European Union and immigrant workers in Britain

This video says about itself:

Fortress Europe

19 April 2016

Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Research, tells the story of abuses committed against a group of refugees in just one day on the Hungarian border. In this touching story, tear gassed families have been separated, and the Amnesty International team must at once bear witness to these abuses, report on the events globally, and do everything they can to ensure that these families are reunited.

By Harsev Bains in Britain:

The worst of both worlds

Saturday 20th August 2016

HARSEV BAINS writes on the contradictions between the European Union’s promises for immigrant workers’ rights and their reality

AS PART of the general election campaign in October 1974, the Labour Party promised a referendum to decide whether Britain should remain in the European Economic Community (EEC) or quit. In 1975, 67 per cent of voters favoured staying in the EEC.

The Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) — IWA(GB) — was among the 33 per cent opposed to continuing membership in that first referendum 40 years ago.

The Wilson government’s recommendation to remain and subsequent treaties promised much in terms of works councils and an increase in workers’ participation in the affairs of industry.

Instead, what we had was increased bureaucracy, the destruction of manufacturing, the migration of finance to cheaper labour markets in Europe and a disconnected system of overpaid non-accountable European MEPs and bureaucrats.

With the passage of time, following the setbacks in eastern Europe, the EU became the world’s largest trading group, with monetary and political agreements that benefit the movement of finance.

The EU has continued to pursue its neoliberal economic agenda with secret trade deals being negotiated, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and that between the EU and India, to exploit developing countries still further.

In response, the IWA(GB) has been stepping up its campaigning alongside other left and progressive forces against the neoliberal agenda of globalisation and associated austerity.

The total undermining of sovereignty and of the democratic right of elected member-state governments to implement pro-people alternative policies provided the backdrop to this May’s referendum called by an over-confident Tory government out of touch with the people.

Over the preceding period, alarmed by the increase in Ukip votes, the Tories had chosen — with the support of prominent Blairites — to continue attacking levels of immigration and asylum.

Instead of exposing the racist policies of Ukip, they proposed yet more discriminatory laws such as the 2016 Immigration Act.

Further restrictions were placed on non-EU citizens wishing to enter Britain and study, work or settle here.

David Cameron’s EU renegotiations in February 2016, aimed at creating the conditions for a “Remain” victory in the referendum campaign, were a contemptible demonstration of this racist, xenophobic strategy.

The proposals for imposing a work qualification period of up to four years for in-work benefits for migrants from Europe resonated with migrant workers in Britain as a very real threat.

The racial profiling used in the London mayoral elections further exposed the desperation of the Tory Party.

When the IWA(GB) carefully examined the results of 43 years of EU membership, it became clear that there has been a growing contradiction between the promises of frequent renegotiations in the interests of working people and the actual delivery.

The expected paradigm of a Europe with free movement for people permanently settled in Britain, including those who have a non-EU passport, has been denied.

People from India, for example, still require one Schengen visa for Europe and a separate one for Britain.

Within the EU, Asian communities have experienced the worst of all worlds as result of Britain’s alignment with the EU’s “Fortress Europe” approach.

As part of Lexit — the left’s campaign for leaving the EU — representatives of the IWA(GB) received invitations to speak from Sikh temples and other institutions not normally associated with it.

We shared our experience of campaigning and lobbying MPs and peers against the legalised framework of discrimination and racist xenophobia in Britain. This has resulted in:

The withdrawal of visa bonds that would have required a deposit of £3,000 per person.

The reduction, following the EU exit vote, of the English language test requirements for non-EU nurses, mainly from India and the Philippines, who had to demonstrate a command of English above that required by universities for PhD study.

The establishment of a home affairs select committee inquiry into the scandalous use of an orchestrated media sting operation to stigmatise and deport 48,000 university students. They had been accused — without a shred of evidence — by the then home secretary Theresa May of obtaining study visas through a fraudulent process for English language testing.

The Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) continues to lobby against the discriminatory, unethical immigration legislation applicable to non-EU residents that divides poor families and denies them the basic human right to live together in Britain.

This fundamental right is being means-tested by the Home Office on the basis of a minimum income threshold set 50 per cent above the national minimum wage. As a broad mass organisation, the IWA(GB) put its faith in the people to make an informed choice on May 23.

Initial statistics reveal that 33 per cent of people of Asian background and specifically 52 per cent of Sikhs voted to leave the EU.

Together with our allies in Lexit, we are not against the people of Europe or people in any other part of the world.

