Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, has criticised as ‘totally flawed’ the UKBA’s targeting of homeless people on Ilford High Street for questioning.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the private security company, G4S, hired for migrant detention and deportation services has received an increase in serious complaints since the prior year, amounting to 773 in 2010.
The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Citizens’ Jury, organised by Leicestershire Together in 2005, identified issues of concern to ethnic minority communities in both the County of Leicestershire and the City of Leicester. Prominent amongst these were issues around information and communication. Clearly, there are still significant obstacles to people in need of services who struggle to identify who to talk to and who does what! Nowhere is this more crucial than for people new to the area. Nationally, local authorities and other organisations have produced guides and information booklets to their respective areas, principally with economic migrant workers in mind. One of the best and most informative of these has been produced by the Cornwall Strategic Partnership. We were given permission to use a lot of their information in this document and we are tremendously grateful to them for their support and assistance.
Source: Leicestershire Together
Please find attached below “Health and access to health care of migrants in the UK”, published by the Race Equality Foundation. It is also available online at http://www.better-health.org.uk/files/health/health-brief19.pdf
This briefing says that the changing size, diversity and needs of the UK migrant population have yet to be sufficiently addressed in academic research and mainstream health policy and practice. It argues that it is important to move beyond a framework of ethnic differences and inequalities in health, and to consider a range of factors that may explain the experiences and needs of migrants. It also suggests ways in which research, policy and practice might address barriers to health, well-being and health care in meeting the needs of migrants.
By Patrick Wintour
Migrant workers will only fill jobs temporarily in parts of the economy where there are labour shortages, says PM
Gordon Brown will intervene in the critical issue of immigration, using a major speech tomorrow to promise that migrant workers will only be used to fill jobs temporarily in parts of the economy where there are labour shortages.
He will make it a requirement that government-sanctioned training schemes are created to ensure that unskilled British workers can ultimately take on the jobs in sectors where there are genuine skills shortages, such as catering, supply teaching or some skilled medical and engineering jobs.
The speech will be seen as an effort to give meaning to his promise of “British jobs for British workers”. His intervention follows private polling conducted during the summer by the Unite trade union showing that immigration is the single biggest issue leading natural Labour voters to defect either to the more extreme parties, such as the British National party, or into refusing to vote at all.
Ministers have acknowledged that they have ceded ground to the BNP either by not talking about immigration or by not confronting the BNP’s true politics.
The issue is likely to become more potent as unemployment increases and the Conservatives claim the number of migrants in the UK is the result of a deliberate government strategy to create a multicultural Britain.
Brown has not made a significant speech on immigration since he became prime minister and tomorrow’s speech is seen by some ministers close to the issue as belated, if welcome. Brown has also been accused of coming late to the issue of antisocial behaviour.
Earlier this week Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said: “People think we have shied away from a debate on immigration. They may well be right.
“The public deserves a rational debate on this, rather than what they sometimes get, which is at the extreme end of the scale.”
The prime minister, in his speech, will again reject Tory proposals for an annual cap on immigrants, arguing that the policy is unworkable and cannot be implemented due to the free movement of workers inside the EU.
Ministers also claim the flexibility inherent in the government’s points system introduced in 2008 allows the government to raise or lower the bar on who can be allowed into the UK, in effect having the same impact as an annual quota.
Brown will also propose a tightening of the “labour market test” that allows employers to recruit migrants from outside the settled workforce for a skilled job only if they can show no suitably qualified settled worker can fill the job.
Under the test, a job vacancy must also be advertised for two weeks before a migrant can be recruited. The prime minister will say that in future the job will have to be advertised for a month. Brown will also highlight the government’s decision to require employers to set up accredited skills training schemes in any areas of the economy where there is a shortage of skills requiring employers to recruit from abroad. In an effort to take the heat out of the argument, he will say there has been a 44% fall in net immigration over the last year, and as a result of the points system the number of people who can enter Britain for work without skills has been reduced.
The Migration Advisory Committee, a government advisory body, said in a report last week that the number of people in the government’s skills shortage list had fallen in a year from 700,000 to 500,000. That represented less than 2% of all employees. The committee also found: “Net immigration for work-related reasons has fallen throughout 2008, and a net outflow of all nationalities migrating for work reasons was recorded in the year to December 2008.”
