Today's blog post was written by Runnymede intern Gilles Herail. It was previously published on the UKREN blog
The French Government has announced it will push for a change in citizenship law so that non EU citizens, also referred to as third-country nationals are granted the right to vote for local council elections. A three-fifths majority of the Congress is required to change the constitution. The ruling coalition (the Socialists and the Greens) will therefore need the full support of centrist MPs to enforce a measure that has been written in the manifesto of the Socialist Party for many years. If they fail to reach a consensus, the President will have to call a referendum and take the risk of opening a Pandora’s Box.
Opponents of the measure to grant third-country nationals the right to vote in local elections (led by the far-right Front National and backed by a significant proportion of the main centre-right party) have developed a two-fold argument. Firstly, this argument is based on their perceived inextricable link between nationality and political citizenship as one of the fundamental characteristics of the French Republic. Secondly, these parties also argue that granting foreign nationals the right to vote will trigger a rise of “communautarisme”, a loaded French concept describing a chaos in which ethnic or religious communities live separately from one another, setting their own rules and endangering national cohesion.
Today's blog post is written by public affairs intern Chris McLaurin
Prime Minister David Cameron last week argued that immigrants unable to speak English or unwilling to integrate have created a "kind of discomfort and disjointedness" that has disrupted communities across Britain.
Speaking to an audience of conservative activist in Hampshire, the Prime Minister vowed to “undo the damage” he claims the Labour government caused by setting immigration “too high”.
The PM conflated the issues of welfare dependency and immigration by claiming that a “woeful welfare system” has disincentivised work and created the problem of many low skilled migrant workers picking up the slack.
Runnymede Director Rob Berkeley responded to Cameron’s speech in the Independent on Sunday by arguing that the PM’s comments lacked an interest in addressing the reality of the immigration situation in the UK. He stated: “The Tories' lack of interest in the reality behind the numbers has done very little other than to confuse people further and triangulate the British National Party (BNP).”
He added: “Whether 200,000 people have arrived in the UK in the last year or not is simply not the issue. Nearly a million people are out of work and the bigger structural issues of the government are being disrupted by an immigration debate that suggests short-term thinking and electioneering.”
Don Flynn, Director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, also responded to the speech on his blog. He argued: “Like a lot of political speechifying, you wipe away the gloss and there’s not much substance left behind. A farrago of statistic which purport to demonstrate that a clear majority of immigrants come from outside the EU is expected lull us into the idea that net arrivals can be reduced by simply asserting more rigorous control of the UK visa system”.
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
Croydon MP Gavin Barwell has expressed concerns around immigration in a recent parliamentary debate on the issue. The Conservative MP, making the comments in a House of Commons debate on immigration, however also partially defended the concept of multiculturalism during his speech.
Speaking on immigration, Barwell claimed that concerns over the issue represented the opinions of many of his Croydon constituents, adding that these concerns were not motivated by race but by worries that the resulting population growth would create about a strain on jobs and public services.
However, Barwell also highlighted the benefits immigration has brought to his diverse Croydon constituency, highlighting that many immigrants “have set up new businesses and created new jobs”, as well as having “connections with other countries” which he labeled as being “massively beneficial” to Croydon in this globalised economy.
Posted by Vicki 27 October 2010 : immigration ,
Today's blog post is written by our public affairs intern Ashley Burton-Lynch
Lib Dem peer Lord Avebury has stated that new immigration rules will harm refugees’ family unity and undermine their integration efforts. Speaking in the House of Lords earlier this week, Lord Avebury highlighted that the changes to immigration rules announced on 1st October subjects the overseas partner, spouse or civil partner of a British citizen to undertake an English language test if they wish to join their partner in this country, in accordance with a new requirement for British residents to be able to speak English.
Lord Avebury added that “there was no consultation on the imposition of the language test”, despite the fact that – as he points out – that the UKBA had “clear evidence” from a previous consultation in July 2008 that accessing good quality English tuition was difficult in many countries and precluded people from learning English by being fully immersed in British life.
Phil Woolas MP was criticised for his role in the last government's immigration policy at a fringe event yesterday. The event – hosted by the GMB trade union – saw the former immigration minister criticised by Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote, as well as many members of the audience, for “pandering” to anti-immigration sentiment. Woolley also argued that the rise of the far-right in the UK was largely due to “weak politicians”, in particular labelling Gordon Brown's use of the phrase “British jobs for British workers” before the election as “giving a green light to the bigots”.
Woolas opened the event by arguing that Labour “has not liked to debate immigration”, adding that it is important for the left to separate the issues of race and immigration going forward. He also stated that the most effective way to “control” immigration is to address conditions in origin countries, highlighting that migration from Ireland and Spain to the UK reduced after these countries' economic situation improved.
Woolley countered Woolas' claim that the Labour does not talk about immigration, stating “we don't stop talking about it”. He also stressed that migrants are the “backbone” of services like the NHS. Paul Kenny - General Secretary of the GMB - reiterated this claim, stating that “we have an absolute need for immigration in the UK”. He also argued in favour of a one off amnesty for illegal migrants.
