

None of the issues raised here are easy. And up to a point, but not beyond it, a distinction has to be made. This is between the ways cases are presented by representatives to the Home Office (the “private”) and the way they are presented politically through campaigns (the “public”). Given the balance of forces – with the Home Office being immeasurably more powerful than the individual – it is clear that legal advocates will be obliged to present whatever grounds are deemed necessary to win a case. As Malcolm X said in a very different context – by any means necessary.

However political campaigns are different. Their purpose, or one of their purposes, is to make political points as part of the process of winning a victory. And the political point at issue here is the need to challenge at every step the legitimacy of controls themselves. Without challenging the very principle of controls then we are simply creating or reinforcing a vicious circle within which the undocumented remain trapped. Making compassionate grounds the basis of a public campaign is simply reducing the spurious argument that there can be “fair” controls to the individual case. It is spreading illusions that there can be “justice” within controls. As such it is contributing to the myth there can be “non-racist” controls.

Moreover there is absolutely no contradiction between fighting a case whilst at the same time making it clear that the basis of the fight is a principled opposition to all restrictions. Any suggestion that individuals under threat of deportation are being used as “guinea pigs” is misconceived and outrageous. Rather raising the issue of controls in principle is an open and honest attempt to generalise the issue away from the individual and to show immigration restrictions are a political construct threatening the unwanted, the unchosen – the undocumented.. Indeed whatever is said in campaign literature the individual fighting deportation is inevitably taking a position against all controls. The very act of defiance is an overwhelming statement of disregard for the law .It is an implicit assertion that No One Is Illegal

Compassionate grounds as de-humanisation

It is sometimes argued that raising compassionate grounds “humanises” a campaign – making it easier to win than one fought on some broad political abstractions which it is claimed may alienate potential supporters However the reality is that these grounds actually dehumanise the individual. They patronise him or her – giving those threatened by controls the appearance of being passive victims and thus adding to the sum total of racism around immigration restrictions.. Emphasising issues of vulnerability (such as child abuse etc) and ignoring the political reasons for expulsions replaces real humanity with an accumulation of perceived weaknesses. It substitutes political explanation with a list of individual pathologies.

Compassionate grounds as pathologisation

This pathologisation is seen most clearly in the emphasis given to ill-health by campaigns. Sickness or disability are regularly transformed into arguments for the postponement or permanent lifting of the immigration threat. It is as though there exists some unacknowledged point-scoring system: one point for influenza briefly postponing an air flight, two points for a surgical operation delaying departure longer….five points for a nervous breakdown caused by fear of expulsion….eight points for risk of suicide.. ten points for terminal illness.

Many cases can be used to illustrate this pathologisation. In particular the case of a gay couple, one English and his partner threatened (because of the law’s homophobia as well as racism) with deportation. The English partner was diagnosed as having HIV and this became the “compassionate ground” on which the case was fought. However just before the case was to be heard in the High Court it was discovered that he did not have HIV. He had invented the condition by getting a friend who did have the illness to give blood in his name. He hadn’t even told his partner of this. This almost unbelievable scenario shows the lengths to which people are driven by immigration controls. It was prompted by the fact that he had been told that it was necessary to have “compassionate grounds” before his partner could remain here. So he pathologised himself as diseased.

Compassionate grounds as competitive and divisive

Raising compassionate grounds in this way produces and reproduces some sort of rat race. Each case has to show it is deserving of more “compassion” than the previous one.. There is a humiliating scramble with everyone under threat seeking to prove they are more ill, or abused, or vulnerable than others in the queue. Contesting removal, far from being a political response to a political attack, takes on the appearance of a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The saved are those who reach the holy waters first. . This has two consequences. First it is extremely divisive. It sets up a competition between all those threatened with expulsion Second it continually raises the stakes as to the level of compassionate grounds required to convince the Home Office – an agency which is not in any event prone to sympathy.. So for a single gay man – or a gay couple to be allowed to remain together – it is insufficient to have HIV. Full blown AIDS is what is demanded.. Internal instructions to immigration officers issued in 1995 state “persons certified as having AIDS should be distinguished from those where the person concerned has been diagnosed as HIV positive. A person who has been diagnosed as HIV positive may still be well and a serious case for exceptional treatment is unlikely to arise. (Where a person) has only a few months to live…cases will be referred back”. So much for compassionate grounds! The criterion, the standard to be reached, for remaining is terminal disease and death.

Compassionate grounds as exceptionalism, as justifications for stay

Fundamental to campaigning on compassionate grounds are the rotten politics of exceptionalism. The public message is clear – most people or are destined for expulsion but others, the exceptional, the chosen, should be allowed to remain. The Victorian distinction between the worthy and unworthy poor is simple transferred to the twenty first century deportee. As we have seen unwarranted criticisms have been made about using and abusing individuals threatened by removal to make explicit political points – the point of opposition to all controls.. The reality is just the opposite. Whenever campaigns agitate on compassionate grounds then there is being made an implicit political point – that those without such grounds, should presumably be expelled..

Behind all this is another equally reactionary public message, namely that those who wish to stay are obliged to justify this wish. They are obliged to account for their presence here. It is only by arguing against controls in principle that it is possible to assert the contrary – that everyone has the absolute right to remain irrespective of personal circumstances..

Compassionate grounds as stereotyping

Pathologisation transcends the individual. It encompasses whole countries and indeed continents. These are regularly and grossly stereotyped by campaigns as part of the presentation of compassionate grounds. There is painted a picture of a world beyond Britain and Western Europe which is an uncivilised welfare and educational desert devoid of all order- where children do not have schooling, where mothers and children are kidnapped without restraint by uncontrollable males, where there are nil health facilities. It is true that the world beyond the imperial heartlands is hugely under-resourced – mainly as a result of imperial economic and military intervention. However this does not mean that these countries have lapsed into social barbarism and reverted to their supposedly natural state of primitive savagery. Anyhow imagine the boot on the other foot. Imagine an English person being deported from, for example, India (it happens). How would a hypothetical campaign depict the UK?

Compassionate grounds as transforming the bad into good, the undesirable into the desirable

Consider undesirable personal and social situations that everyone would wish to avoid – being abused as a child, being battered as a woman, being ill, being too old to be independent. All these undesirable attributes suddenly become desirable, treasured, the holy grail when it comes to contesting immigration cases. They are the hallowed compassionate grounds. Conversely campaigning on such grounds inevitably means that their absence – that is the absence of abuse, of being battered of terminal illness etc – becomes a positive disadvantage. This truly is a world turned upside down. A world where the bad becomes the good. A world where liberal and grotesque ideas have been allowed to dominate. A world where all that should be avoided or contested is welcomed and embraced A world where those fighting deportations can state “If a young person tells me they were raped, I say good! Tell me the details. The more sordid the better”

Restraining lawyers

We saw above that a distinction has to be made between the private presentation of a case to the Home Office and the public campaigning. We have also seen how at least one lawyer has said she has felt compromised in adding to the oppression of children by presenting “abuse” as something positive within immigration cases. They are several lessons here. First it is good to be conscious of what is happening politically here – many legal representatives simply do not have this political awareness. Second the distinction between the “private” and the “public” is not a static one. For instance what is left of the immigration appeal system takes place within the sphere of the public. Lawyers should be careful as to what is said ideologically at these hearings. Third legal representatives often go well beyond what is required in the presentation of “compassionate” grounds. Classic examples of this appear in the realm of stereotyping. A typical example is the presentation of children as being too “westernised” to be deported. Implicit within this is the notion of the superiority of Western values, culture etc. Finally it is not beyond contemplation that lawyers can cross over from arguing cases on compassionate grounds to making a political case based on the racism of controls as such. This itself depends on the strength of the political campaign behind a case. But it is not inconceivable. An example can be taken from a case concerning racism but not immigration. In the early 1980s twelve youths in Bradford (the Bradford 12) were accused of making petrol bombs. They did not deny this. The bombs were made in case of fascist attack by the National Front which was rampant at the time. . There was a massive national campaign under the slogan “Self defence is no offence!”. This right to make bombs then became the core of the legal argument. And the verdict…not guilty!

The battle for ideas

Immigration campaigns are about winning cases, about stopping expulsions. However they are not, or should not, simply, be about this.. They are inescapably and unavoidably part of a battle for ideas. This is a battle on three fronts which are really only one front. First is the ideological struggle to expose immigration controls as racist. Second is the struggle to show that controls are not inevitable. Third is the struggle to explain that there cannot be “fair” or “just” or “reasonable” or “non-racist” controls. Within this battle the reliance politically on compassionate grounds is spreading false ideas on all three fronts. It assumes, by not challenging, the very existence of controls as an unquestionable fact of life – rather than a political construct that can be fought. . It presents the idea that controls can indeed be compassionate – that is “fair” and devoid of racism. Every time it is argued that someone is in the camp of the “worthy” or the “exceptional” there is legitimised the whole ideology of immigration control which asserts its own authority on the backs of the “unworthy and “unexceptional” – that is the “bogus”, the “illegal”.Some people claim it is utopic to argue for the abolition of all controls – that this would require a revolution. It may well require a revolution. However the sanitisation of controls into their opposite, into something fair and non-racist, would require a miracle…

Compassionate grounds and the great leap

There is a particular miraculous quality behind this concentration on compassionate grounds. It assumes a leap of faith. It assumes that once people are won over on a case by case basis by a sense of pity then it will be possible to convince them to challenge controls in principle. History has shown that consciousness does not work like this. Thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of members of the public have over the last thirty years written letters or signed petitions or sent post cards protesting individual cases on compassionate grounds. In fact it is not at all difficult for a campaign to gain support on this level However it is quite clear that these vast numbers have not made the leap into opposing the totality of controls. And there is a political reason for this. Opposing controls per se requires more than a sense of pity. It requires resisting the idea that law is absolute and should always be obeyed It requires a recognition that what is at stake here is a battle against the state and the entire state machinery. The achievement of this recognition can only be helped by the honest advocacy of abolition of all controls. Conversely it can only be hindered through the false illusion of “fair” or compassionate controls.

