Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reflections on the treatment of the Windrush generation

Before I write anything else it must be made clear that  the so called "Windrush generation" have every right to be here in Britain. The treatment of those people within that group  who lost jobs, had operations cancelled or were threatened with deportation because a policy aimed at illegal immigrants was wrongly applied to them, was utterly wrong, indefensible, and should not have been allowed to happen.

It is right that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have apologised, taken action to correct the mistake and pay compensation.

We do need to learn lessons from this so that similar unacceptable treatment of people who have every right to be in Britain does not happen again.

We also need to recognise that his happened because nobody - no political party, neither side of the Brexit debate, no lobby group - has a workable policy which resolved the following almost insoluble dilemma.

On the one hand,

1) Britain's public services such as the NHS would collapse without the enormously valuable contribution of workers from abroad

2) The rest of the British economy also needs more workers particularly with certain specific skills than we have

But at the same time ...

3) Unlimited migration would exacerbate an already intolerable housing shortage in many parts of the country which is crucifying our young people's hopes for the future

4) Unlimited migration could potentially also have significant impact on wages and put further pressure on public services.

Point 3) above would be true even if we were building enough houses for the people already here, which we are not, and we need to, a problem which the government is trying to address.

All four of these points apply regardless of the race, colour or creed of the people involved.

And consequently, point five, to quote an article by Dan Hodges this weekend,

"A majority of Britons think the Windrush generation has been treated unfairly. But that sense of unfairness does not trump their belief that immigration – never mind illegal immigration – must be curbed. And they have decided if the way of doing that is a hostile environment for illegal migrants, so be it."

"We cannot let compassion blind us to reality. The political class and the public are dangerously out of step once more. You cannot feed voters a narrative of crisis in the NHS, housing and schools, and low-wage employment, then expect them to pivot and rage against injustice towards illegal immigrants." 

We need to find a way of managing migration down which does not involve inhuman and unjust treatment of genuine refugees or anyone with a legal right to be here in Britain or deprive our public services or the rest of the economy of the people with the skills they need.

All sane mainstream politicians know this. Labour's Yvette Cooper was very cross when the PM (accurately) pointed to her past statements about the need to manage migration down and (equally accurately) pointed out that there had been warnings that the Windrush problem had been seen coming. But as Dan Hodges again points out, that’s the same Yvette Cooper who castigated Mrs May in 2013 with the words:

The backlog in finding failed asylum seekers has gone up. The number of illegal immigrants deported has gone down … this is a growing catalogue of failure. Yet illegal immigration is deeply damaging.

When they were last in office Labour flip-flopped between supporting almost unlimited immigration and coming down so hard on immigrants that they outflanked not just most of the Conservative party but also the Daily Mail. During one of the latter periods they actually started the "hostile environment policy" (which Labour, Coalition, and Conservative governments intended to apply to illegal immigrants, not people with the right to be here.)

As recently as the 2015 election the Labour party were producing things like this ...


The problems which hit the Windrush generation and finally came out in the open this month are the product of mistakes going back forty years under governments of every political colour. Nobody comes well out of this.

I wish I had a nice, simple, fair and realistic answer to the question of how Britain should handle migration.

I don't, because there isn't one.

We need to manage immigration down in a humane and competent way, preferably without massive swings in policy and panic reactions because those are what lay the foundation for screw-ups like the way the Windrush generation have been treated.

That will inevitably include being tough on illegal immigration. How can any migration law work if you don't enforce it properly?

I can recommend Dan Hodges' article referred to above, which you can read here.

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