There is another way of dealing with immigration

It shouldn't be surprising if New Labour should also try to beat the fascists by copying them
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The Independent Online

Tabloid types love the row about the refugee centre at Sangatte, because it gives them the opportunity to be racist about two groups in one sentence: "Bloody frogs keep sending us all their bleedin' Bosnians." Now the French have told David Blunkett they will shut the centre down, but only if he passes harsher laws against immigration. So it's similar to when England loses at football or cricket, a sort of "how embarrassing; we invented racism and now the French are better at it than we are!"

The "problem", the British and French governments have agreed, is that asylum-seekers are treated marginally better in Britain than France. So ID cards and other measures must be introduced to create a fairer parity of misery. What a wonderful human way of looking at the world. Maybe next they should look at the number of asylum-seekers attacked in each country. Then they could announce that "the trouble is there are only three or four asylum-seekers a year murdered in the UK, which is fewer than in most other European nations, and needs to be redressed to stop illegal immigrants coming here to exploit our generous homicide rates".

Jack Straw declared part of the justification for New Labour's stance when he said the far right could only be beaten if we recognise they are addressing a real problem. I suppose that as New Labour's first electoral strategy was to beat the Tories by copying them, it shouldn't be surprising if they try the same method to beat the fascists. But it seems unlikely to work as it allows them to set the agenda. I suppose if New Labour had been in government in Germany in 1930, they'd have said: "In order to address a real problem, we are willing to invade just a bit of Poland." And to deal with complaints from the left they'd have said "of course we will treat genuine Poland in the humane manner this country is known for, but the growing amount of bogus Poland will have to be firmly and efficiently blitzkrieged within international law."

There is another way of dealing with racist arguments about immigration. It's unlikely even the most forward-thinking New Labour think-tank has considered it, but – and call me a utopian fool if you like – they could disagree with the arguments. Sounds crazy, doesn't it, but they could, for example, counter the claims that we're being "flooded" by pointing out that there are currently an estimated 50,000 asylum-seekers in London, which is exactly the same as the number of Americans living in London. So why isn't there a constant barrage of stories about Americans swamping our towns, waddling down our streets, fiddling our company accounts, mis-pronouncing our tourist attractions and ignoring our World Cup?

The Government could point out that the population of this country has hardly changed for 30 years. Or it could suggest that if someone has hitch-hiked across Europe in a lorry under a box of tomatoes before scaling a fence and clinging to the side of a train as it hurtles under the Channel, this possibly isn't the sort of person whose main aim in life is to lie around all day being a drain on public resources.

It could be pointed out that no society can progress without immigration. In yesterday's Daily Mail, on the next page from its daily anti-immigrant rant, was a story about a 30,000-year-old Neanderthal site that's been discovered in Norfolk. "No one knows why the Neanderthals died out," said the story. Maybe it's because they all read the Mail, and spent all their resources preventing "so-called Homo Sapien refugees from the Ice Age queueing up to come over here and exploit our generous swamp".

I saw an illustration recently of how little logic there is in the arguments against immigration, on a ferry crossing from Calais. A group of eight blokes from Kent had travelled to France for the day to get paralytic, and were burping their way through the departure lounge. One of them grabbed the French woman taking boarding cards and said: "Oy darling, whenzzz a bloody here what time's the (barup) oo blimey Ingerlaaand WHERE'S THIS are you a boat when's the boat?" Then they yelled and puked their way across the Channel, before making the predictable joke in Dover, "here, if we get stopped just say we're asylum-seekers and they'll let us straight through yawaaaay haaa", which they repeated several thousand times. And I thought: "These blokes must agree the country is full up. So why don't we suggest they sod off back to France to be banged up in Sangatte, and in their place we take eight asylum-seekers, who will be more pleasant all round and sure to ease the overcrowding as they'll be a lot skinnier than these fat twats?"

So now I just have to hope Jack Straw suggests a moderate version of this to the Cabinet, perhaps allowing three of them to stay, as the only way of addressing the very real problem I've raised.