The alternative

Campaigns against deportation are central in the struggle against controls. They have been responsible for building up a culture of resistance to restrictions. They refuse to go away. They are a testimony to the resilience of the oppressed. They have existed for a quarter of a century – the first significant campaign being that of Nasira Begum against deportation in the late 1970s. But as supporters we need to re-evaluate them and not over-romanticise them. In particular there is a need based on all the reasons given above to re-evaluate the constant presentation of compassionate grounds as somehow providing a basis for struggle. This then immediately raises the question as to what is the alternative? How else can cases be fought if not on the basis of personal circumstances and personal stories? The almost absolute absence of experience of fighting in other ways does in itself make this a difficult question to answer. But there are answers.

Slogans don’t win cases. But they show the way forward. And the relevant slogan here is Solidarity Not Pity! This encompasses two inter-locked points. First coming or remaining in the UK should not be a not a matter of charity – of compassion. It should be an absolute right. Second rights cannot be achieved through begging, through asking for pity – for compassion. They can only be obtained through struggle – through solidarity

Solidarity Not Pity! points the way in a particular political direction. This is the direction of the collectivisation of campaigns. Fighting campaigns one by one, on a serial basis reinforces the atomisation of those under threat of expulsion. This itself leads to a situation of weakness, of begging and pleading rather than demanding. Fighting together with others in the same or similar situation is one way out of this dead end. There are examples of this from the 1980s. One example was the Wives and Fiancees Campaign. This fought collectively for the right of women to both have their overseas partners come to this country. or, if they themselves were from abroad, to be able to leave their partners without being deported.. It was a fight for immigration autonomy lead and directed by the women themselves.

Solidarity Not Pity! Is also making another political point. This is one of militancy. The more militant, the more imaginative, the more subversive, the more public – then the greater the possibility of politicising a campaign and of challenging the very existence of controls.. The reality is that most campaigns today do not aspire to this. There has been a huge shift since the 1980s – a shift backwards. From the struggle of Nasira Begum to that of Anwar Ditta (fighting to get her children here) to that of Viraj Mendis virtually all campaigns were characterised by their energy, by their public presence and by the variety of initiatives there were taken to build public support. They cultivated support within the labour movement. They organised lively anti-racist conferences. They produced informative and rebellious literature. They engaged in direct action. They organised spectacular events. They were energetic. They were in constant touch with each other. They often shared the same actions. They had a constant presence on the streets.. They were lead by the undocumented themselves. They rejected self-appointed so-called “community leaders” They .were based on the self-activity of those under threat – who spoke at meetings both locally and nationally. They were dangerous. They were a danger to the state machinery of controls.. Compare that with the situation today and building up over the last decade– where campaigns often appear to have simply a cyber-space existence (perhaps with petitions and standard letters) without any public presence .

There were occasional exceptions to this passivity. The slogan Solidarity Not Pity! was first raised in the successful campaign of the Rahman family in Bolton in the early 1990s.. The fact that the campaign attracted huge support and that it was successful answers those faint-hearts who suggest that fighting a case from a position of opposition to all controls will alienate potential supporters , will result in defeat and will see those under threat of deportation sacrificed on the alter of some abstract principle. Just the opposite was the case. It was the outspoken politics of the campaign which attracted the support.. The Rahman family itself was beset with serious illness. However within the public (as opposed to the legal) domain there was a serious and conscious effort not to make this the basis of the campaign. There was a significant effort to preserve the dignity of the family by not having their private lives made unnecessarily public. Instead there was raised the slogan Solidarity Not Pity! As a consequence it at least became possible, at least there were opportunities, to raise and challenge the existence of controls in principle. This lead to one major demonstration which took over the centre of Bolton and also to a major conference (“Communities of Resistance”) which brought together on a national basis all existing grassroots campaigns against racism. Within this activity it would have been a nonsense to raise the demand for “compassionate” immigration controls. The only demand worth raising in this context was for the abolition of controls.. And this was the demand that in essence became central to the campaign as the context became stronger and stronger.


Solidarity Not Pity! also provides one final political lesson. This is that unless campaigns are guided by the undocumented themselves then they simply become, at their best, high-powered social work.. Unless campaigns are built on the self-organisation of those threatened by controls then they are just another form of charity. Charity begs for compassion. Self-organisation demands rights and has a contempt for all controls whatever their legal form..Self-organisation is directed against controls in principle. The role of the documented is to provide solidarity with this self activity – not pity.

Steve Cohen

The Case Against Immigration Controls

Article by Teresa Hayter.

Note: Much of the detailed material in this article is taken from the British case. This is because this is where the author’s knowledge mainly lies. It is not intended to mean that the British treatment of migrants and refugees is particularly worse than other countries’. All of the countries to which people migrate abuse their human rights and treat them, in varying ways, with terrible harshness.


Immigration controls cause immense, and increasing, suffering. They are explicable only by racism, which they legitimate and feed. At the same time they are rather ineffective in preventing the movement of people. They should be abandoned, as a cruel twentieth century abberation. People should be free to chose where they wish to live and to work. In addition, once they have chosen to live in a particular place, they should have exactly the same rights as all other residents of that place. If migrants are labelled ‘illegal’, and even if they work legally but with lesser rights than the rest of the population, this will not only lay them open to exploitation and the fear of deportation, but may also mean that they will be used to undermine the hard-won employment rights and civil liberties of the rest of the population.

History of immigration controls

It is now considered axiomatic that states should have the right to stop people entering their territories, but it was not always so. It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that immigration controls were introduced in most European countries and the United States. Previously nation states had at times expelled people whom they considered undesirable, but they had not attempted to prevent immigration. Britain, for example, expelled all Jews in the thirteenth century, but it was not until 1905 that it adopted laws to keep them out in the first place.

The growth of the culture of human rights has so far failed to assert the right of people to chose where they wish to live, except within the states whose nationality they are born with, or have obtained. Thus the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, asserts in its Article 13-1 that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state’, which means the state in which they are officially allowed to reside. Therefore if, for example, people wish to leave an area of high unemployment and look for work where there is plenty of it, the authorities are not supposed to interfere with this wish provided it is within the boundaries of their ‘own’ country. When, as in the Soviet Union and China, governments prevented their citizens from moving to particular areas within the country, this was considered an example of the repressive nature of these states, and widely condemned. The Universal Declaration also states, under Article 13-2, that ‘Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’. When the Soviet Union, East Germany and other states in eastern Europe prevented their citizens from leaving their countries, sometimes by arresting and even shooting them, and sometimes by building high fences and walls, perhaps reinforced with razor wire, this, again, was rightly considered shocking.

Less however is said about the walls, fences, razor wire, armed guards and other repressive devices which are supposed to stop people entering rather than leaving territories. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has nothing to say about the right of people, who are supposed to be free to leave their own countries, to enter another. In a period when the powers of nation states are being undermined by the the forces of globalisation and big business, states nevertheless cling tenaciously to one of their last prerogatives: the right to select which foreigners they will admit, and which they will try not to admit. Historically states have needed immigration to expand their economies. In the early years of European empire, labour was obtained by varying degrees of force and compulsion. After the Second World War, in the period of reconstruction and boom, most European countries actively engaged in the recruitment of workers from abroad, first from other European countries and then from their former colonies, from North Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean, and from Turkey. But by the early 1970s, with recession and growing unemployment, the European countries which had previously imported labour had all set up controls to stop further migration for work. Legal immigration for employment largely ended. The apparatus of controls to stop people entering Europe and other rich areas without permission grew. By the late 1990s some governments were also increasing their efforts to deport the people who had already come. In France, for example, people who had had more or less automatically renewable ten-year residence permits suddenly found that their permits were not renewed, or were given one-year permits, which meant they had either to go underground and work illegally, or leave the country in which they had lived for many years. They organised themselves as Sans Papiers (undocumented people) to resist. In Britain, the government set targets for deportation, and began to increase random checks, arrests, detention and deportation of long-term British residents who had infringed some provision of the immigration laws but who in many cases had jobs, houses, wives and young children, who then became dependent on public funds for survival.

