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Roger Warren Evans
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item0032A 620, 621
620 7 February 2003
our Roll of Honour
The following 172 MPs seized the opportunity, on Tuesday 3 February, to vote in favour of the outright Abolition of the second chamber. I salute them - abolition is the only truly democratic solution. We must build on this foundation, and swell the growing ranks of this core vote.
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Walley, Ms Joan
621 10 February 2003
We should focus on Migration, not Asylum
The current demonisation of “asylum-seekers” is tragic. And my Government is, sadly, complicit. The sense of political panic had already become apparent, by May 2002. Blair’s campaign to “halve claimant numbers" by September is misconceived, conveying all the wrong, nasty, xenophobic subliminal messages… Blunkett’s tone and language are simply unforgivable, in a holder of high public office. We, as socialists, owe it to our fellow-citizens to propose a rational alternative long-term framework for the honourable management of all migration between countries.
Let’s get back to first principles.
First, the individual lies at the heart of our culture, and our socialist values. We reject monocultural forms of society, of the kind which is crippling Japan and the Japanese economy, and which still disfigures certain other societies. Every individual, irrespective of ethnicity, colour, language, religion or culture, is entitled to enjoy the core rights of common humanity. We have a heavy duty to generate institutions which facilitate the emergence of multicultural societies throughout the world.
Second, the authorities of any relevant territorial jurisdiction are entitled to manage the entry of newcomers to that territory, by democratic processes. That is a correlative of the primary concept of state territorial jurisdiction, a concept which is deeply embedded in the format of the United Nations and all international instruments. That jurisdiction may that of a sovereign state, whether large (e.g. the United States), or small (e.g. Monaco), or that of a component province within a sovereign state (e.g. Jersey, or a Swiss Canton), or even a local authority area within a sovereign state (e.g. the “dispersal policy” of the UK Government envisages an annual limit upon the introduction of “asylum-seekers” of 0.5% of the prior population). As a matter of pragmatic politics, a recognition of that democratic “right to exclude” is the right point of departure for the formulation of any international system of migration management.
Third, it is common ground that the acculturation of “foreigners” in any society is related to the speed of demographic and cultural change which the host community experiences. Communities and individuals must be given time to adjust to newcomers. If international agreement is to be reached, negotiation will be required with other states to establish a common “guest percentage”, related to the size of the existing population. That percentage would be enshrined in a binding international treaty commitment. Each state, each society, should be expected to make internal arrangements for the accommodation of an annual intake equal to X% of the prior population – and could not be required to accept any higher figure, in any single calnedar year. It would be for each State to decide how newcomers were directed internally within the territory, if indeed there were any direction at all.
Fourth, the “host percentage” should relate, not just to asylum-seekers, but to ALL those seeking residence in the UK, whether temporary or permanent (in the latter case, commonly “naturalisation”). Indeed, the new system should embody three different host percentages –
· The percentage admitted for work or formal study, such as EU citizens (who do not need work-permits), those with specific work-permits (harvest work, under-26s, scarce-skill permits) and those admitted for long- and short-term study courses; this figure would probably be of the order of 1% (i.e. 600,000 per year)
· The percentage admitted for permanent residence, whether by way of naturalisation or otherwise (e.g. by administrative acknowledgment of refugee status) – this figure would be of the order of 0.5% per year, or 300,000.
“Asylum-seekers” are only a minority element in this flow of newcomers to the UK - 100,000 in the current year, with the Government seeking to reduce the figure to 50,000 – asylum-seekers are now not permitted to work, while also often being refused social security benefits – this special, tough “less eligible” regime* is a blot upon the Labour Government’s reputation, and discredits both the socialist cause and our human rights record. But the issues of migration management go far wider, and should be addressed in that wider context.
Fifth, the effective implementation of such a scheme presupposes that each Member State can reliably count its population each year, so that there is an accurate base-figure to which to the “host percentages” can be applied. The UK does not have any reliable annual Census, and we have to use professional statistical estimates of mid-year figures each year. We should move to the French system of conducting a 10% sample-Census every year, rather than a 100%-Census every ten years.
Finally: turning to the particular (but statistically subordinate) issue of political asylum, this is where the United Nations should be brought, as part of an overall international Migration Treaty settlement. The UN should adjudicate all asylum claims, accepting the transfer of jurisdiction from all Treaty signatory-states; in the case of successful applicants (who will have established their flight from political oppression in their home country), the UN would be entitled under the Treaty to allocate them to member states, each up to the limit of its agreed host-percentage.
This represents, I believe, an honourable socialist project. I have also explained just how it might be undertaken, as an international treaty process.
footnote “Less Eligibility” is the term used to describe the brutal regime of social welfare in England in the 1850/1870 period. The principle was that every “public” option (the Workhouse, Prison, Hard Labour, Poor Schools) should be “less eligible” than any private solution (i.e. less likely to be selected as a matter of choice) so that every individual was terrified into looking after himself, rather than face the horrors of public service provision. The UK Government is deploying the Less Eligibility principle to ensure that would-be asylum-seekers, in their distress, are too frightened to choose the UK as their future home. It is a nasty, brutal and short-sighted policy. That is what it was in 1860, and that is what it is today...
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