The controversy has deepened in recent weeks owing to the Office of National Statistics projecting a population increase of 10.4 million to 71.6 million by 2033. Of this 10.4 million, the contribution of immigration, directly or in the form of new births, would be 7 million.
It is hard to be entirely sure how old she is, as the Asian Muslim woman is wearing a hijab. But she is young and clearly experienced at this sort of thing. “Please,” she repeats, “the trousers.” I say, “Trousers?” She points at my trousers: “They must come down.” I have not come here to have my penis scanned, and this latest turn in what has so far been a frightening and panicky morning baffles me. “Down?”
She fixes her gaze on mine and, immediately, I calm down a little. She continues, in clear and patient English that carries a trace of the subcontinent: “Your belt buckle will interfere with the scanning machine. Now lie down.”
I take down my trousers and lie on the CAT machine gurney. She places a napkin over my penis.
It is a standard cliché of the left that the NHS would collapse without immigrants. It’s one to which we all pay lip service – even the Tories, who wish it would hurry up and collapse so they can stop pretending to believe in it. But it strikes me, lying on my back, with a napkin on my penis, as the most important social fact it is possible to know.
The manner of the woman in the hijab may be representative of nothing more than her own personality and professionalism, but I suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands, more like her – women of similar religious and ethnic background who are occasionally obliged to deal with agitated white men in their pants. And though it is wrong to wish health scares on fascists (I think), if BNP members were to have an obligatory CAT scan at this hospital, it might fix their idiotic racism.
As the machine begins to hum and move, I look through the window to the next room, where two technicians are sitting at the controls of the CAT machine. They do not look at me, and as I disappear into the white tunnel, I feel lonely and disturbed.
Above me, a small label appears that reads, “Do not look directly into the beam,” and I panic. “Can I open my eyes in here?” The Asian Muslim woman says, “Yes, you can open your eyes. It is OK.” Still, I keep my eyes shut until I think my head is out of the white tunnel. When I open them, I find the Asian woman standing by my feet. She says gently, “There you are. It is all right now.”
And, as I reach for my trousers, I realise it is.
Michael Hodges writes the Class Monitor column for the New Statesman. He was named columnist of the year at the 2008 Magazine Design and Journalism Awards for his contributions to Time Out.
By Liz Fekete
An interview with Dr Esra Erdem, coordinator of the Empowerment and Participation of Immigrants* in east Germany project (EmPa) based at the Brandenburg Regional Centres for Education, Integration and Democracy.
Liz Fekete: This has been a very busy Summer for EmPa, which was set up to promote immigrant participation in the social and political life of the East. In fact, immigrant organisations have organised a whole host of workshops on a myriad of themes in all five of the east German states. Just how did you go about choosing the themes for so many workshops?
Dr Esra Erdem: The themes were actually chosen by participants of the EmPa project themselves, with one-day conferences, organised as workshops, scheduled to coincide with the ‘intercultural weeks’ held annually in each Bundesland (federal state). The workshops addressed a variety of policy issues relevant to immigrant communities in the East, such as discrimination, the lack of recognition of immigrants’ professional credentials, as well as problems related to immigrants’ difficulties in accessing health and welfare services. All in all, the workshops provided a good opportunity for immigrant organisations in the East to participate in public debate and to showcase their work to a broad audience including policy-makers, community activists, local politicians and the media.
There was also much preparatory work done prior to these conferences. EmPa participants attended a series of leadership development workshops aimed at supporting the professionalisation process within immigrant NGOs.
I noticed that immigrant organisations from Saxony-Anhalt decided to organise a workshop in Dessau around the National Action Plan Against Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance. What were your impressions of the day?
