And they make themselves ill, just to use our NHS...

As soon as the EU is enlarged, perfectly healthy Latvians will rip a hole in their liver
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Here's a solution to the crisis of immigration from Eastern Europe that might finally satisfy Michael Howard and the Daily Mail. Why don't we put back the Berlin Wall? And insist that all these countries put the communist party in charge again. That did a pretty good job of keeping the bastards out last time. Obviously the odd ballerina still defected, but this time instead of hailing them as heroes we'd lock them in a detention centre, and write that if we're not firm but fair we'll be buried under a tidal wave of them coming over here to nick our pirouettes.

There are plenty of contenders for the most illogical accusations made against asylum-seekers. I'm especially fond of the paper that announced Kosovan women were wrecking the area by "selling sex for a potato". You had to wonder whether they had pimps, who only gave them a chip, saying: "Come on baby; I've got expenses."

The current tirade is breaking new records. For example, yesterday's Express informs us the Health Service is doomed because "health tourists will bleed our system dry" as soon as the European Union is enlarged on 1 May, as East Europeans exploit our hospitals. I suppose perfectly health Latvians will rip a hole in their liver just so they can come here for a free transplant. There will be black-market tour operators in Prague selling holidays during which you have a heart by-pass in the morning and visit the Tower of London in the afternoon.

Better still was the Daily Mail feature that informed us about the new rules by asking us to "look at how one family - let us call them Mr and Mrs Slovak and their two children, would fare". In stage 1, the Slovaks are waved through by immigration with no questions asked. In stage 2 he finds a job but gets benefits amounting to several hundred pounds a week. In stage 3 he gives up work, then he runs out of money, but sues his council using legal aid until the Slovaks are put in an "expensive bed and breakfast", and at the "top of the housing list". In stage 6 "his wife falls pregnant, and one of his children is diagnosed with tuberculosis", so the Slovaks enjoy "the full range of NHS services". Mr Slovak was probably yelling at his kids: "I didn't bring you all the way over here just to be healthy. There's a full range of services out there we're wasting; now book yourself into a doss-house and get yourself some tuberculosis." Then he turns to his wife to say: "And it's time you got pregnant. Then you can bleed their system dry, and with a bit of business sense you can earn us a couple of pounds of spuds at the same time."

By stage 7 he's got another job, "paid cash in hand so he doesn't pay tax", and in stage 8 we're told "this is the price we must pay for membership of the EU". But what about stage 9, where his wife has octuplets, who grow up to design a millennium dome each, costing the taxpayer £500 billion? Or stage 11, in which his legal aid team con the Home Office into believing Mr Slovak is fifth in line to the throne, entitling him to 10 billion quid off the civil list and unlimited use of Clarence House?

It wouldn't be hard for the Government to counter the tide of nonsense. They could point out that immigrants pay £2.5 billion a year more in tax than they cost in health and education. Or that there was a similar unfounded hysteria in the past that we would be engulfed by Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or anyone from Hong Kong. But that approach gets harder when you're desperate to be friends with those who publish the nonsense in the first place.

Perhaps the week's winner was another article in yesterday's Mail warning of impending floods of immigrants. It told us: "Last week I visited Latvia and Lithuania ... I was shocked by what I saw. Beggars, with rags wound round them, sit in the doorways." Can you imagine, they have beggars in doorways over there? But even worse: "Advertisements for escort agencies and other forms of prostitution proliferate." Is it possible this sort of thing goes on? It makes you want to rush into the nearest London phone box, pick a card at random and ring the number on it to warn whoever answers that these harridans are on their way.

Perhaps the point the Mail is trying to make is "these bleedin' tarts are coming over here taking our whore's jobs." Because there's no logical way of putting an argument that more immigration makes us poorer. If keeping the population down keeps us rich, then 50,000 years ago when there were only a handful of people in the land that became Britain, we must all have been rolling in it, sharpening our bling bling flints to catch our silk Gucci mammoths.

Which would be no more daft than the standard racist's position of trying to argue that immigrants come here to steal our jobs. In effect they're saying: "Bloody asylum-seekers, that should have been English workers swept away in the tide picking cockles. I'm telling you, we're mugs."