Inside Story

UK: Undocumented migrants at a crossroads

As Britain's campaign to curb undocumented immigration stirs tensions, we ask if measures are racist and discriminatory.

Last Modified: 02 Aug 2013 11:17
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A campaign to curb undocumented immigration in Britain is stirring community and international tensions.
Leaflets and posters have been distributed in the capital with the message: "In the UK illegally? 'Go home or face arrest'".
The government says it is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs, and help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily, but opponents say it is reminiscent of racist graffiti that was common in the 1970s. 

This campaign is just totally and utterly ridiculous, it's nothing more than a political gimmick, it's based on evidence that nobody seems to be able to get their hands on. And at the end of the day when the parliament itself had said that it's not a 100 percent clear about the immigration figures of people coming in and out of the country, it's ridiculous that we are basing a campaign on rumour and hearsay.

Rita Chadha, chief executive officer for the Refugee and Migrant Forum for East London

The government is also facing criticism over a pilot scheme to force so-called high risk visitors to pay a bond to obtain a visa.

The main affected countries are Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Some visa applicants will be asked to pay a refundable bond - said to be as much as $4,600.
If successful, the government says the scheme could be extended on an "intelligence-led basis on any visa route and any country".

As part of his election campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by 2015, as the country wrestles with unemployment and austerity brought on by the economic crisis.

But public anxiety was made worse when an influential group of British MPs said official migration figures were "little better than a best guess" - based on random interviews with travellers.

The debate around immigration is controversial in the UK. As we have been hearing, the government wants to cut net migration - the difference between the number of people entering and leaving the country.

But even MPs admit the government's statistics amount to little more than guess work. It is an issue British voters think is important.
In May, 57 percent of people surveyed said it ranked among their top three concerns. Even so, a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says immigration has a positive impact on economies, with migrants paying more in taxes than they consume in public services.

So, are these government measures racist and discriminatory? And what kind of solutions can be implemented to tackle undocumented migrants within the country?

To discuss this Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Sunny Hundal, a journalist and commentator, and founder of the political blog Liberal Conspiracy; Rita Chadha, the chief executive officer for the Refugee and Migrant Forum for East London; and Peter Whittle, an author and broadcaster, and founder of the New Cultural Forum think-tank.

"The problem I have with the 3,000 pound bond is that is clearly discriminatory, it is focusing in people who coming here from South Asia or certain African countries, whereas a lot of the people who overstay in this country are from South Africa or New Zealand or Australia. so it's targeting Asians and it's targeting blacks and it's trying to say to them 'you are not welcome in this country', and it is not only going affect the confidence that people have in the British government, and the way the UK looks to the outside world, but also reduce jobs and unemployment in the UK, because people won't want to come here to invest."

- Sunny Handal, a journalist, commentator and founder of the political blog Liberal Conspiracy  


Al Jazeera
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