The treatment of asylum seekers

One, at first legal, route for entry remained. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 14, stated that: ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. But, after objections by the British, the declaration did not give them the unqualified right to receive asylum, only to seek it. It is left to the recipient states to decide who they will or will not grant refugee status to, rather than, as would be logical and as was the practise in the nineteenth century, leaving it up to refugees themselves to decide, as they are best qualified to do, whether they need to flee. On the whole, during the Cold War, when people did succeed in leaving the Soviet Union and other east European states, they were accepted in the states they went to. Similarly, after the Cuban revolution, Cubans were allowed into the United States (but Haitians were not). The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol incorporated the right to asylum; they also gave it a restrictive definition. A refugee is defined as: ‘Any person who owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’. Some governments, including the German and French, have restricted this further, saying that persecution must be by state agents rather than by other groups in order for the applicant to qualify for asylum. And over the years states have accepted declining proportions of the number of people who claim asylum, though the claims themselves differ little. They assert that this is because the ‘asylum seekers’ are not really fleeing persecution but are merely seeking to improve their economic situation. They have started to attack them, in Britain for example, as ‘bogus’, ‘abusive’ and ‘illegal’. The authorities, rather than making it their task to examine fairly and objectively a person’s case for asylum (which itself is likely to be impossible), take on an adversarial role: immigration service officials see their role as, like prosecution lawyers, to find inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the accounts given by refugees of their reasons for fleeing, which they then say undermine the credibility of their claims. In one particular case in Britain, for example, a Zairean asylum seeker said in one interview that there was no window in the cell in which he had been imprisoned, and in another that there was in fact a small grille above the door to the cell; this was given as grounds for refusing his claim. In another British case officials gave as grounds for the refusal of asylum their (incorrect) assertion that escape across the Congo river was impossible because it was full of crocodiles. The process is arbitrary. It is clearly influenced more by quotas and targets than by considerations of justice or truth. As a result governments turn down many asylum claims which nevertheless meet the criteria set by the international conventions to which they are signatories. They then claim, quite unjustifiably, that this is evidence that most asylum seekers are making false claims and that their real objective is economic betterment (which of course is no reason why they should not migrate). Asylum seekers come overwhelmingly from areas in which there are wars and severe political persecution. A few of those who, with exceptional enterprise and courage, make it to Europe and other rich areas and claim asylum may do so in order to improve their financial situation. But the reality is that nearly all asylum seekers, whatever their reasons for migrating, are highly educated and are often dissident members of the elite. Many take a large drop in their standard of living, losing jobs, houses and land as well as their families.

Having progressively undermined the right to receive asylum, governments are now attempting to make it harder for people to apply for it. They do this, above all, by imposing visa requirements on the nationals of what they call ‘refugee-producing’ states, which of course means the states people are most likely to need to flee from. The requirement to obtain a visa means that refugees cannot travel legally to the country they wish to go to. Clearly they cannot apply for a passport to the authorities they are trying to escape from. Supposing they already have a passport, they could in theory go to a foreign embassy to apply for a visa, braving the security guards outside and the possibility they might be denounced by local employees inside. But if they then asked for a visa to apply for asylum, they would normally be quickly ejected; there is no such thing as a refugee visa. They could in theory apply for a visitor’s or student’s visa, but this would require documentary proofs and probably some funds, and would in any case constitute deception. The usual course for refugees therefore became to buy false documents from agents. But this itself is becoming increasingly hard. Under various Carriers’ Acts, airways, ferries and other tranpsort operators are now required to ensure that the passengers they carry have documents, and are fined if they allow them to travel without them. Governments spend large amounts of money on technology to enable carriers to become better at detecting false documents, and sometimes post their own agents at foreign airports to check documents. If they succeed, they hand refugees back to the authorities they are fleeing from. Refugees are therefore forced to resort to even more dangerous, clandestine methods of travel. They have, usually, to pay large sums of money to agents, to enable them to flee in the holds of ships, in the backs or even in the tyre casings of lorries, underneath trains and even aeroplanes, in often overcrowded and leaky boats. In the process they endure great suffering. Many thousands die each year, of suffocation or drowning. Governments then anounce that they will clamp down on the illegal smuggling networks, for whose existence they are entirely responsible, and have the gall to proclaim their concern over the cruelty of the agents and traffickers organising the refugees’ escape.

The objective of governments is to reduce, by this and other means, the number of people seeking refuge in their countries. Governments compete with another to be seen as the most uninviting and the toughest. This supposes that the applications are not related to the real needs of people to flee, but to the attractiveness of individual countries as places of refuge. In Britain, for example, the Prime Minister set a target of halving the number of applications for asylum; the target was met mainly because it was set in relation to the month in which applications peaked, and because this peak had itself been almost entirely the consequence of the number of Iraqis fleeing the threat of US-British invasion. But governments appear to continue to believe that the way to reduce the number of refugees is not to refrain from creating the conditions which people flee from, but to make conditions harsher in the countries they are trying to flee to. They lock refugees up in prisons and detention centres, and they reduce them to destitution. Refugees are punished not for anything they have themselves done, but in the, probably largely mistaken, belief that their treatment will deter others who might follow in their footsteps. In the process governments flout a long list of human rights: the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned, the right to a fair trial by a properly constituted court, the right to family life, the right to work, among others. Amnesty International, in its pamphlet Prisoners Without A Voice: Asylum Seekers Detained in the United Kingdom, has said that Britain, for example, in its treatment of asylum seekers, violates article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. It also violates virtually all of the guidelines on detention of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (published in 1996).

Immigration prisons now exist in all of the rich, or ‘developed’, countries to which refugees flee. The largest numbers in absolute terms are locked up in the USA. Australia now detains all those who apply for asylum. Britain was one of the first European countries to detain asylum seekers, and it remains the only west European country to do so without judicial supervision and without time limit. In France although there is officially judicial supervision of decisions to detain, the courts’ agreement usually amounts to little more than rubber-stamping, and when the short time limits have been exceeded detention can be renewed. In theory the British government derives its right to detain asylum seekers and other migrants from its 1971 Act, which stated that they could be detained prior to removal. Although detention centres have been renamed removal centres, in practise only a small minority of those detained have had their cases finally dismissed and have removal directions. Some cannot be deported, for a variety of reasons, and therefore cannot legally be detained. Around ten per cent of those arriving at ports and claiming asylum, who are therefore not even technically ‘illegal immigrants’, are detained. The process is arbitrary, and has to do with filling the available spaces in detention centres and prisons; the decisions are made by junior immigration officials, who have to give only general reasons, such as ‘we believe that the person is likely to abscond’; asked what evidence they have for this belief, they may merely reply ‘we are not a court of law’. The numbers detained under immigration laws have quadrupled since the 1970s. Some are detained in ordinary criminal prisons, subjected to prison procedures, sometimes locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, occasionally locked up with convicted prisoners. Others are detained in centres designated for immigration purposes, some of which were previously prisons and still have prison regimes, surrounded by high fences and razor wire, and mostly run for profit by private security firms, whose guards are blatantly racist. Worse, the Labour government now imprisons women and children. The practise is not new, but previously the government admitted it was not legal, merely detaining thirteen-year-olds on the basis of travel documents which gave their age as thirty, and refusing to believe evidence to the contrary. It now systematically imprisons whole families, including young children, babies and pregnant women, sometimes for months at a time; in their pamphlet entitled A Crying Shame: Pregnant Asylum Seekers and Their Babies in Detention, three British organisations give a harrowing account, based on interviews with some of the women concerned, of the effects of their incarceration. The government also plans to set up ‘accommodation centres’, which will be in effect prisons, which children will not be allowed to leave to receive education in local schools.

To varying degrees and in different ways, most European countries now also deliberately reduce asylum seekers who are not locked up to destitution. In most countries they are not allowed to work. Increasingly they are denied access to minimal public support, including in some cases health services. In some countries, public financial support and accommodation is denied to those who have had their claims rejected but who may still be pursuing legal avenues to avoid deportation, or who cannot be deported (because they have no papers, because conditions in their countries are recognised to be unsafe, or because transport to their areas does not exist). In France public support, of a limited nature, is available only after a claim for asylum has been lodged, which may take months. In Britain it is not available to those who are deemed not to have claimed asylum immediately on arrival, which is usually difficult or impossible for the increasing numbers of refugees who are forced by government policies to travel clandestinely, and in effect means that two-thirds of new asylum seekers are made destitute. Although the courts have partially condemned this measure as inhuman and degrading treatment, and individuals can apply to have the decision reversed, some 5,000 people in Britain, many of whom may subsequently get refugee status, are currently living in various degrees of destitution with neither the right to work nor the right to receive any form of state support. The denial of public support to ‘failed asylum seekers’ has now been extended to families; this may mean that their children will be taken away from them and put into state ‘care’. The support which is available to others has been progressively whittled away. Asylum seekers in Britain now receive some two-thirds of the sum considered to be the minimum subsistence level for the rest of the population. They are dispersed away from their communities, lawyers and sometimes families to one ‘no choice’ offer of accommodation, often in sub-standard housing including condemned public housing estates, where they are isolated and vulnerable to racist attacks, to the extent that some of them fear to go out. In Germany it has long been public policy to house asylum seekers in sometimes isolated hostels, where there have been cases of harassment and even arson by racists and fascists, and asylum seekers are confined to limited areas within the country, with severe penalties if they leave.

