Letters: EU migrants

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The Independent Online

Tougher rules on EU migrants will bar only honest workers

Sir: I am baffled by the apparent plans to restrict the new EU members' access to the UK labour market. What "keeping Britain's labour market off limits" actually means is that the decent, law-abiding new EU citizens will not come here looking for jobs. Those who don't mind breaking the law though will come anyway. They will fly in as tourists, for which they will need no visa, and they will "forget" to leave.

Are 100,000 legitimate, tax-paying and NI contributions-paying workers really less desirable than 10,000 illegal workers paying nothing? People willing to work illegally are likely to be willing to commit other crimes as well.

At the moment there are tens of thousands of Bulgarians who legally make a living in the UK. They and their dependent spouses and children have no recourse to public funds, but pay taxes and NI contributions.

Now it looks as though we are likely to ask legitimate workers already here to leave. The Home Secretary "is expected to say that Britain will take a limited number of unskilled workers to carry out jobs such as fruit picking, but will not offer a general right to work." Many of these tens of thousands have lived here for years, many have had their children here, and many have bought homes. Legitimately. I suspect that if they were to be asked to leave, hundreds would go to court and they might win their cases. After all, being asked to leave the same instant you become a citizen of the EU defies logic.

I am Bulgarian by birth. Yet after living in London for nearly three years I feel as much a part of this society as anybody. My wife and I left our well-paid prestigious jobs in Sofia to come here, to work for modest pay and enjoy no prestige at all - but we absolutely love it. We just hope we don't have to leave our home after we become EU citizens in January.



British heroism and disaster in Iraq

Sir: I was a soldier in Malaya fifty years ago. We won a war on insurgency. How? We didn't bomb women and children. We didn't drop cruise missiles on the civil population. We followed the terrorists into the jungle with rifles and bayonets. We locked up only people who were firing at us. We never tortured anyone.

In Iraq, three years after the war started, most people have no clean water, no medicine, no access to doctors and even no electricity for most of the day, and this in a place where temperatures can reach 50C.

Our presence is making it worse.How would the people of the UK like this to happen to Britain? Mr Blair should leave both Iraq and Westminster; he has been an abject failure.



Sir: I disagree with your statement that the main issue now is to extract our troops from "this carnage" and that our troops have failed to halt the spiralling violence (leading article, 23 October ).

Our soldiers have shown conspicuous heroism, devotion, integrity, selfless service and humanitarianism under extremely harsh conditions and many sacrificed their lives and fortunes in defence of Iraq's sovereignty and independence. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Chaos is confined to areas under the auspices of American troops.

It is time to stop lamenting this illegal war, stand united behind our troops and vow to forge ahead with the effort to create an oasis of tranquillity in a turbulent region.



Sir: Patrick Cockburn ("The Exodus", 23 October) reports that 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country. A significant proportion of the refugees are Assyrian Christians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that nearly half a million Iraqis fled the country in 2005 and half were Christians.

Recently the Assyrians have had to deal with a vigorous backlash because of their religion, firstly after the cartoons in the Danish press, more recently over the comments of the Pope, and now because they share the same religion as the American and British forces they are seen as collaborators. Assyrians have always lived in harmony with all Iraqis and all Muslims.

We would like to see all the people of Iraq living together as the have for centuries, Muslim and Christian in harmony and peace. Last April, the European Parliament voted for the Assyrians to be allowed to establish (on the basis of Section 5 of the Iraqi Constitution) a federal region where they can be free from outside interference to practise their own way of life. It is high time now that the Iraqi and allied forces paid more attention, and took forceful action to protect the future of Iraq's embattled Christians.



Sir: In your article of 23 October, you refer to the Iraqi exodus as one of the largest since the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948. You missed the smaller, but no less notable, flight of Jews from Iraq that followed. A 150,000-strong community dating back 2,700 years was reduced to a tiny handful. This was just part of the migration of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern and North African Jews during the postwar period.



Sir: Shortly before the US and UK led the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a young Iraqi woman dressed in T-shirt and jeans was filmed with her car at a petrol station. She invited the attention of the cameras, stating that if the proposed assault took place, they wouldn't be able to shoot such scenes again.

She was right; the women of Iraq have disappeared. If they are seen on the street, they are invariably chaperoned and most certainly veiled. Whether those Muslim women wearing the niqab in Blackburn and Bradford are allowed free will is open to debate, but no such choice is granted to the frightened women of Baghdad or Basra where refusal could result in death.

Jack Straw urges British Muslim women to remove the veil. What cruel irony that as Foreign Secretary and one of the architects of the disastrous Iraq folly, he has forced millions of Iraqi women behind it.



Equal rights for smokers in NHS?

Sir: Norfolk primary care trust's decision to bar smokers from their surgery waiting lists is utterly disgraceful ("Smokers are ordered to quit if they want surgery", 23 October). Who's next? The elderly? People who regularly drink alcohol? People who live within a mile of a busy road?

We smokers have already been barred from smoking in public buildings, on public transport and near certain establishments. Next year we will also be barred from every pub and club in the country. How soon will it be before we are forced to wear little badges so the rest of society can give us a wide berth?