Posted by Vicki 23 August 2010 : immigration ,
Today's blog post has been written by Runnymede intern Sarah Sternberg
Last week, a report issued by MigrationWatch provoked much media coverage for its claims that recent immigration to the UK has caused higher unemployment. These claims, based in part on newly-released ONS statistics, have been rebuffed in an article by Sarah Mulley, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Mulley questions the authority of the report on the basis of its interpretation of the statistics, arguing that inappropriate methodology has resulted in misleading conclusions. In particular, she highlights MigrationWatch's failure to distinguish between absolute and relative numbers of migrants and young people across local authorities, the fact that the report looks at unemployment levels for 2008/9 rather than considering change over time in unemployment, and their overall conflation of correlation with causation, as key factors contributing to its erroneous conclusion.
Moreover, Mulley warns that the dissemination of such misleading information is harmful to a meaningful debate on immigration. She argues that without consistent, suitable and accurate research methodologies, reports like this one serve to damage the credibility of any claims about immigration, and its impact on the economy. As Mulley herself notes; "If MigrationWatch want to engage seriously on the question of migration and employment, they need to go back to their statistics textbooks".
Posted by Vicki 02 August 2010 : immigration ,
Last week Runnymede staff Jessica Mai Sims (Research and Policy Analyst) and Julie Gibbs (Senior Research and Information Officer) wrote a post on the blog Liberal Conspiracy calling for the UK immigration system to take seriously Britain’s commitment to human rights and justice, rather than focusing primarily on returning people who do not fit into narrowly defined categories.
The article was written in response to an earlier post on Liberal Conspiracy by ippr's head of migration, equalities and citizenship Tim Finch in which he argues that "having a better immigration system also means returning immigrants".
You can read Jessica and Julie's post here.
Today David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and a number of parliamentary candidates signed up to an asylum election pledge.
Coordinated by Liberty, the Refugee Council and the Scottish Refugee Council ahead of tonight’s second prime ministerial debate, the leaders have agreed to “never play fast and loose with the proud tradition of a nation that must always offer succour to those in genuine fear of persecution”.
In addition to the party leaders, scores of parliamentary candidates up and down the country have signed the pledge which will be open until May 6th. Elfyn Llwyd, parliamentary group leader of Plaid Cymru, and Alex Salmond, leader of SNP, have also signed the pledge.
Those of you who read my posts last week on the party manifestos will have noticed that aside from immigration and civil liberties they included few direct policies on race equality. The notable exception to this rule was of course the Lib Dems who released their own race equality mini-manifesto.
Readers may therefore find it useful to read a collection of papers written for Runnymede by the three main parties specifically on race equality. Released earlier this year, the papers were written by Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham MP (Labour), Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative) and Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Spokesperson Lynne Featherstone MP.
Posted by Vicki 19 April 2010 : immigration ,
The ippr has published interesting new research today showing that higher immigration to an area does not necessarily result in its population being more likely to vote for the BNP. The report also finds that the key factors for increasing the BNP vote is alienation and an inability to overcome social challenges such as isolation and low skills.
This, according to the ippr, contradicts the argument that immigration is to ‘blame’ for pushing voters into the arms of the BNP. It suggests that, in fact, where people have experience of living with migrants they are less likely to vote to the BNP.
Barking and Dagenham, which has had significantly higher levels of recent migration, is an anomaly in the research according to the report, but this is partly explained by the high levels of BNP campaigning in the area.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past few days, you will have noticed that the UK’s first ever election leadership debate took place last night. The first of three such debates over the next two weeks, Brown, Cameron and Clegg went head to head on home affairs issues including immigration, crime, education and the NHS.
Of direct interest to race equality, the three leaders locked horns on the contentious issue of immigration. Defending the government’s record, Brown stated that "we are a tolerant, we are a diverse country, but the controls on migration that I'm introducing - and I will go further - are the right controls, the right policy for Britain."
Cameron outlined his vision for an immigration cap, stating that: "we need to have not just a points system, but also a limit on migration when people are coming from outside the European Union for economic reasons."
Clegg highlighted the need for a regional approach to immigration, saying that under such a system “you only make sure the immigrants who come go to those regions where they can be supported."
Further to my previous post, it is worth pointing out that Runnymede submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the UK Border Agency (UKBA) which was published in its final report yesterday.
In our response – also available on our website – we argued that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the UK’s immigration system, and suggest that Louise Perrett’s accusations regarding the UKBA (detailed in an earlier post on this blog) reveal a culture of openly expressed racism in the organisation.
In what looks to be its final publication before the election, the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday published a report on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in which it highlights its disappointment over the body’s lack of progress in tackling a backlog of asylum applications.
The report also highlights the committee’s concern surrounding former UKBA worker Louise Perrett’s allegations regarding offensive behaviour by her co-workers in relation to asylum applications. I wrote about Perrett’s evidence to the committee in an earlier post on this blog.
The issue of immigration was raised today in the final Prime Minister’s Question Time before the general election – highlighting that the topic is likely to be political football throughout the coming campaign.
Tory shadow immigration minister Damian Green MP questioned Gordon Brown on his previous claim that Labour aims to provide “British jobs for British workers”, to which Brown responded that net migration has fallen under Labour. He also criticised the Conservatives’ proposals for a quota system for immigration, adding that a points-based system will be more effective.
In light of the attention likely to be given to immigration throughout the election campaign, it is worth pointing out recent research published by Runnymede which suggests that it is not the amount of new migrants in an area that causes tension between different communities, but rather a failure to manage integration properly.
Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr spoke in London at St Paul's Cathedral on his way to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Runnymede is delighted to have supported an anniversary lecture on 4 December on how we can end racism today and work towards Martin Luther King's dream.
St Paul's have written up the event here, with Runnymede's Director putting it in current context here.