We want to be friends and trading partners with all peoples of the world, whatever their race, religion or nationality.

As Prakash Karat, former general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) noted in the editorial of People’s Democracy on June 29, while commenting on the post-referendum shenanigans in the Labour Party:

“What was required at this juncture was the advancement of the left agenda set by Jeremy Corbyn with a programme which consists of re-nationalising the railways and exercising social control over key sectors of the economy — an agenda which brings back the priorities of the people and not of finance capital.

“The struggle against racism and xenophobia of the far-right can only be countered by putting forward such a left programme and mobilising people around it.

“What has to be underlined is that the struggle for an alternative agenda can be advanced now that the EU shackles have been removed.”

22 thoughts on “European Union and immigrant workers in Britain

  1. Saturday 20th August 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    HaiL fellows and well met! As silly season continues to grind on with all the alacrity of a seized engine with sugar in the tank the serried ranks of the fourth estate are, once more, seeking to outdo each other with the most sensationalist takes on the completely bleeding obvious.

    If they can’t find an Olympic angle they manufacture one or, as has been the case this week, rummage through the old story slush pile to see if there’s anything they can put a fresh spin on.

    Take this for example: “Foreign billionaires buying up hundreds of millions of pounds worth of property in London only to let it lie empty.”

    I hate to break it to those paragons of the free press but this is not exactly news. It is disgusting that, at a time when poverty and homeless levels are soaring at a rate inversely proportionate to the levels of affordable housing and it has been calculated that one would have to earn around £140,000 a year to afford to buy a home in London, palatial residences are hoovered up by the undeserving rich and left vacant for the majority of, if not all, the time.

    To hear the feigned apoplexy of the custodians of Grub Street one would have thought this had just happened. Some form of covert blitzkrieg of our building stock rather than a practice that has been plaguing the nation for hundreds of years.

    But of course the gross iniquity of the situation wasn’t what really got the tabloid hackles up. We all know they couldn’t care less about that.

    No, the aspect of the “story” that triggered the red mist was that it was “foreigners” doing it.

    Because of course our plucky British billionaires, salt of the earth that they are, would never sink so low.

    Noble upstanding types like Mike Ashley and Philip Green whose business practices are famously above board and in no way shady whatsoever.

    It is a perversion peculiar to the British peoples that we will endure any amount of calumny, injustice and deceit dreamt up by our masters, elected or otherwise, and we will tug our collective forelocks and thank them for the privilege.

    If however Johnny Foreigner does the same thing with the blatant connivance of those same masters, we are outraged.

    The operative word here is not “foreign” — it’s not Syrian refugees buying up Belgravia and Knightsbridge despite what the Daily Heil may try to claim. No the key phrase here is “billionaire.” You can’t be proud capitalists who view our own colonial land grabs as having been a benevolent gesture to the natives and then get indignant when someone else plays the system you basically helped invent.

    Yes it is immoral in the extreme that potentially billions of pounds-worth of desperately needed real estate are treated as the play things of an idle rich elite who contribute nothing to this country.

    Don’t you just hate the bloody Windsors, Buck House, Kensington Palace? Between them the crown and the church own not just most of the capital but the whole damn country and I don’t see the red tops expressing outrage on that score.
    In the case of the Windsor wasters it’s doubly obscene, they own it but we pay for it.

    Is it any wonder that Saudi or Qatari princes — not a class exactly known for its egalitarian views on, well, anything — see this and think: “If they can do it why can’t I?”

    And thanks to our infamously malleable and cash-worshipping government, they can and do.

    They could stop this tomorrow but they don’t want the embarrassment, or to risk all those lucrative arms deals in the pipeline.

    Compulsory seizure orders for any property left unoccupied for a set period with the property being automatically converted to affordable housing would be a good start.

    Repealing the ban on squatting for any property left vacant for six months or more, would further aid the situation.

    Oh, and what about not advertising them in Abu Dhabi months before anyone here even knows they’re for sale… not that we’d be able to afford them anyway.

    It’s not rocket science.

    It’s also something they have absolutely no intention of doing.

    Instead they blether on about possible fines.

    Oh, well done! That’ll sort things out. Because we all know that’s what despots as rich as Croesus are really scared of ­— monetary penalties.

    They could pay it out of their pocket change if they were actually vulgar enough to carry cash.

    But our beloved government can’t risk the toffs having to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, not when the toffs in question have worked so hard to screw all that money out of the plebs in question.

    That would be… say it quietly… a bit like socialism and that just wouldn’t be fair now, would it?


