Labour and Tories challenged on 'dog whistle' migration rhetoric

By staff writers
April 13, 2010

The major contenders in the general election have been challenged over populist anti-migration policies and rhetoric by business leaders, clergy and human rights campaigners.

London First, which "champions the important issues affecting business in London" said today that Conservative policy to further restrict economic migration risks damaging the "global mix" which is so vital for the capital's economic flourishing.

The plea for a more open and flexible approach was made by Baroness Jo Valentine on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme this morning.

"Migrant workers fill roles essential to maintain London's world city status," the business network said. "[We] must be able to attract and retain the best talent from around the world."

At the less skilled end of the employment spectrum, migrant workers organisations and human rights groups are deeply concerned about the economic exploitation of vulnerable people in the name of "business flexibility".

But they say that the answer is not to target, blame and restrict those who travel in search of work and prosperity (as many from Britain did during its periods of greatest economic expansion), but rather to ensure that migrants are protected, unregistered people recognised, and laws on employment are implemented fairly and rigorously.

The impact of Labour's bracketing of "Crime and Immigration" in a lengthy section of their manifesto, launched yesterday (12 April 2010) has also been criticised.

The Rev Vaughan Jones, a United Reformed Church minister who for many years has been the CEO of Praxis, a multi-agency organisation based in East London and working with displaced people across the capital, commented: "Crime and Immigration are both the responsibility of the Home Office so it is possible to understand why they are linked together in the manifesto. However, the authors should have been considerably more aware of the impact that will have on the reader."

Writing for Ekklesia, Jones pointed out that "[m]any migrants are victims of crime, through those who profit from the trafficking of people and those who exploit their vulnerability. There is no need for 'dog whistles' which attach attributes to people which they do not deserve."

He continued: "There is a logic and far greater transparency within the points-based system. However, it is based on a philosophy which treats the human being (i.e. the migrant) as a commodity within a 'just in time' supply chain."

"Well-intentioned though it be, the points based system lacks the flexibility and capacity for compassion which makes it prone to cause human rights abuses. In turn, these then need correcting through time-consuming and costly legal interventions.

"The points system is also too blunt a weapon and is in danger of undermining the social and cultural value of migration by keeping out faith leaders, academics and cultural workers," concluded Vaughan Jones.

Read the full comments from Vaughan Jones here: 'Why immigration is an economic and human rights issue' -


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