Dr Esra Erdem: Several of the invited speakers talked about the nature of racism in the city of Dessau and in Saxony-Anhalt at large. That was alarming. But at the same time I found the large audience at the event very encouraging and a clear sign of a vibrant civil society that includes many local immigrant community organisations. Obviously, policy initiatives such as the National Action Plan Against Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance have a real potential to boost civic engagement in embattled areas such as Dessau – both politically and in terms of funding. But Thorsten Jäger from the Intercultural Council explained that the Plan (which was adapted as a consequence of the 2001 World Conference on Racism in Durban) does not appear to be terribly high on the government’s policy agenda. In its current version, it simply reiterates many of the legal and social measures that are already in place, whilst failing to address the urgent need for new measures. Crucial issues such as the campaign for immigrant voting rights in local elections or the impact of the draconian Asylum Law were also absent. Consequently, there remains much scope for NGOs to lobby for an improved and accountable action plan.
How do groups in the East react to the national policy and media debate on issues of integration?
Dr Esra Erdem: One part of the national debate on highly-skilled labour migration is actually highly pertinent to immigrants in the East, many of whom face deskilling and unemployment. The EmPa workshop in Leipzig, Saxony, specifically addressed the pressing concerns of immigrants with professional qualifications, around the recognition of degrees and work experience attained abroad. It transpired that recognition procedures vary significantly by Länder, occupation, immigration status, country and ranking of the institution where the degree was attained. The workshop was a good venue for immigrant NGOs based in Saxony to work together with local policy-makers to develop a set of procedures that could serve as a model for the integration of highly-skilled immigrants into the labour market.
It has to be said, though, these are not the kind of issues that get into the German media. Generally speaking, the media prefers to focus on issues such as the oppression of women in Muslim communities or White flight from inner-city neighbourhoods, issues that do not necessarily capture the life circumstances of most immigrants in east Germany. In contrast, everyday racism continues to be underreported.
Here in the UK, we know very little about the history of immigration to the East, and how particular communities came to settle in particular areas, and why? Do the immigrant organisations you work with in the East represent migrants from all national backgrounds?
Dr Esra Erdem: The history of migration to the East is quite different from that to the West, both in terms of scope and the countries of origin. In west Germany, labour migration from the 1950s onwards paved the way for today’s large communities from the former-Yugoslavia and the Mediterranean countries. By the mid-1970s, when authorities in the West were already introducing measures to curb further immigration, the GDR (as the East was then) had launched its own labour migration programme, drawing on the workforce of fellow real-socialist countries such as Vietnam, Cuba, Mozambique and Algeria. A year before the unification of the two Germanys there were around 200,000 migrants living in the East, compared to roughly 4.6 million non-German citizens in the West.
Of course, the last twenty years have seen an enormous shift in migration trends, particularly in the East. Alongside the Vietnamese communities, there are significant numbers of refugees and immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the latter two groups having partly been required by government programmes to settle in east Germany.
Historically has it been difficult for immigrant organisations to establish themselves in the East?
Dr Esra Erdem: As the GDR collapsed, immigrants in the East found themselves confronted with existential questions on several fronts. The federal government was reluctant to recognise the immigration status of the migrant workers in the GDR. At the same time, racist violence erupted in Rostock and elsewhere, signalling, in no uncertain terms, that there was no place for immigrants in the imagined German nation. Finally, as eastern economic structures and industries were dismantled by western experts, immigrants (alongside everyone else) lost their jobs. The founding of many immigrant organisations was related directly to the need to organise to secure a livelihood and fight for their rights and protection against racist attacks. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union – including the ethnic Germans arriving from Russia, Kazakhstan etc. – similarly founded self-help networks to cope with the unique challenges of settlement in a new country. In the process, we also witnessed the reinvigoration of Jewish life in several east German cities. Finally, asylum seekers developed crucial networks to survive racism, confinement to remote areas, restrictions to the right to mobility and the denial of work authorisation.
So where does RAA Brandenburg, where the EmPa project is based, fit in with all of this?
Dr Esra Erdem: The RAA Brandenburg was founded in 1992 in an effort to mobilise civil and institutional networks for a democratic and diverse society and to fight right-wing violence. Today the RAA continues its engagement in this field through six regional offices and also by working in close cooperation with schools to implement anti-bias principles in education. Furthermore, the RAA works closely with the Integration Commissioner of Brandenburg, Professor Dr Karin Weiss, who has been a key figure in raising public awareness about the importance of immigrant participation.
‘Empowerment’ and ‘participation’, these are the key words in the description of your project, and are clearly important to you. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about the philosophy that guides the EmPa project?
