Christian MP attacks anti-migrant rhetoric
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Liberal Democrat party president Simon Hughes, who is MP for Bermondsey and a publicly identified Christian, criticised the anti-immigration and anti-asylum seeker assumptions that seem likely to dominate public debate in the run-up to the next general election.
Hughes admitted that the three main parties, his included, all share a determination to enact a restricted, quota-based immigration system for Britain. But he said that such policies should be based on fairness, and he attacked the way that asylum seekers and refugees were being blamed for failings in the system as a whole.
The MPís comments were made on the Broadcasting House programme. Labour as well as the Conservatives are now planning to use popular fears, fed by newspapers like the Daily Mail, to portray each other as ëinsufficiently toughí in their immigration policies.
The government today confirmed fears that it was further hardening its stance by preparing to announce that permanent entry to Britain for immigrants will be limited to skilled professionals under new policy proposals.
Church, human rights and refugee campaigners are alarmed by the rhetoric the main parties are using in their rush for votes, and allege that ëthe race cardí is being played in all but name, since it is clearly non-white immigration that is the subject of ëconcerní.
The Churchesí Commission on Racial Justice, the ecumenical umbrella body for the national Christian denominations working together on these issues, has urged compassion and justice for asylum seekers, and has condemned attempts to curb migration at the expense of fairness and hospitality.
Simon Hughes admitted that some of his inner city constituents complained that ëasylum seekers are getting preference over usí. Accusations of this kind were unfounded, he said, but might nevertheless point to inadequacies in local housing provision which need addressing.
Asylum seekers, he went on, ìare people tooî, and often come from situations of war, danger and vulnerability. They should not be denied fair treatment and hospitality. He attacked ìthe politicisationî of immigration issues for electoral gain.
Hughes also declared that Britain should be clear about its international obligations to asylum seekers and refugees under the UN Convention. The Conservative Party, he said, wished to derogate from such obligations, while Labour wished to minimise them.
Meanwhile Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that people complaining about the impact of immigration on their communities were ëafraid of a shadowí. He called forthrightly for the government to refocus on the exploitation of migrants through slave labour and trafficking.
Todayís comments from various spokespersons involved in the political debate about migration coincide with the anniversary of the tragic death of 21 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. Those who died were illegal immigrants being used as cheap labour.
No mainstream political party has yet been prepared to question the workability or justice of policies which seek to inhibit people movements and prevent economic migration, while corresponding restrictions on capital flows are de-regulated.