Friday, October 14, 2005

Uncontrolled Immigration

Richard's anger at the Tory immigration policy in the last election was certainly understandable - and for the most part I shared it. Where the Tories had to tread carefully, they manifestly failed to, giving rise to all sorts of accusations of racism, "playing the race card", populism, and other such shady motives. The one point that was made more succinctly than any other was that the headline slogan "controlled immigration" was totally ridiculous. In the same way that Labour's slogan "Britain forward, not back" was utterly vacuous, because no-one would suggest the inverse, so talking about "controlled immigration" was ridiculous. No-one sensible advocates uncontrolled immigration either.

I wonder, however, whether we are moving towards a system of uncontrolled immigration. We undoubtedly deal with a grey area on asylum policy. Realistically, under the Geneva Convention, there should be minimal asylum applications in Britain, as refugees should apply for asylum in the first safe country that they reach. I'm not arguing we should hold ourselves to that standard; it would definitely be morally corrupt to turn people away on that basis (although, of course, an EU-wide asylum policy would prevent the burden of applications falling too heavily on any one country).

Today's High Court ruling, however, that was seen as a "test case" as to the Government's policy of deporting failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, seems to highlight an inequity in the system. I blogged about this earlier in the summer, and I still hold my position now. It makes a mockery of our asylum system if someone can apply for asylum, be denied, and yet be allowed to remain in this country because the mere process of coming here has made it unsafe for him to return. There are other problems in our asylum system, such as the fact that successful asylum seekers aren't allowed to work. And to a certain extent, that clouds my point on "uncontrolled immigration" - certainly these people aren't just going to be coming and taking "our" jobs, or any of the usual scaremongering in that sense.

There is a fundamental fallacy, however, in saying that someone is unentitled to asylum here, but the mere fact of getting here entitles them to stay. If they aren't genuinely in fear of their lives coming here, they shouldn't be let in; they should apply through the proper economic immigration channels.