Dr Esra Erdem: Germany has a long history of paternalism towards immigrant communities and immigrant organisations have often been charged with promoting cultural separatism. Also, full citizenship rights are widely considered a ‘reward’, to be accorded on an individual basis at the end of a successful ‘integration’ process. Not surprisingly, immigrants are rarely represented in decision-making processes. My colleague Manuela Bojadjizev has a very telling example. Earlier this year, there was a referendum in Berlin on whether high school students should be offered the choice of attending classes on religion alongside the formerly mandatory ethics courses. Although in some inner-city schools kids of Muslim immigrants make up 90 per cent of students, no one even thought of asking their non-citizen parents what they would prefer their children to be taught!
EmPa seeks to redress the balance by encouraging immigrant community activists to participate in local affairs, and provides them with the professional training to further develop these skills. The philosophy that guides EmPa is precisely this recognition of immigrants’ right to articulate and represent their specific interests as part of German society. Obviously, immigrants do not constitute a homogeneous category. Hence, we strive to put together a programme with participant groups that, as far as we can, reflects the diversity within the communities. That is also why EmPa focuses on a different set of actors each year, namely NGOs, faith-based communities and youth networks.
It would also be interesting to know a little bit about the everyday running of EmPa. How, for instance, do you ensure that immigrant organisations in the East are effectively involved in the everyday management of the project?
Dr Esra Erdem: The participant organisations shape the project in many different ways. First, the themes of the leadership development workshops are set in close consultation with the participants. These praxis-oriented workshops allow group members to bring their respective competences to the programme. Moreover, participants are asked to evaluate each workshop individually as well as in group discussions. In this way, we hope to constantly improve the project. Second, as mentioned earlier, the NGOs are responsible for the concept development and implementation of the one-day conferences in their regions. And, finally, EmPa has helped foster networks between immigrant NGOs serving different constituencies in the East. It will be interesting to see what kind of internal dynamics these networks develop in the coming years.
At the moment, neo-Nazi activity seems to be once again on the rise in the East – with the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) re-elected to the state parliament in Saxony, and narrowly missing representation in Thuringia. How does the menace of the NPD and the alarming levels of racism impact on EmPa’s work? And do you see any hope for the future?
Dr Esra Erdem: The participants in the EmPa programme are all confronted with and struggle against racism in their regional context. Some of its participants, such as Zeca Schall, a Black Christian Democratic politician, are active in political parties and hold mandates. When Mr Schall was attacked by the NPD, there was an immediate wave of solidarity within EmPa. A common statement of support was posted on our website in no time, and individual participants then used this for intervention in their local media.
But the state could certainly act more decisively and support local civic networks that courageously speak up against the extreme Right, raise public awareness through rallies and educational programmes, prevent the NPD from holding events or acquiring real estate in their towns. In Brandenburg, for example, a fruitful collaboration has been established between local policymakers and researchers at the Moses Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam, with both sides taking the fight against right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism in the region very seriously.
Finally could you relate the work of EmPA to the Alternative Voices on Integration project, the aim of which is to draw attention to innovative new projects that challenge racism, break down stereotypes and effect change.
Dr Esra Erdem: In the German context, EmPa is definitely an innovative project in that it fully recognises the legitimacy of immigrants as social and political actors. I think that the European Integration Fund sends a powerful signal by funding EmPa, making a clear commitment to immigrant empowerment. This could certainly be used as leverage for implementing similar programmes in other European countries.
But I also think EmPa could help us broaden our understanding of immigrant empowerment to include, not just secular, but also faith-based civic engagement. This will be the theme of EmPa in 2010. As you know, there is a strong tradition of faith-based community activism in the United States, for example through African-American churches. In continental Europe however, this type of engagement is sometimes eyed with suspicion – particularly when it comes to Muslim communities. If successful, EmPa could provide an important case study for developing a timely European approach to empowerment through faith-based community activism.
