Sunday, December 23, 2012
Britain's Labour Party gets tough on immigration, in policy as well as rhetoric
It looks as if Labour really are preparing to walk the walk on immigration. Last week Ed Miliband delivered a speech which – while measured in tone and delivery – laid out some of the hardest policy lines ever drawn on the issue by a Labour leader. A language test for public sector workers. Cuts in translation services. Transitional controls for new EU members. And boldest of all, the prospect of support for an immigration cap.
Then yesterday, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper followed up. The focal point of her announcement was uncontroversial, a call to allow Afghan interpreters who have worked for British forces in Afghanistan to settle in the UK. But alongside the compassionate commitment to our allies in the war in terror, she again unveiled a hardening of Labour’s immigration policy prospectus, this time in the area of enforcement.
Too little action was being taken to tackle illegal immigration, she said: “People who have entered illegally, absconded from airports or broken the rules undermine the rule of law and badly damage confidence in the entire system. Illegal immigration can also involve criminal exploitation and modern day slavery. Rightly the public feel strongly about this and think it should be the priority for action.”
To tackle this, Labour would provide new powers to the UK Border Agency. They would establish a new, dedicated enforcement task force. And they would give the power of immediate arrest to UKBA compliance officers.
This represents more than warm words. And it certainly goes beyond the agenda of inclusion Ed Miliband was outlining last Friday. Yvette Cooper’s agenda involves arrest, incarceration and deportation. Not One Nation, but a one-way ticket out of Britain.
This is brave stuff for a Labour shadow minister, especially one with long-term designs on the leadership of her party. But again, it is illustrative of the fact that Labour really has decided to grasp the immigration nettle.
Over the coming months Labour is going to try to seize control of the immigration debate, and reshape it. The plan is a simple one – to begin to draw a distinction between “good” and “bad” migration.
The case will be made forcefully for the benefits of skilled migration: “Bringing more talented students from China or Brazil to learn at Britain’s top universities not only brings in substantial investment in the short term,” Cooper said yesterday, “it also helps Britain build cultural and economic links with the future leaders of the fastest growing economies on earth. In total foreign students bring in £8bn a year.”
But at the same time Labour will also be moving to recast itself as the hammer of the illegal immigration industry, the scourge of the people traffickers and the nemesis of the 21st-century white slavers. The message will be “The more illegal immigrants we deport, the more capacity we will have to bring skilled migrants into the country, and effectively integrate them.”
Labour believes they will be helped to shape this message by the Coalition. Shadow ministers regard the Government’s migration cap as too blunt an instrument, and one that will be seen to have failed as net migration begins to rise again in advance of the election.
But they also recognise the benefit of caps and targets for reassuring a nervous electorate that ministers have immigration under a semblance of control. Which is why, Labour insiders say, Ed Miliband has finally been won round to the case for some form of migration limit. “He’s basically there,” said one source close to the Labour leader, “Ed is definitely looking at caps and limits for the manifesto.”
In the past Miliband has adopted a Hokey Cokey approach to issues he feels run against the ideological grain of his party. A speech in which he indicates a shift in stance has invariably been followed by backlash which results either in a period of prolonged silence, or a briefing or article indicating everyone got the wrong end of the stick, and Ed is sticking doggedly to Labour’s traditional policy position after all.
That doesn’t appear to be happening this time. Miliband and Cooper are starting to deploy a consistent narrative over immigration. It hasn’t created uproar within Labour ranks, which is testament to the trust Labour activists have in their leader, and also a recognition of the sensitivities surrounding immigration issue on Labour doorsteps. And for once Miliband is actually aligning flowery rhetoric with hard policy.
Labour’s leader is starting to walk the walk on immigration. If he can start to do it in other policy areas, we could yet see him walking all the way to Downing Street.
Should Canada screen out Muslim immigrants?
A security expert says Canada needs to go beyond screening for terrorists landing on our shores and consider the religious beliefs of some prospective immigrants.
Scott Newark says Canada should be concerned about "Islamist" immigrants.
Newark served as executive officer of the Canadian Police Association and also worked as a security and policy advisor to both the Ontario and federal Ministers of Public Safety.
"We need to think hard about what I would call 'Islamism', the political Islam that has absolutely no interest whatsoever in integration, that is intolerant and unyielding and absolutely committed to eradicating Western values," he said in an interview.
Newark says if Canada did a better job screening prospective immigrants, Omar Khadr might not be household name. [Khadr is a Canadian-born son of an Egyptian caught fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan]
Canada knew of Omar Khadr's father's fundraising activities for al-Qaida, for example, and of his father's taking his children to spend time with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Newark says.
"But we ignored that," he said. "And that is contrary to what's in our own national security interest."
Newark, unsurprisingly, is a fan of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who has made significant changes to the immigration system to keep more undesirables out.
"We're bringing in biometric visas on January 2nd and information sharing with the U.S. so that we can screen out the people who represent a security threat," Kenney recently told reporters.
Dr. Salim Mansur, a political science professor at London's Western University, wants Kenney to go a step further and introduce a moratorium on immigration from Muslim nations.
"This is not racist," Mansur said, referring to Newark's comments. "Their values, ideologies, politics and culture is completely incompatible with the values of Canada as a liberal democracy."
Posted by jonjayray at 10:57 PM