Creeping fascisisation

Immigration controls thus give rise to some of the worst abuses of human rights in Western societies. Asylum seekers suffer mistreatment of a sort to which the rest of the population is not, so far, subjected. But the abuses threaten to spread to the rest of the population, in what the Belgian organization Frontieres Ouvertes (Open Borders) has described as creeping ‘fascisisation’ of European countries, as a result of their increasingly desperate attempts to stop people entering Europe. Denial of benefits to certain categories of people could spread to the unemployed, single mothers and others considered undesirable. Police surveillance and random checks of immigration status can affect long-term residents who look ‘foreign’. These checks have a long history in countries such as France, where residents must carry identity papers or, in some cases, carry around with them proof that they have children born in France, which still protects them from deportation. In Britain, where politicians and others pride themselves on the long tradition of absence of the obligation to carry identity papers, many immigrants nevertheless already find it prudent to carry their papers around with them. Asylum seekers have now been issued with ‘smart cards’ which carry their photograph, finger-prints, and a statement on whether or not they are allowed to work. And finally, the government has decided that identity cards themselves are to be introduced, and made obligatory at first for foreigners. Announcing the decision, the government said that this ‘will help tackle crime and serious issues facing the UK, particularly illegal working, immigration abuse, ID fraud, terrorism and organised crime’. Especially since 11 September 2001, the issues of immigration and terrorism are becoming blurred in many countries, most notably the United States. The US government detains people who are ‘suspected’ of terrorist sympathies but who may never be brought to trial, let alone to public trial with the normal judicial safeguards, indefinitely and in sub-human conditions at Guantanamo Bay. In Britain, under an Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, indefinite detention in high security prisons has been introduced for foreigners ‘suspected’ of terrorism, some of whom are refugees and therefore cannot be deported; in an even harsher version of what asylum seekers already suffer, they are subjected to judicial procedures which are a mockery of justice, much of them held in private and in which neither the defendants nor their lawyers have the right to hear what they are being accused of. An earlier Act, introduced in 2000, made it a criminal offence to belong to or support certain ‘terrorist’ organisations. This means for example that Kurdish refugees from Turkey have to chose whether they wish to be prosecuted if they say they are members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or fail to obtain refugee status if they do not. Their British supporters have also been prosecuted, and the act has been used against protestors against the arms trade and against the invasion of Iraq.

The need for workers and ‘managed’ migration

Curiously, the escalation in the repressive apparatus of immigration controls, and the attempt to keep foreigners out, takes place at a time when European populations are declining, or forecast to decline. These declines, the ageing of the population, and the worsening ratios of working to non-working populations, are expected to cause serious economic and social problems in most European countries. The United Nations Population Division, in its document Replacement Migration: Is it a Solution to Declining and Ageing Populations, has estimated that to maintain existing ratios of young to old people, European countries would need extra immigration of several million people per year. Their governments usually accept that more, rather than less immigration is needed if their economies are to expand and prosper. Most of them are now back in the business of recruiting foreign workers, especially skilled workers in trades such as computing and health services where there are obvious skills shortages, but also unskilled workers, mainly in sectors and jobs in which long-term residents are unavailable or unwilling to work and which cannot be transferred abroad, such as agriculture, catering, cleaning and some building work. In Britain the issue of work permits to employers, enabling them to recruit workers from abroad for specific jobs, has nearly doubled since 1998, and other legal routes to enter Britain to work have been opened. In Germany and elsewhere there are government programmes to recruit computer specialists.

It is at first hard to understand why governments are thus recruiting and encouraging foreign workers, and at the same time redoubling their efforts to keep foreigners out; for example they recruit nurses in Zimbabwe and the Philippines, and imprison nurses who come on their own initiative to seek asylum. The explanation appears to be that they want to control, or ‘manage’, migration flows: to select desired migrants and reject others. But this too requires explanation. Some supporters of the free market, including for example the Wall Street Journal and at times the London Economist and Financial Times, argue, with a consistency which is absent elsewhere, that the movement of labour should be free in the same way as the movement of capital and goods is in theory supposed to be free. They do not agree that governments should determine the availability of labour to employers or attempt to set quotas according to some estimate of the needs of the economy, and believe recruitment decisions should be left to employers. As Nigel Harris has shown in his essay for this series and his book Thinking the Unthinkable, some liberal economists also argue that, like free trade, the free movement of labour across borders as well as within countries would greatly increase prosperity, not only for the migrants themselves but also in the countries the workers migrate to and in those they migrate from, and in the world as a whole. Employers in the United States in particular have called for the free movement of labour, for the obvious reason that it would suit them to have easier access to the vast reserves of cheap labour that exist outside the rich countries. There is much evidence, now supported for example by recent research by Gott and Johnston commissioned and published by the British Home Office, that immigrants make large contributions both to economic growth and to public finances, since they are mostly young, fit and educated at others’ expense. Most, if they are legally permitted to and sometimes if they are not, are willing to work for long hours and in poor conditions in jobs which do not require their qualifications.

There is one possible economic rationale for immigration controls, which is that their existence makes immigrant workers precarious, and therefore more exploitable. Most western economies, and especially the United States, are highly dependent on super-exploited immigrant workers, many millions of whom have no legal immigration status. None of the rich industrial countries of the West have signed up to the United Nations’ International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, whose intention is to guarantee some minimum protections for migrant workers, including the prevention of inhumane working and living conditions, equal access to social services and the right to participate in trade unions, so as to ensure that migrants have equality of treatment and the same working conditions as the nationals of the countries they are working in. Governments’ attitude to illegal working appears to be entirely negative and punitive, designed only to detect and repress it, thus making the situation of the workers even more precarious. In most cases the proposals for more government-permitted immigration are that the new workers will be admitted on short-term contracts, tied to particular employers and jobs (in Britain and some other European countries this represents a radical departure from previous labour-importing policies). Whether they are working ‘illegally’ or on legal, but temporary, contracts, the workers are extremely vulnerable. They can be employed in exploitative conditions, at the mercy of employers, and denied basic employment rights. If they make an attempt to improve their situation, for example by joining a trade union, or try to obtain redress against employers who fail to pay them the agreed amount, sexually harass them or in other ways mistreat them, they can be sacked. In the case of the ‘legal’ workers, this will mean leaving the country or going underground. Especially in the case of the ‘illegal’ workers, it may also mean that the police and immigration authorities are called in and that they are then detained and deported. This system of precarious working constitutes what the Sans Papiers of France have called a new form of slavery. The Sans Papiers argue that this is a deliberate policy of neo-liberal governments, designed to ensure that the immigrants provide a model of flexibilisation and ‘precarisation’ which can be spread throughout the sectors in which they work and eventually to the economy as a whole. But it is not clear that the policy benefits the economy, and employers, as much as allowing free entry to workers from abroad would. It also does not adequately explain why governments are apparently so anxious to crack down on ‘illegal’ immigrants, who are the ultimately exploitable workforce, and ‘illegal’ working, and to increase the rate of deportations and deter asylum seekers.

Immigration controls and racism

The explanation may be that governments’ attempts to prevent the entry of asylum seekers and other clandestine migrants have more to do with political than with economic considerations. Governments appear to believe that the way to defeat the growth of the far right in Europe is to adopt their policies. They believe they must demonstrate that they are adopting progressively more vicious measures to deter asylum seekers and others who might come into the country (to do the dirty and dangerous jobs which employers cannot find locals to do), and that they are doing their utmost to keep them out, or to evict them if they nevertheless succeed in getting past immigration controls. Ultimately, the inescapable conclusion is that immigration controls, and government repression of migrants and refugees, are explicable only by racism, or at least by attempts to appease the racists. Immigration controls certainly have their origins in racism. In Britain for example they were first introduced in 1905 as a result of agitation by racist and extreme right-wing organisations, at this time against Jewish refugees. Similarly, when controls were introduced in 1962 to stop immigration, this time, for the first time, from the former British empire, their introduction again followed agitation by racist and neo-fascist organisations. Up to 1962, the most prominent politicians from all the main parties (quoted for example in Paul Foot’s book Immigration and Race in British Politics) had proclaimed that the principle of free movement within the former British empire would never be abandoned. Government reports had found no reason for immigration controls other than the supposed ‘non-assimilability’ of the new immigrants. The covert aim of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was to stop ‘coloured’ immigration; since the economy still required an expanding labour supply, the legislation was framed so as to exclude Irish workers from controls and, it was hoped, let in white British subjects from the ‘old’ commonwealth while excluding black ones from the ‘new’ commonwealth.

Politicians constantly reiterate that the way to deal with racism is to demonstrate to the racists that their concerns are being met. The problem, of course, is that immigration controls do not appease the racists. They merely legitimate racism. And they also embolden the racists to demand more. When politicians lament the recent increase in racism, they fail to acknowledge that it is precisely their own actions, including their constant complaints about the supposed ‘abuses’ committed by ‘bogus’ asylum seekers, that explain the rise in racism after a period when it had been in decline. Their actions and their words feed the parts of the media whose political agenda it has long been to stir up racism; these media use information, and phrases, which are often clearly derived from government sources. Governments only very rarely attempt to counter the lies propagated by the media and others, or give information which might correct the distortions and misinformation. As a consequence, people believe, for example, that the number of immigrants and asylum seekers is far higher than it actually is. They fail to realise that asylum seekers, who have become the new object of race hate campaigns and violence, actually constitute an insignificant proportion both of the total number of refugees in the world as a whole, and of the number of other people entering Europe, including visitors, students, the employees of multinational corporations and others with official permission to work. It is hard to understand why governments appear so concerned to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers, rather than of anybody else, unless their purpose is simply to appease the racists and in this way, they hope, win votes.

