Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Immigration

Having written about immigration at great length in the past, and not having done so for some time, it's time to state my views on the subject now. 

Nothing clears the mind about immigration policy faster than seeing the lives of both your wife and your son being saved by an Indian surgeon. And while this might be indicative of my final descent into an ideology best described as 'anarchopapism', I find the intellectual demands of immigration restriction to be incompatible with my confessional obligation to shake the hands of my Indian and African brothers at the Sign of Peace. Our parish has a large number of Indian worshippers; no matter now unlovingly we natives and residents of the west of Scotland can behave towards each other, nor how civically retarded some of our neighbours can seem to be, we can all still thank God that we don't have to be Christians in Orissa and Kerala.

If I were to be granted one wish for Glasgow and all its residents, I would wish that they read Remzije Sherifi's memoir, 'Shadow Behind The Sun'. Ms. Sherifi, at one time a radio journalist of some distinction in her native Kosovo, arrived in Glasgow as an asylum seeker in 1999. She was suffering from her second bout of breast cancer at the time. Her book makes compelling, extremely thought-provoking and sometimes very uncomfortable reading. Oh wad some power the gift tae gie us...

That being the case, it was gratifying to see that Ed Miliband has returned to immigration, a subject upon which, after Blair, the Labour Party will always struggle for credibility. 

I once likened Miliband to an exotic ruminant, and both the content and tone of his immigration speech would seem to bear out that perhaps rather uncharitable analysis. He seems not to speak words, but grinds them slowly between three rows of teeth instead. Linguistically Blairite, he favours short sentences. Without verbs. Of ten words. Or less. Sometimes. But not often.

In fairness to him, it was at least an honest speech, if not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff. As a good party man it must have been quite difficult for him to deliver it, given that it involved a measure of self-flagellation rarely seen outside the works of Dan Brown; although suggesting that the Labour Party is developing Mosleyite tendencies would be going too far.

For what my opinion's worth now, access to the British job market should be unlimited, subject to one proviso. On their first day at work in any new job in the UK, every foreign worker should be given a card printed both in English and in their native language. That card should detail, with absolute accuracy, the full nature and extent of their employment rights, what British law directs that they are entitled to be paid, their rights to join trade unions and participate in industrial action and where they can obtain assistance in employment disputes from speakers of their own language. The responsibility for producing these cards should rest with employers, who should therefore also be liable to bear the costs of their production. These cards should be provided free of charge, and any attempt to charge workers for them, either up-front or through their wages, should be a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. The Home Office and DWP should be able to conduct unannounced spot inspections of every single workplace in the UK to ensure that every foreign worker on site has been provided with this card and is aware of their employment rights. 

Appraising foreign workers of their rights might perhaps go some way to equalising the British labour market with something of a win-win; the foreign workers would be more likely to recognise exploitation and thus be far less willing to tolerate it, while the native British worker would at least know that their foreign competition has been advised of its rights. That seems perfectly equitable all round, which in the immigration debate is just about as good as it gets.

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