I have smoked for over 25 years. None of the relatively few illnesses I have suffered in that time could be attributed to my habit. What right has Norfolk, or any other PCT for that matter, to decide that smoking puts me at greater risk from surgery than any other habit such as drinking alcohol?



Sir: One article by Maxine Frith (23 October) stated that "Inefficiency is costing the NHS £2bn yearly" and at the same time another was discussing the issue of "smokers [being] ordered to quit if they want surgery".

The Wanless report of 2004 stated that if we wanted a fully engaged NHS there would have to be a focus on promoting health instead of treating ill-health. Otherwise the NHS would be unable to cope. Yet when an NHS trust follows the evidence base and recommends that smokers requiring surgery will have to stop beforehand, there is an outcry.

Why not ask smokers to stop before surgery? The evidence shows that the surgery and the recovery period will be more effective and thus savings will be made. What is wrong with asking smokers to take some responsibility for their own health?

Liberal attitudes are going to be the death of the NHS. Until people can see that they must take responsibility for their own health there is no hope.



Let the people vote on Lords reform

Sir: Andreas Whittam-Smith (Opinion, 23 October) calls Jack Straw's leaked paper on Lords reform "first-class". Indeed it is: a first-class example of how the political caste views constitutional reform through the prism of self-interest.

The introduction to the paper says it all: it seeks proposals that are "acceptable to ... the three political parties, the cross-bench peers and the bishops" - the establishment first, second and third, the public nowhere. The paper favours a hybrid house of loyalist hacks elected on party lists, of appointees selected by a panel of which a third would be chosen by the main party leaders, and of yet more appointees personally chosen by the Prime Minister; all this without, of course, forgetting the bishops.

It is time to end this farce: any future constitutional changes must be devised and approved by the people as a whole. A practicable mechanism to achieve this was recently demonstrated in British Columbia, where a Citizens' Assembly, chosen by lot from the public, deliberated on a new electoral system; their recommendations were then put to a popular vote. We deserve, and must demand, nothing less.



Business sets a bad example on climate

Sir: It is not surprising that Britons are the most wasteful users of domestic energy in Western Europe (report, 23 October): Britain is the most virulently neoliberal country. Neoliberalism states that your property is your own to dispose of as you please, with no thought to the wider consequences.

Accordingly, Tony Blair has declared that the Government will not attempt to change people's consumption habits. This stance is partly designed to not offend Mondeo man, but is also intended to avoid politicising environmental issues in ways which could put more pressure on to business. Meanwhile, business sets atrocious examples to people for their domestic lives: for example, most shops and cafes keep their front doors open throughout the cold months, with mistrals of hot air billowing out.

The Government should put serious resources into persuading people to save energy. But while the country remains in the grip of neoliberalism, culture and economy will militate against this.



No god, but plenty of smart badges

Sir: Your correspondent Jim Bowman (letter, 20 October) asks for advice as to what he should wear to indicate that he is an atheist. If he is brave enough, he might consider a T-shirt that I found for sale on a US website, bearing the slogan "F*** you and your imaginary god".



Sir: Jim Bowman asks what to wear to indicate he is an atheist. I don't think there is any single popular symbol in the UK apart perhaps from the "Darwin Fish", which is available as a car sticker. However, the American Atheists organisation use a rather natty "atomic whirl" as their logo (www.atheists.org) and I have just ordered a pendant with this symbol from their website.



Sir: Further to Mr Dodding's suggestion (Letters, 23 October) that "a knowing smile" might indicate that he is an atheist, might I suggest that he think of joining the British Humanist Association, and buy one of their very discreet "happy humanist" lapel pins. I have.



Sir: Jim Bowman could do worse than the full pirate regalia of the satirical Pastafarians, atheists to a man.



Political progress

Sir: So he has finally come out with what most of us suspected ("Put all DNA on file, says Blair", 24 October). From universal suffrage to universal surveillance in less than a century. Brilliant.



Plastic raspberries

Sir: Please thank Steve Connor for his article on protecting orchards (21 October). We in Herefordshire witness orchards being ripped out so that swathes of plastic complete with heaters can be put up, ready to bring us winter raspberries. Incredibly these eyesores are put up and destroy our heritage without planning permission. I see no long-term benefit - raspberries all year mean farmers will not be able to charge the high price they are hoping to get. Don't buy English raspberries out of season.



Princess's title

Sir: In her lavish divorce settlement Diana did not give up her royal title, which was "Princess of Wales" ("The ex files", 21 October), she merely dropped the style "Her Royal Highness". Her settlement stipulated that Diana would still be regarded as a member of the Royal Family by the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and that she would be accorded her former precedence on state occasions.



We of little faith

Sir: Jim Quinn (letter, 21 October) points out the simple reason why faith schools appear better than "the rest": their selective entrance criteria. The majority of faith schools are C of E schools which only exist because 100 per cent of running costs and 95 per cent of their capital costs are paid with taxpayers' money - non-Christian taxpayers whose children are denied a fair chance at attending these schools. And the proposed 75:25 is not a fair chance. It's time to choose: give an equal chance to the children of any taxpayer, or stop taking taxpayers' money.



Homeward bound

Sir: Today's children are three times more travelled than their parents, yet one in five cannot find the UK on a map (reports, 23 October). Perhaps this would improve if they had to find their own way home.