Immigration controls are inherently racist. Any scheme which tried to make them ‘fair’ or non-racist must fail. Even if they did not discriminate, as they now do, against black people, east European Roma, the poor and anybody else who is subject to the current manifestations of prejudice, they would still discriminate against foreigners and outsiders in general. Those who demand tougher controls talk about ‘our’ culture, whatever that may be, being swamped. Every country in the world, except perhaps in East Africa where human beings may have first evolved, is the product of successive waves of immigration. There are few places where there is any such thing as a pure, ‘native’ culture. European culture, for example, if such a thing exists, is arguably under much greater threat from the influence of the United States, whose citizens have little difficulty in entering Europe, and from its own home-grown consumer excesses, than it is from people who might come from anywhere else. Moreover ‘non-racist’ immigration controls, even if these were conceptually possible, would be pointless, since racism is the main reason for their existence. On the contrary, one of the very best ways to undermine the arguments of the racists would be to abolish immigration controls, and to make plain why they are unnecessary.

Equal rights for immigrants

For the abolition of immigration controls to make sense, those who migrate must have the same rights as the residents of the countries they migrate to. Proposals that people should have the right to migrate freely in search of jobs, but have inferior rights to those of other workers in the same country, would be damaging not only to their interests, but to those of most of the existing residents. New immigrants need to have not only the right to work, but all the gains for the working class that exist in the countries they migrate to, including protection against unfair dismissal, the right to join and organise in trade unions, the right to leave their job and look for another one, the right to receive unemployment and sickness benefits and holiday pay, in the same way as everybody else. They should have the right to vote and the right to hold public office, and they should of course have full access to social provision, including health provision and education for their children. Immigrant workers do not usually take the jobs that might otherwise be available to existing residents and immigration does not usually lead to any worsening of wages and conditions in the countries they go to (on the contrary there is much evidence that it increases prosperity for all by enabling economies to expand and industries to survive). Nevertheless if there was any threat to the wages and conditions of the existing workforce, it would come from the fact that migrants, if they have no or few rights, can be forced to work in bad conditions and for low wages and cannot fight for improvements without risking deportation. They can come to constitute an enslaved underclass, which employers may hope not only to exploit directly, but to use as a means of weakening the position of all workers. The way to prevent any possibility of this happening is for trade unions, and all of us, to argue for full citizenship rights for all workers and residents, regardless of their nationality or how long they have lived in the country. This was more or less the situation, before 1962, of citizens of the UK and colonies who migrated to Britain; it accounts for their political strength and their militancy in their workplaces. It is, with limitations, the situation of citizens of the European Union who migrate from one EU country to another. It is also of course the situation of United States citizens who migrate between states in the US federation. And it is the situation of people who migrate from one local authority to another within states, and receive the level of public services prevalent in the area they move to.

The consequences of free movement

There are many who say that the abolition of immigration controls is a desirable goal, one they themselves would like to see achieved, but that it is politically impossible in a world in which there are severe international inequalities. But the argument that, without controls, there would be ‘floods’ of migrants who would overwhelm the rich countries some of them go to is little more than scaremongering. The fact that there are huge international inequalities in material wealth does not mean that, as neo-classical economists might predict, there would be mass movements of people throughout the world until material conditions and wages equalised. It is true that if there were no controls there would probably be more migration, since the dangers and cost of migrating would be less; how much more is impossible to estimate. Immigration controls, however much money is poured into them and however much the abuses of human rights involved in their enforcement escalate, do not work well; if for example, after years of expensive and painful legal processes, asylum seekers finally have their application refused, governments often find it impossible to deport them; and with each new, and more vicious, advance in the apparatus of repression, people are forced to find new, braver and more ingenious ways of circumventing it.

Most people require powerful reasons to migrate; in normal circumstances they are reluctant to leave their countries, families and cultures. When free movement was allowed in the European Union, some feared there would be mass migration from the poorer to the richer areas; the migration did not happen, to the chagrin of the proponents of flexible labour markets. The great desire of many who do migrate is to return to their own countries, when they have saved enough money, or if conditions there improve. Immigration controls mean that they are less likely to do so, because they cannot contemplate the struggle of crossing borders again if they find they need to. In addition, when people migrate from choice, they normally do so because there are jobs to migrate to. For example, when subjects of the former British empire were allowed to enter, settle and work in Britain without immigration controls, and had the same rights as British subjects born in Britain, as was the case until 1962, migration correlated almost exactly with employment opportunities; when job vacancies increased, more people came from South Asia and the Caribbean, and when they declined, fewer did so. Especially for the migrants from South Asia, the pattern was that families sent their young men to do a stint in hard jobs in the factories of northern Britain and then return, perhaps to be replaced by a younger member of the family. When the threat of immigration controls became real, there was for the first time a surge in immigration which did not correlate with job opportunities, to beat the ban; well over half the Indians and about three-quarters of the Pakistanis who arrived in Britain before controls did so in the 18-month period preceding their introduction; after controls were introduced, immigrants could no longer come and go, and were forced to bring their families and settle in Britain; by 1967 90 per cent of all Commonwealth immigrants were ‘dependants’. Similarly, there is evidence that the harder the US government makes it to brave the razor wire and other obstacles to cross the border into the USA, the more Mexican immigrants find themselves forced to make the hard decision to settle in the USA, and give up hopes of return. Finally, if people are extremely poor, they cannot raise the money to migrate, except perhaps to neighbouring countries. People do not or cannot undertake the risks and expense and painful separations of migration, in order to live in squalor off public funds.

Unless, that is, they are desperate to escape threats of death, imprisonment or torture. It is of course the case that too many people are forced to flee from such threats, if they have the means to do so. Supposing the governments of the rich countries were in reality concerned by the problem of forced migration, there would be better, and probably more sustainable and effective, ways to reduce it than by casting around for yet more brutal ways of enforcing immigration controls. Governments ought to recognise that they themselves often bear direct responsibility, and are nearly always partly responsible, for creating the conditions from which people flee. There is much that they could do, and above all not do: they could refrain from supporting and arming repressive regimes or the opposition to more progressive regimes, they could, as a minimum, not supply weapons to the participants in wars and civil conflicts, and they could cease to engage in armed interventions. They could be less greedy in their exploitation of the peoples and resources of other countries. When the West’s corporations or its agencies the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund make investments which displace people or pollute their land, or impose policies which impoverish them and create unemployment, people who are made destitute or landless are unlikely themselves to have the resources to migrate, but the situation may feed war, conflict and repression which force others to migrate. The increases in asylum seekers in Europe in the last few years have been mainly from Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, all countries of significant military and economic intervention by the West. In particular, while there was a steady trickle of refugees from Iraq under the Saddam regime and in the years of economic sanctions, there was a surge in numbers in response to the threat of US/British invasion.


In an ideal world, people would be free to migrate if they wished to, but they would not be forced to migrate. It should be an elementary principle that human beings have the right to decide themselves, with the greatest possible freedom, where they wish to live and work. Having made that decision, it is essential that they should not be condemned to be second-class citizens and to virtual enslavement in exploitative conditions, divided from the rest of the population, but that they should have exactly the same rights as all other residents of the place they have chosen to live in. In that way they can reach their potential as human beings and, as previous generations of migrants have done, make large contributions to human prosperity and progress.

If governments would only tell the truth and act on it, they could bring about a reduction in racism and racist violence and the causes of racism. The abolition of immigration controls has the potential to create large gains in the protection of human rights and in harmony between peoples. Immigration controls make no sense.

Bibliography and further reading

Bail for Immigration Detainees (2002), Crying asylum seekers and their babies in detention, London: The Maternity Alliance, Bail for Immigration Detainees, London Detainee Support Group.
Cohen, R. (1988), The New Helots: Migrants in the International Division of labour, Aldershot: Gower Publishing.
Cohen, R. (1994), Frontiers of Identity: The British and The Others, London and new York: Longmans.
Cohen, S. (2003), No-one Is Illegal: asylum and immigration control past and present, Stoke on Trent, UK and Sterling, USA: Trentham Books.
Cohen, S., B. Humphries and E. Mynott (2002), From Immigration Controls to Welfare Controls, London and New York: Routledge.
Dummett, A. and A. Nichol (1990), Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Dummett, M. (2001), On Immigration and Refugees, London and New York: Routledge.
Foot, P. (1965), Immigration and Race in British Politics, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Glover, S. et al. (2001), Migration: an economic and social analysis, London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.
Gott, C. and K. Johnston (2002), The migrant population in the UK: fiscal effects, London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.
Harding, J. (2000), The Uninvited: Refugees at the Rich Man’s Gate, London: Profile Books.
Harris, N. (2002), Thinking the Unthinkable: The Immigration Myth Exposed, London: I. B. Taurus.
Harris, N. (1995), The New Untouchables: Immigration and the New World Worker, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Hayter, T. (1971), Aid As Imperialism, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Hayter, T. (1981), The Creation of World Poverty, London: Pluto Press.
Hayter, T. and Watson, C. (1985), Aid: Rhetoric and Reality, London: Pluto Press.
Hayter, T. (2000), Open Borders: The case Against Immigration Controls, London: Pluto Press.
No One Is Illegal (2003), Manifesto,
Stalker, P. (2001), The No-Nonsense Guide to International Migration, Oxford: New Internationalist and London: Verso.
Sutcliffe, B. (1998), Nacido en otra parte: Un ensayo sobre la migracion internacional, el desarollo y la equidad, Bilbao: Hegoa.
Stroud, H. (1999), The Ghost Locust, Hong Kong: Asia 2000 Ltd.
United Nations Population Division (2000), Replacement Migration: Is it a Solution to Declining and Ageing Populations?, New York: United Nations.

