Have you heard? The immigrants ruined Britain

Of all those cockle-pickers who brought the banking system to its knees, not one has voluntarily given back their knighthood. At last the Government is taking action

Mark Steel
Thursday 09 May 2013 18:20 BST
Protestors cheer, wave flags and banners during a march hoping to draw attention to claims of exploitation and discrimination of migrant workers, in Trafalgar Square on May 7, 2007 in London.
Protestors cheer, wave flags and banners during a march hoping to draw attention to claims of exploitation and discrimination of migrant workers, in Trafalgar Square on May 7, 2007 in London. (Getty Images)

You know who mucked up the economy, don’t you? It’s obvious from the laws proposed in the Queen’s Speech. It’s immigrants who don’t have their papers in order, that’s who. It was Somali refugees, popping out from their hostel to the local council to say: “Yesterday, on the way home from the Jobcentre, I whiled away the afternoon by speculating on the American loans market. So this week, as well as my £24 social security, I need a £20bn bailout as I seem to have lost the lot. And a £3m bonus, otherwise I’ll leave the country.”

Then there’s the £90bn a year lost through tax avoidance schemes, most of which is down to Polish strawberry-pickers. It’s about £8m a strawberry they’re paid, and then they put it all in special accounts in the Cayman Islands and we don’t get a penny. No wonder Ukip is becoming so popular. And of all those cockle-pickers who brought the banking system to its knees – not one has voluntarily given back their knighthood.

So at last the Government is taking action. One measure it’s proposing is to make landlords and doctors responsible for checking that immigrants have the proper papers. This is an imaginative idea, as it’s hard to recall any time in history when public servants were required to snoop on people so they could be reported to the state as illegal aliens. Maybe this scheme could even have an artistic edge, by making the outsiders wear a series of colourful stars, not only clamping down on immigration but brightening up some of our downtrodden areas.

Landlords, in particular, are an inspired profession to entrust with this sort of power because, of all social groups, whoever heard of an unscrupulous landlord? Maybe the new law could be extended to include burglars, who will be held responsible for checking the papers of any immigrant’s house they rob. Then it will be announced that a series of 1970s celebrities have been arrested because some of the children they abused were illegal immigrants, making them liable to £1,000 fine for not ensuring their visa was in order.

Eventually, when the system’s working really well, neighbours will be grassing each other up as Latvians, and Macmillan nurses will be legally obliged to tell cancer patients they can’t expect to be given a glass of water if they can’t find their passport. Then, at last, we’ll have this situation under control.

For now, though, the Government is taking it one step at a time. Another measure it proposes is that immigrants should pay a “contribution” towards any healthcare they receive. It could be argued, if you were picky, that people born in Britain are three times more likely to use the Health Service than immigrants, as those born here are on average older than those who come here to work. But if the new system works well, we can cause so much stress to every foreigner by having everyone they meet checking their papers, they’ll be in hospital most of the time which could make the NHS a handy profit.

Other public services could then follow. The Fire Brigade will have to ask anyone on fire if they have evidence of their legal status before hosing them down, and excuses such as “It was in the drawer but it’s been burned to a crisp” will not be acceptable.

That wouldn’t be as delightfully scatty as some of the immigration laws that already exist. For example, there was a rule that if an immigrant living here had an elderly relative abroad who was entirely dependent, with no one to look after them, that family member was entitled to join them in Britain. That rule has been tightened, so now anyone capable of making the journey is deemed too healthy to qualify as dependent. This not only cuts down on immigration, but solves the dependent family member’s loneliness by leaving them all day pondering such a tricky philosophical puzzle.

There are already vast restrictions on immigration for anyone not deemed economically useful, so the tragedy of the Government’s obsession with the issue is that it’s unlikely even to win it back the votes it’s lost to Ukip.

Because hostility towards immigration derives from maintaining a series of ideas that are upside-down; that if foreign tradesmen are employed on lower wages than those born in Britain, that’s the fault of the foreigners rather than the employers paying lower wages. Or maybe not, and the employers try to pay the higher rate but the Poles say: “No. We insist you give us almost nothing.” Or that when a landlord charges £1,000 a month that’s paid in housing benefit so a family can live in a squalid dump, that’s the fault of the family not the landlord. As if the family begs the landlord: “Surely £300 isn’t nearly enough for you to maintain such a musty aroma and so many varieties of mould.”

So whatever laws are introduced, Ukip will demand more, until next year the Queen’s Speech will go: “My Government will introduce a Bill to prevent immigrants from eating an Aero without supervision, that in a game of pool their British opponent can knock in the ball with their hand, and every Wednesday they must report to the nearest branch of Boots the chemist and tap dance by the Nurofen. And that’s about it for this year.”

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