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  3. Monday 22nd August 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    The EU Deconstructed by Various (Manifesto Press, £2)

    JEREMY CORBYN’S insistence that the political elite respect the settled will of the people has exposed his opponent Owen Smith’s subliminally subversive and fatally flawed plan for a second referendum.
    With a substantial chunk of Remainers firm in their belief that popular sovereignty demands that the vote be respected, the argument now shifts to what kind of exit from the EU is needed.
    A progressive Lexit, in which the vestigial labour rights that the EU conferred are buttressed by a restoration of the workers’ rights salami sliced by Thatcher, along with scrapping the anti-union laws New Labour promised to repeal but failed to under both Blair and Brown, is the least we should demand.
    Obscured by the tendentious terms of the debate which our political system and media bias permit is the essential role the European Union plays in shaping the institutional form in which austerity policies are imposed on our sister European states. And on us.
    Deepening the popular understanding that a progressive governmental programme is impossible if bound by the terms of the EU treaties is helped by an acquaintance with European realities.
    Thus this new publication from Manifesto Press, written by expert political actors in Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Cyprus, is essential reading in offering a hidden perspective on the operations of the EU.
    Eoghan O’Neill demolishes the lie that the Irish people created the crisis through an orgy of property speculation.
    Detailing the cataclysmic effect on jobs and housing, welfare and education he identifies Ireland’s role as “facilitator between European and US capitalism” as key to its position as a low-tax springboard into the EU.
    Financial journalist Lucas Zeise describes how EU austerity policies allowed Germany to profit from the crisis. “Money and capital leaving crisis-hit countries headed straight for Germany,” he says.
    Exposing the complicity of the Social Democrats in Merkel’s imposition of extra burdens on the German people, while corporate and banking profits rose, he contrasts constraints on regional public spending to a €480 billion subsidy to German banks — one-and-a-half times the federal budget.
    Denmark still retains something of its much admired welfare state.
    But Betty Frydensbjerg Carlsson shows how both employment rights and unemployment benefits have been eroded, along with an ideological attack on trade union organisation. Job opportunities for young people are vanishing and when, in 1992, the Danes voted down the Maastricht Treaty their will was disregarded.
    Charis Polycarpou describes how the austerity terms imposed on Cyprus mean EU “supervision” of its economy, while an effective end to its sovereignty will continue for another decade.
    And, from Portugal, Pedro Guerreiro shows how since joining the EU labour’s share of national income has dropped from 56 per cent to 44 per cent while the burden of debt imposed on the people has led to a loss of productive capacity and the transfer of millions of euros in public money to the banks.


    The EU Deconstructed can be downloaded as a free ebook at


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  8. Wednesday 21st
    posted by Morning Star in Features

    EU free movement excludes far more people than it includes, says JULIAN JONES

    BREXIT has become a byword for racism and chauvinism. A gross generalisation has been born out of the admittedly undeniable fact that some extreme-right groups advocated an exit from the EU.

    This unfair generalisation that those who supported Brexit are closet racists has passed into the norm of social thought and may take a while to reverse.

    On the EU-infatuated left, which has done much to proliferate this snobbishness, there are two main ideas at play. The first is the notion that post-Brexit Britain — compared to chic, cosmopolitan Europe — is descending into a racist state as a direct consequence of the vote.

    The second is that all things related to the EU — including the single market and free movement of people — need to be fought for and defended at all costs, even if that means subverting democracy and overturning the result.

    While the EU’s freedom of movement disguises itself behind a smokescreen of respectability, its cheerleaders in Britain fail to mention some of its more reactionary traits and unsavoury advocates.

    For instance, one of free movement’s most vocal backers is Robert Fico, the Slovakian president and EU Council president. During Theresa May’s July bilateral meeting with Fico, the Slovakian leader vociferously defended freedom of movement, stating that British voters view immigration “differently to how we perceive migration on the continent.”

    But Fico, who once said that free movement was one of the “greatest accomplishments of the European Union,” should not be seen as a defender of a great progressive cause, but as a racist who has said that “Islam has no place in Slovakia.” Fico’s attitudes towards Islam, although relatively mainstream in his native Slovakia, would be intolerable for the majority of the British population.

    Elsewhere, the despotic Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, has talked of the need to build a wall to keep out the “poison.”

    Orban insists that immigration, “especially from areas where Europe and the western world are seen as the enemy […] damages Europe’s security.” Orban — an albeit critical integrationist who has backed calls for an EU army — sees the European project as a bastion of white and ancient values against Muslim invaders, a discourse harking back to the crusades. As the BBC recently pointed out, “Mr Orban and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico say Europe has to defend its Christian heritage.”