Asylum and Immigration Treatment of Claimants Bill

Neither Closed Door Nor Open Door But Revolving Door

The 2004 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act.

“We came here to seek asylum, but we are being reduced to non-people…The Home Secretary has announced he is changing the rules about who can claim asylum…Does the Home Office prefer us to disappear into the underbelly of British society? Not seen, not heard and working for shadowy bosses in the jobs many British people don’t want to do for a fraction of the minimum wage. We are a useful source of cheap, unregulated labour that can boost the economy” ( Semret Fesshaye, Eritrean Asylum Seeker (1))

All members of the Inner Party believe in this coming conquest as a matter of faith. It is to be achieved either by acquiring more and more territory and so building up an overwhelming preponderance of power, or by the discovery of some new and unanswerable weapon. The search for new weapons continues unceasingly, and is one of the very few remaining activities in which the inventive or speculative type of mind can find any outlet (Nineteen Eighty Four p 201)

Nineteen Eighty Four, 2004 and newspeak

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four is a metaphor for immigration controls. Its language, imagery and politics have meaning and significance for all aspects of control. As such the novel sheds light on specific areas of legislation . So it is illuminating to examine under the beam of the metaphor particular statutes such as the recent 2004 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act .

The parliamentary path of the 2004 Act is strewn with the newspeak and doublethink of
Orwell’s imagination. Newspeak –a language designed to numb critical faculties and “diminish the range of thought” (2) – is the vehicle used to justify the statute. In fact much of newspeak probably appears in the popular imagination as oldspeak given that it has been employed to justify with increasing usage every single piece of control legislation over he last decade – illegals, economic migrants, bogus refugees. However there has been some additions to the vocabulary – some newspeak for a new law. David Blunkett, Home Secretary and chief lexicographer, has introduced into the dictionary the demon “clandestines” (3) – a description straight out of science fiction. Clandestine: definition – secret alien from the planet Clan on a mission to enter Dover disguised as a refugee. However perhaps the real development of newspeak lies in the overall justification given for the Act. The Act is projected as a “reform”. A Home Office press release of 27 November 2003 (4) is headed “Final phase of asylum reform….” Beverley Hughes, the Minister for Immigration, said in parliament that the new law “is the next essential stage in our programme of reforms to the asylum and immigration system” (5). This is a complete bastardisation of the word, vocabulary and concept of “reform”. The construct of reform connotes progress, enlightenment, positive development, human improvement, social advance. Immigration control on the other hand is about negativity, reaction, obscuranticism, pain, misery, disress, enslavement – control of people.

The 2004 legislation is about all this negativity with vengeance. One section is entitled with euphamistic, bureacratic newspeak “unification of appeal system”. This abolishes the right to appeal an immigration decision from an Adjudicator (an immigration judge) to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal – which it achieves by the simple expedient of abolishing the Immigration Appeals Tribunal and creating a new one-tier Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. More significantly the “unification of appeal system” prevents any judicial review by the High Court, Court of Appeal or House of Lords of any decision of the new Tribunal where it is being alleged the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, or acted with procedural or any other irregularity, or committed an error of law, or breached natural justice or, just to ensure authority can never be challenged, behaved wrongly on “any other matter”. Remarkably the bar on further judicial scrutiny extends to decisions of the Secretary of State herself or himself to deport or remove someone from the UK. The Home Secretary thus becomes all-powerful. Becomes Big Brother. In this political war against migrants, immigrants and refugees the enemy is to be given even less rights than the enemy in a military war. Even in the Second World War, Regulation 18B allowing the Home Secretary to detain suspected enemies of the country was reviewable by the courts. Far from being in any jurisprudential or in any other sense “progressive” the appeal provisions (or, more accurately, lack of appeal provisions) of the 2004 Act feudalise English law by presenting the central authority with power that had arguably existed only prior to 1215 and Magna Carta (6) – with Magna Carta itself being that popular icon of supposed freedoms won against the Big Brother of his day, King John, and which still retains the same nationalistic status as Rule Brittania and God Save The Queen (7). Only in a world of linguistic newspeak, of Nineteen Eighty Four, of lies deceit, hypocrasy, of complte madness – only in such a world can the 2004 legislation be described as a “reform”.

Big Brother and memory holes

And the madness gets worse. In the name of “reform” reaction triumphs.The Asylum Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act is a storeroom of reaction..For instance it makes it an offence, punishable by imprisonment, for any non-British or EEA national arriving at a UK port, not to have a passport or to have a forged passport. This contravenes a central principle of the Geneva Convention ( Article 31 which was incorporated into the Convention exactly to prevent this type of legislation from being enacted ) that asylum seekers should not be punished due to the method of their entry. There are provisions strengthening the law against trafficking people for exploitation. However these provisions do not prevent the subsequent deportation of someone exploited in this way – which is penalising the victim. Moreover these provisions naturally leave untouched the central features of the international labour market – which are precisely about exploitation on a global scale. The Act provides guidelines for when a “deciding authority” should find credible (believe) an asylum seeker. Most of these already exist in the immigration rules – and it is anyhow bizarre that what are essentially matters of evidence should be determined by primary legislation. It could only happen to a refuge. Immigration officers are essentially elevated to the status of police officers by being given the powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest without warrant for a whole series of alleged offences- from bigamy to theft- supposedly uncovered when exercising a function under immigration legislation.. Powers of fingerprinting are also increased. Two sections deal with , that is make more intolerable, the dual concept of “safe country”. There is increased the already existing power of the Home Secretary to designate a human rights or asylum claim as “clearly unfounded” where the claim is for asylum from a “safe country” – preserving rights of appeal against the refusal of a claim whilst preventing such appeals being heard from within the UK (a truly Orwellian paradox). The Home Secretary can continue to make a list of countries of origin from which claims will be “clearly unfounded” but now can also specify that a country is “safe” in respect to particular criteria – namely gender, language, race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group, political opinion or the catch-all of “any other attribute or circumstance that the Secretary of State thinks appropriate”. What this does is extend the notorious concept of a “white list” of safe countries which was established by the Tories in their 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act, which was heavily criticized in Labour’s first immigration white paper- Fairer, Faster and Firmer (8), which was supposedly abolished by Labour in the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act and which was reintroduced by Labour in the 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act. Much of this is redolent of the “memory hole” of Nineteen Eighty Four – the speed at which reality is changed and denied makes it virtually impossible to remember which politician said what and when. In addition to this ( and the other half of the concept of the safe country) there is enlarged the power to remove a claimant to a “safe third country” through which she or he has passed and of which she or he is not a national – without substantive consideration of an asylum or, in certain cases, human rights claim. The construct of “safe third countries” in effect reverses the flows of established transnational migratory paths and turns them into transnational corridors of expulsions (9). The list of “safe third countries” is not the same as, and does not coincide with, the “white list”. Nor is the list of safe third countries in respect to asylum claims necessarily always identical with that for human rights claims. Refugee and human rights protection , or lack of protection, is being reduced to list writing. Moreover the Home Secretary need not always stick to any particular list. In deciding individual cases he can designate any country in the world as a “safe third country” where in his opinion alone the country is “safe”. This opinion cannot be challenged. Big Brother rules.

The reaction goes on. For the first time there is allowed the electronic tagging of all those subject to immigration controls where residence restrictions are imposed, where reporting restrictions could be imposed and in some cases where immigration bail is granted. This satellite technology further criminalizes all migrants, immigrants and refugees. Furthermore in cases where a court recommends deportation following a criminal conviction then there will anyhow be automatic detention – previous power to release on bail is withdrawn. Hidden near the end of the Act is a little-publicised section – but a section which should be publicised. This allows the Home Secretary when setting a fee under existing powers in respect to immigration and nationality applications to do so at a rate designed to exceed the administrative cost of determining or processing such an application in order to “reflect benefits that the Secretary of state thinks are likely to accrue to the person who makes the application” or for whose benefit the application is made. We have now entered the free market economy of immigration control. This is an economy where the Home Secretary is authorized to assess the financial benefits of not being expelled from the UK. Once again we return to Magna Carta, chapter 40 of which declared “ To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice”. And once again the Home Secretary becomes King John becomes Big Brother. And yet more reaction: There are extended the powers of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner over immigration advisors- allowing for entry, search and seizure where it is believed premises are being used by an unregulated immigration advisor. The role of the Office is itself quite Orwellian. It was established under the 1999 legislation to ostensibly drive out rogue advisors. However the only way to get rid of rogue advisors is to get rid of immigration control – otherwise the trade just goes further underground. This is because the real rogue is control itself – everyone and everything else are just parasites on it. A dung heap will always attract flies. The way to be free of the flies is to sling away the dung heap. In reality however the hidden agenda and longer-term aim of the Office of the Commissioner is not to attack rogue advisors – but to undermine principled immigration advisors, advisors who are often politically committed to opposing controls. In the debate on the Second Reading for the 2004 Act, the Home Secretary equates rogue advisors with advisors “who are dedicatedly against any removals, with their campaigns for what they call no deportation”. According to Blunkett both “will use any ends to make a monkey of the system” (10). In fact Blunkett is wrong. The crooks are interested in making money. Lots of it. On the other hand good advisors are good precisely because they want to win cases by, in the words of Malcolm X, any means necessary. This doesn’t mean the production of fake documents. What it does mean is a thorough understanding of the law combined with a proper appreciation of the political significance of each case – thus allowing for proper tactical decisions to be made throughout any claim, including a thorough discussion on whether there is a need for a public campaign to run alongside the legal challenge. A well conducted case professionally is a well conducted case politically. And such cases can take a considerable time to prepare. It is in full knowledge of this that the Home Secretary is presently about to slash legal aid for immigration and asylum advice and representation –changes which do not need primary legislation (11). New Labour’s theory appears to be that the greater the legal repression then the less need for lawyers. Big Brother would be proud.