* While terms like ‘immigrant’ and ‘migrant’ may seem old-fashioned in the UK context, in Germany, where very few communities are officially recognised as ‘ethnic minorities’, such terms are widely used in public discourse, even to describe the children and grandchildren of the original post-war migrants and guest workers. Whereas migrant support groups are critical of official descriptors, they point out that they are an improvement on the past, when anyone who was recognisable as coming from the global South, even those who were German citizens or born in Germany, was officially described as ausländer (foreigners). In the run-up to the September federal and regional elections, the NPD sent hate mail to thirty candidates with foreign-sounding names, purporting to come from the commissioner for repatriation of foreigners and demanding that they go back to their country of origin within three months. Zeca Schall, who had appeared on Christian Democrat regional election campaign posters, was placed under police protection after receiving hate mail from the NPD which had also publicly described him as a ‘token nigger’ and urged its members in the eastern state to deliver its message to him personally.
By Alan Travis
The UK must not make deep cuts in the number of skilled migrant workers coming from outside Europe to fill jobs here simply because of the turmoil in the labour market, government advisers have warned.
The government’s migration advisory committee (Mac) resoundingly rejected the idea as a response to the economic downturn.
Professor David Metcalf, chair of the committee, said todaythat selective immigration which favoured more skilled workers was vital to ensure that Britain was still thought of as a good place to do business, invest or study. But he said that the rules for skilled migrants in the government’s points-based immigration system needed to be tightened to ensure that British workers were not being undercut or displaced in the labour market.
The report yesterday on the operation of tier two – the skilled workers category for those from outside the EU – followed a request in February from Jacqui Smith when she was home secretary asking if there was a case to restrict skilled migration to just those jobs where there was a shortage of labour.
The flow of skilled migrants has already started to fall since the recession began to bite. A total 69,000 skilled workers from outside Europe came to Britain under the old work permit system last year and it is estimated that about 50,000 will arrive this year under tier two of the new points system which came into force last November.
More than 60% came as part of “intra-company” transfers of staff by multinationals, principally Indian-based IT companies. A further 32% involved jobs that had gone through the resident labour market test and been advertised in a jobcentreplus first and only 8% involved jobs in occupations with a shortfall of skilled labour.
Metcalf said the changes in the rules the committee was proposing were not a “knee-jerk reaction to the recession” and would be needed whatever the state of the economy.
The committee’s analysis published today shows that for the first time in recent years there is a net outflow from Britain of non-European migrants who either had a definite job or were looking for work. The figures show that even in 2007, before the recession broke, 18,000 more skilled migrants left Britain than arrived. That number is expected to have increased last year.
“The Mac believes that, ideally, the points-based system should act as an automatic stabiliser and not be constantly adjusted in response to the economic cycle,” Metcalf said in his foreword to the report.
He said it was important that both the “resident labour market test” and the intra-company routes were kept: “But any positive narrative surrounding immigration will be undermined unless it can be demonstrated that immigrants are not displacing or undercutting UK workers. Nor should such immigrants provide a disincentive to upskill the UK workforce.
We have made a number of recommendations which, if adopted, will help ensure that such displacement, undercutting or disincentive to upskill does not occur,” wrote Metcalf.
The report says the number of work permits issued for “intra-company transfers” rose from about 16,000 foreign nationals in 2000 to 23,000 last year and mostly involved Indian companies in the IT sector.
Metcalf suggested the rules should be tightened to deny any route to citizenship for these migrants, a requirement that they have been with their company for at least 12 months rather than the current six months and a longer period required for the vacancy to be advertised in Britain first.
The effect of the last recommendation – which would double the period from two weeks to four weeks – would mean that all jobs have to be advertised. This is an idea which has already prompted a promise of exemptions for senior posts in blue-chip companies by the immigration minister, Phil Woolas.
The Conservative immigration spokesman, Damian Green, said the one big gap in the points-based system was the lack of any overall limit on the number of permits that could be issued in any one year.
• All vacancies to be advertised first at UK jobcentre for four weeks instead of two.
• Earnings entry threshold raised to £24,000 for a graduate skilled migrant.
• Professional as well as academic qualifications to be counted towards migrant points total.
• Five extra points for filling a vacancy in key public sector job, such as teaching.
• Minimum service with overseas company in intra-company transfer extended from six to 12 months.
• No right to apply for permanent residence for intra-company transfers.
• Intra-company transfers to be more closely monitored to curb abuse.