    In Poland a similar story has developed.

    Racist sentiment has grown to such a worrying level that mass anti-Islamisation rallies have been held in Warsaw, while the Vatican even published a communiqué condemning this trend. This climate of hatred has been fostered and animated by the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who not only suspended an agreement to take in 7,000 asylum-seekers from the Middle East in the wake of the Brussels attacks, but has even stated that she wants to “keep Poland Polish.”

    Over the course of her brief visit to Warsaw, Theresa May rightly condemned the post-Brexit spate of attacks against Poles, before proceeding to hear Szydlo’s speech in defence of EU free movement. But while it might initially seem hypocritical to defend free movement and lead a hard-right party with fascistic tendencies, it actually makes perfect sense: EU free movement acts a convenient way of keeping Muslims out of Europe.

    While these figures of arch-conservatism have in the past been critical of certain aspects of EU liberalism and present themselves as Eurosceptics, they are united in recognising the great role that the EU and its border agency Frontex play in enforcing national and ethnic purity, letting white people travel throughout while keeping migrants of colour out.

    In Britain, the common narrative goes that racism and Islamophobia will undoubtedly increase after leaving the EU. But while we need to remain extremely vigilant over such tendencies, they should not be explicitly linked to Brexit, as if prior to June 23 the EU ploughed resources into an anti-racism police force.

    Of course, recent reports of attacks on Poles throughout the country are extremely worrying and need to be investigated urgently, but that is not to say that the left should defend the EU or accept freedom of movement, much less call for a reversal of Brexit.

    To be clear, problems of racism are not addressed by overturning a popular decision to leave an imperialist organisation. And looking at the wider picture, defence of an organisation that enforces a barrier against North African and Middle Eastern Muslims that are victims of imperial wars could arguably be seen as more Islamophobic than anything produced by the EU referendum.

    A recent Pew Survey revealed some interesting patterns about European attitudes to diversity and Islam. It found that Britain fared much better than Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Holland in its acceptance of diversity, and roughly the same as Germany.

    As for views towards Islam, the UK had the most favourable view of Muslims in the whole continent, showing that, while there may be lots of work to be done to improving race relations and inclusivity, the idea that Britain leaving the EU is symptomatic of our descent into a racist state is simply not true.

    On June 24 many young people took to social media proclaiming that they would abandon racist Britain and claim European nationality.

    But these Pew statistics on diversity might throw a spanner in the works of those liberal young globetrotters wanting to move to escape the St George’s flag-wielding mob. The idea that a young person living in largely tolerant London should go into self-imposed exile in a European country where race issues are far more prevalent is simply laughable. We need to learn to recognise that the term EU or European is not tantamount to tolerance and progress, and that our positive associations with the continent (holidays, city breaks, etc) are not representative of the real struggles of the peoples of Europe.

    The widely promoted narrative that Europe is inherently more progressive than Britain is wrong, and portrays an elitist mistrust in the capacity of British people to think in a sophisticated manner.

    Instead of demonising the working-class people it ought to represent, the left needs to respect the outcome of the largest democratic mandate in British history and do its best to shape the outcome of the negotiations. Part of that is debating immigration policy and making the case that EU freedom of movement is fundamentally anti-people, enforcing a wall round Europe that keeps people of colour outside, imposes wage deflation for working-class people inside its parameters and unbridled freedom for white middle-class people to explore the charms of the continent for months at a time.

    The racist nature of our current EU migration system is succinctly highlighted by one fact. Over the last three years some 27,000 “illegal” migrants have been thrown into jail in the UK. All the while there are over two million “legal” EU migrants in work in Britain. So what marks the difference between the security of a permanent place in Britain and a safe job, or illegal status and a prison sentence? The colour of your skin and which side of the EU border you have happened to come from. That is plainly an injustice.

    One only has to look at the recent news that Jamaicans with British roots and families are being deported to realise that something’s not right with our immigration policy.

    It’s time for the left to have a debate on the merits of leaving behind EU freedom of movement and the single market.

    The terms of this debate need to be shifted away from the warped liberal media agenda which has divided one set of people against another, respectables against non-respectables, educated against non-educated, liberals against illiberals, middle class against working class.

    Above all we should applaud the decision of the sovereign electorate to leave the EU and put pressure on Theresa May to trigger Article 50 immediately, articulating our own vision of Brexit and immigration.


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