Deportation Is Freedom!

After a time it becomes genuinely difficult not to believe that the 2004 Act did not come straight from the pen of George Orwell. A new criminal offence is created (which can carry a sentence of two years imprisonment) – an offence of failing to cooperate in one’s own removal from the UK! In Britain today the choice for those subject to immigration controls is now either imprisonment or expulsion. In Nineteen Eighty Four one of Big Brother’s mad, contradictory slogans of Party rule was Freedom Is Slavery. In modern Britain the equivalent is Deportation Is Freedom!

Finally another section seeks to deny even the limited poor-law based financial support and accommodation currently provided by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) to the families of asylum seekers whose asylum appeals have been dismissed. The National Asylum Support Service itself is classic newspeak – its main role is to withhold support and it does not provide a service Citizen Advice Bureau workers “rate NASS as the worst government bureaucracy they have ever had to deal with”(12). Under the new Act assistance now terminates once the Secretary of State has certified that a person has failed “without reasonable excuse to take reasonable steps to leave the UK voluntarily”. Several points can be made about this. First in order for a local authority to maintain its obligations to the welfare of children in such families, they may have to be placed either voluntarily or involuntarily into the care of that local authority under Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act.. Second local authorities are further confirmed in their role of satellites of Big Brother and as immigration spies by being obliged to report to the Home Office any failed asylum-seeking families in their area who they know have not taken reasonable steps to leave the country (whatever that means). Third where a family’s claim for asylum has failed but they fear return or cannot be returned, the onus is taken away from the Secretary of State to remove failed asylum seekers and puts the burden on the family to try to leave the UK or to remain here in destitution. With the logic of Nineteen Eighty Four, Beverley Hughes has said in Parliament that children can avoid be put into care by joining their parents in leaving the country. And government lawyers have likewise advised that this provision will not breach either the inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 ) or the right to respect to private and family life (Article 8) of the European Convention of Human Rights as families have the option of leaving the country together and immediately (12b) In other words and once again we are faced with an Orwellian slogan , a preposterous slogan, of “Deportation Is Freedom!”

Doublethink and echoes of a genocidal past

“His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself — that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink” (13)

“Deportation Is Freedom” is not just newspeak. It is also Orwellian doublethink. How can deportation be freedom? But yet how can it be anything else when the alternatives are imprisonment or being forcibly taken into care? And how can “reform” mean reaction? But again how can it mean anything else when racism is dragging society backwards in time – backwards to a new dark age? As in Nineteen Eighty Four the logic of immigration control is supremely irrational – that is illogical. Doublethink rules supreme. Sanity, a healthy way of viewing the world, can only return with the abolition of controls. It is imperative, in the words of the great nineteenth century German philosopher Hegel ,to negate the negation.

Just as controls are based on doublethink so each and every justification for the 2004 Act is erected on doublethink. And none of these apologias are particularly new. One is that the new Act is making the law “fairer” (14). This is classic Orwellianese – “fairer” meaning “more repressive”. Another is that , in the words of David Blunkett, it provides a “warm welcome to people from around the world” (15). “Warm welcome” here meaning “cold shoulder”. In New Labour newspeak such a welcome is known as “managed migration”. Beverley Hughes clarified this piece of doublethink when she said “this government’s policy is to welcome migrants where this helps our economy” (16). In other words legal provision will only be made for, and welcome will only be extended to, the “right sort of “ migrant – who tomorrow, when there is no longer a labour shortage or pension shortfall, will once again become the “wrong sort of “ migrant and will once again be liable to expulsion. This is not so much an open door policy on immigration nor a closed door – but a revolving door. It is also a clear illustration of the political nature of the law – whereby today’s lawful migrant can become tomorrow’s illegal immigrant and vice versa. A sub-catagory of this particular piece of doublethink occurs in the usual rewriting of history, with the assertion that the UK historically has “a proud tradition” of welcoming refugees (17) – as though, even if true, this somehow justifies excluding today’s refugees. But it isn’t even true. The very first immigration control legislation was the 1905 Aliens Act aimed at Jewish refugees fleeing Russia and Eastern Europe – though a century of silence has ensured that this has gone down the memory hole along with everything else of significance. Yet another doublethink apologia is that the legislation “in the interests of good race and community relations” (18). This is the same as arguing that mass redundancies are in the interests of good industrial relations . Most outrageous of all (what in Nineteen Eighty Four might well achieve the superlative doubleplus-doublethink) is the assertion that the greater the demonisation of the refugee and the tougher the immigration controls then the less chance there is of fascism and the British National Party growing in strength – this being the same fascism and British National Party that consistently campaigns for the strengthening of controls. At this point it is also difficult to distinguish the puppet from the puppeteer , the Labour Party from the BNP, and who is pulling whose. At the 2003 Labour Party Conference Beverley Hughes in a Question and Answer session stated “The BNP feed on people’s fears and use that for their own racist political objectives. It’s imperative that we sort out the asylum system and have a fair, robust process the public can have confidence in” (19). She calls this “a progressive approach to migration”. This is similar doublethink and political cowardice – where fascism is opposed with racism, where racism is defined as progressive – that lead the then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, down the road to appeasement in his dealings with Hitler and the Nazis.

Doublethink permeates the entire debate around the 2004 Act. For instance the Home Secretary describes the slashing of legal aid as a “generous” measure (20). Again there were frequent references made in Parliament to asylum seekers arriving here “illegally (21). However there was no reference to the fact that successive governments – with their imposition of carriers liability (transforming airlines into immigration spies) and visa schemes- have made open entry impossible. The very idea that asylum seekers can be here unlawfully is itself doublethink – because as refugees they have every right to be here under the Geneva Convention. The politics of doublethink reduces all such rights to theory. To non-rights. .

And it goes on. Poor law (NASS) support will be terminated and children will be taken into care unless families agree to leave “voluntarily”. However “voluntary” departure is itself doublethink in the context of families wanting to remain. This also throws into relief the often hidden and ugly underbelly of immigration control – that is expulsion by stealth. The annual statistics as to removals produced by the Home Office do not tell half the story – in fact they conceal the story. The Home Office has an ambivalent attitude towards invoking formal removal processes. On the one hand such processes help keep up the statistics. So in the debate on the 2004 Act David Blunkett boasted that “we have increased the number of removals to 1500 or 1600 a month , which is now over 18000 on an annualized basis. We have separately managed each month to stop 3000 clandestines getting into the country. The total picture is rarely presented…in our media” (22). On the other hand removals are often cumbersome and expensive. So as an alternative (as an offer you can’t refuse) the Home Office prefers to “assist” people to return “voluntarily” by paying their passage and now giving them poor law support until they leave – with departure often facilitated by the International Office of Migration, a body whose Orwellian role is thus to prevent migration. Beverley Hughes, speaking at the Standing Committee on the 2004 Act, provided a humanitarian twist to this preference saying “Members have heard me speak about enforced returns, but have they been out with an arrest team and seen what this means? With families, it is always done with mixed teams of men and women who are specially trained, and it is done very well, but if one imagines someone turning up at people’s front door at 4 or 5 in the morning and getting them and their children out of bed and taking them to a place of detention, ready to go on a plane…this is an experience that one would want to avoid, however well and professionally it is done by immigration officers, however kindly people are spoken to” (23). Beverley Hughes’s concerns seem as much about the sensibilities of immigration officers as the plight of asylum seekers. Though expulsion is not, is manifestly not, the same as extermination yet Hughes’s words have a resonance of a genocidal past. This is a past where Heinrich Himmler , the Nazi leader, addressed the SS officers whose role it was to implement extermination: “Not one of those who talk like that has watched it happening, not one of them has been through it. Most of you will know what it means when a hundred corpses are lying side by side, or five hundred or a thousand are lying there. To have stuck it out and–apart from a few exceptions due to human weakness — to have remained decent, that is what has made us tough (24)”. Genocide and removal are not the same. But the bureaucratic mind-set behind both is often indistinguishable. It is the mind-set of what Hannah Arendt famously described as “the banality of evil”.

