08 November 2007

Newsnight/Radio 5 Live Debate On Immigration

Newsnight and Radio 5 Live will be putting questions to politicians, and taking texts, emails and live calls, in a unique simulcast on the subject of immigration tonight (1030pm, BBC 2; 909/693 MW for Radio 5 Live, or on digital). You could also listen online.

In a poll for the programme, 72% believed that the government is doing a "poor" job in its handling of immigration, while nearly 62% thought that Britain would lose its unique identity if immigration continues at its present rate.

The government -- to improve the linked issues of immigration and integration -- needs to fund ESOL. Cutbacks on ESOL have hit people who are:

the most socially excluded, from countries where there is war and/or extreme poverty and so they have little or no educational background. The branch also warned of the false economy of privatising ESOL or ignoring social consequences of cutbacks: Please can councillors and politicians start to seriously address this issue before more money has to be spent on translators in schools, health care and other public services, and before we start having to pay out for the gaps in social integration which will start cracking open as the ESOL and other Adult Education cuts start to impact.
The government is also playing with the idea of charging refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for NHS primary health care. A review is expected to be published in December 2007. This could prevent vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children, from accessing vital treatment.

What the government should consider is the proposals from the "Strangers Into Citizens" campaign:

In the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, it is a grave matter that close to half a million people living in Britain today do not enjoy the protection of the law. These people are termed "illegal", even though they are hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding people who want only to bring up their families in peace and security. Unbending employers take advantage of their lack of protection to pay them poverty wages, undercutting other workers -- making a mockery of minimum wage legislation. Others are not exploited, yet cannot report crimes, open bank accounts or go to doctors.

They have learned our language, and are familiar to us. Their children study in our schools. They work in our factories and our shops and our offices.Yet where British people who know them see them as fellow citizens, the law of our land sees them not at all. While our economy profits from the contributions of these migrants, we do not accord to them basic rights.