Just another brick in the wall

The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act is politically the creation of a highly confident government – a government that believes a century of parliamentary and media newspeak and doublethink plus a top layer of New Labour spin has generated enough support for immigration controls that migrants, immigrants and refugees can be simply stamped on. Another dreadful image from Nineteen Eighty Four springs to mind “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever” (25). This super-confidence of the creators of the 2004 Act, the Labour government, is seen in the fact that it felt powerful enough to simply ignore numerous criticisms made by both of its central parliamentary think tanks – the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (26) and the House of Commons Library research papers (27). Of course in a “liberal democracy” such as Great Britain it is inconceivable to imagine a form of control which existed without parliamentary sanction. However this does not in any way mean that law and legislation are somehow neutral. Rather they are weapons. They are weapons which are just as powerful as guns and tanks – and ultimately they may need guns and tanks to enforce them. And immigration laws are weapons in the war against immigrants, migrants and refugees. The wider the law and the more the law then the wider the power and the more the power. Just as in Nineteen Eighty Four the British state (along with most other states) is continually harnessing what is left of its inventive energies in order to develop the ultimate weapon of destruction – this now being the ultimate weapon of immigration law. Hence the significance of the quote at the start of this chapter. The 2004 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act- is part of this weaponry development. It is a piece of military/judicial ordinance. Every statute since the 1905 Aliens Act has provided a stage in this development. The creation of all this ordinance has been exponential – it has been manufactured at an ever-increasing rate. From 1905 until 1962 there were just three major pieces of primary legislation (28) . From 1962 until 1993 there were six (29) . From 1993 until 2004 there has been another four (30). As in Nineteen Eighty Four “war had been literally continuous”(31) so the attack, the war, on refugees, migrants and immigrants has the appearance of being never-ending.

With usual Orwellian doublespeak this has been explained by New Labour ministers, in two completely different and opposite ways. New Labour ministers are jugglers of their own contradiction. Firstly it is said that various legislative measures are somehow planned with forethought at the same time – even if enacted at different times. So Beverley Hughes MP, minister for immigration, said in the debates on the 2004 legislation, “This Bill sets out our third planned phase of reforms to the asylum and immigration system and builds deliberately on the action that we took in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002” (32). Secondly , far from an acknowledgement of forward planning, each new piece of legislation is presented as a quickly invented weapon to deter those who have discovered breaches in the existing law. The image presented is that of the boy with his finger in the dyke or rather with an increasing number of fingers in the dyke – this time holding back the flood of the alien. So the Home Secretary ,David Blunkett MP, said in the second reading of 2004 Bill: “we are constantly fighting a battle to close the loopholes and thwart those who will use any ends to make a monkey of the system” (33). What all this shows, apart from ministerial contradiction and dishonesty, is that immigration controls are a composite inter-locking package and the package is continually growing.. Controls do not consist simply of the latest piece of legislation. The latest piece of legislation is just another brick in the wall. And whilst the inter-locking package is continually growing so the wall in continually getting higher

This has political consequences for those antagonistic to immigration controls. The consequences are that it is insufficient to attack only the last or the latest statute. The whole wall has to go. Otherwise opponents of controls end up in the bizarre situation of, if only implicitly, defending today the legislation they were attacking yesterday. This is because simply demanding the repeal of the most recent, and only the most recent laws only serves to legitimize those preceding them. Though this attitude is often presented as “realism” yet actually it is a very pessimistic form of politics – a politics which effectively denies anything can be done about the past. It is itself another illustration of a reluctance to demand the abolition of all immigration laws – another illustration of the belief that best that can be hoped for is for the law to become “fairer”. A clear example of this is given in the Manifesto of the No One Is Illegal Group (UK) – which attempts to put a principled opposition to all controls in a programmatic form and which is reproduced as an appendix to this book. This example concerns the agitation against that part of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (the then latest legislation prior to the 2004 Act) which refuses support to asylum seekers who make “late” asylum applications – thus rendering these refugees destitute. However in 1999 there was a campaign against the then latest legislation – the Immigration and Asylum Act. This was the legislation which created the NASS-enforced poor law of forced dispersal and below-subsistence support. But now the agitation is to include late asylum applicants within the poor law! The only tenable political position is to campaign to break all links between immigration status and entitlement to welfare. The reason why attempting to get rid of only the latest bricks represents a pessimistic form of politics (and is actually, contrary to assertions, quite “unrealistic”) is that in practice, as is known by the best demolition experts, the most effective way to get rid of any extension to a wall or a building is to dismantle the foundations – preferably by blowing them up.

The 2004 Act – more bricks, higher walls

Opposition to the 2004 Act (and the Bill on which it was based) frequently falls into the same trap of ignoring and therefore legitimizing all legislation that preceded it – although much of this legislation was itself the subject of organized opposition. For instance there has understandably been much vocal criticism to the provision whereby children may end up in care following certification by the Home Secretary that a failed asylum family has not taken reasonable steps to leave the UK. However this obnoxious provision only develops a similar one in the 2002 Act – where NASS poor law support can be withheld from failed asylum-seeking families who have failed “to cooperate with removal directions”. Ignoring this provision is to sanction it. All the 2004 Act does (and it is significant) is allow for the poor law to be cut off at an earlier date – that is as soon as it is confirmed the family is in a position to leave the UK. The point being made here is that politically it does not make sense to attack the provisions, any provisions. of the 2004 Act , and any immigration Act, without recognizing that what preceded them also has to go. Likewise it does not make sense to think that the law can be rolled back incrementally for nearly a century (34) The battle to be won is an ideological one – the battle for no controls. It is success here which would allow the whole edifice, from the foundations upwards, of immigration control to be demolished.

Finally it will be seen later (35) that what distinguishes Nineteen Eighty Four from the system of immigration controls is precisely that Oceania, the territory over which Big Brother rules, is controlled without any legal system. Rampant deceit, brute force, physical weaponry – these are the instruments of control of the Party and are the only instruments. There is no legal sub-structure. Only the boot on the face. To utilize Frederick Engel’s definition of the state (36) – Oceania consists simply of the “bodies of armed men” without any of the “material adjuncts” of law. However if the Party were ever to decide to revert to a parliamentary form of government – something also inconceivable – then in classic double-speak it surely wouldn’t bother defining the limits of any piece of legislation. It would simply add on an undefined, undefinable and limitless “etcetera” to the scope of any new law. This is precisely what New Labour did in titling its Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act. And it is this “etc” which points to a future of larger and larger, thicker and thicker, wider and wider, higher and higher walls. The foundations have to go – and the foundations are the acceptance of the principle of controls, any controls.

(1) Guardian 1.11.2003

(2) Nineteen Eighty Four p 31

(3) Hansard 17.12.2003 col 1592

(4) ref 326/2003

(5) Hansard.1.12.2003.Col.1674

(6) Chapter 29, Magna Carta. No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

(7) The reality of Magna Carta was that it contained many quite reactionary and racist provisions – such as stigmatising Jews as a group to whom debts need not be repaid (“c10. If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, die before that loan be repaid, the debt shall not bear interest while the heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt fall into our hands, we will not take anything except the principal sum contained in the bond. c11. And if anyone die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if any children of the deceased are left under age, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping with the holding of the deceased; and out of the residue the debt shall be paid, reserving, however, service due to feudal lords; in like manner let it be done touching debts due to others than Jews “)

(8) Fairer, Faster and Firmer, paragraphs 9.9 and 9.10, 1998 Cm 4018
(9) See Peter Nyers, Abject Cosmopolitanism: the politics of protection in the anti-deportation movement, Third World Quarters, Volume 24, No.6 pp1069-1093, 2003

(10) Hansard, 17.12.2003 col 1592

(11) See Catherine Fairbairn, Asylum and Immigration: proposed changes to publicly funded legal advice and representation, Research Paper ref 03/89 Home Affairs Section, House of Commons Library research paper, 12 December 2003

(12) Written evidence submitted by the CAB to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill. First Report of Session 2003-04. HC 109

(12b) (Guardian 1.12.2003) ).

(13) Nineteen Eighty Four p37

(14) Prime Minister, Hansard 26.11.2003, col 30

(15) David Blunkett MP, Home Secretary, Hansard 17.12.2003, col 1603

(16) Beverley Hughes Mp, Hansard 17.12.2003. col 1670
(17) Beverley Hughes MP, Hansard 17.12.2003. col 1671

(18) David Blunkett MP, Hansard 17.12.2003, col 1603


(20) David Blunkett, Hansard 17.12.2003. col 1591

(21) eg Humfrey Malins, speaking for the Tories, Hansard 17.12.2003 col 1604

(22) Hansard 17.12.2003, col 1592

(23) Beverley Hughes MP, Standing Committee B, Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Bill, Fourth Sitting, 13.1.2004, col 154

(24) Excerpt from a speech given to SS leaders 4 October 1943 at Posen, Poland (source: Noakes, J. and Pridham, G. Nazism: A Documentary Reader. Volume III “Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination” Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1984, pages 1199-1200)
(25) Nineteen Eighty Four, p 280

(26) The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill. First Report of Session 2003-04. HC 109

(27) Arabella Thorp (Home Affairs Section) and Ross Young (Social and General Statistics Section) Asylum and Immigration, the 2003 Bill, House of Commons Library research paper ref 03/88 11 December 2003

(28) 1905 Aliens Act, 1914 Aliens Restrictions Act, 1919 Aliens Restrictions (Amendment) Act.

(29) 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1971 Immigration Act, 1981 British Nationality Act, 1986 Carriers Liability Act, 1988 Immigration Act

(30) 1993 Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act, 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act, 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2004 Asylum and Immigration (treatment of claimants etc) Act.

(31) Nineteen Eighty Four p.16

(32) Beverley Hughes MP, Hansard, 17.12.2003, col 1670

(33) David Blunkett MP, Hansard 17.12.2003, col 1592
(34) Not quite a century as the 1905 Act was repealed by the 1919 Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act.

(35) See chapter 9

(36) Engels, F. (1978), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Peking, Foreign Languages Press
steve cohen 20.1.04