A great piece on asylum


by Rumbold
24th July, 2008 at 7:19 pm    

Julian Baggini argues on Comment is Free today that the asylum system is in need of reform, and that there is a consensus on reform, despite the wide divides that are seemingly apparent:

“People support the right for people to seek sanctuary from persecution. They also believe new arrivals should contribute to society. They agree that bogus claimants should be swiftly returned. And they also agree that newcomers should not profit at the expense of existing citizens…

A more rational response to asylum would satisfy both camps. In order to return failed asylum seekers you first have to know where they are, and you won’t find that out if you adopt a punitive approach: people will just disappear. Experience suggest that the best way to return people to their countries of origin is to provide voluntary means for them to do so. Forcing return may sound tough, but it just doesn’t work.

Nor can people contribute to society if they are denied the right to work. Indeed, without such a right, people have no choice but to be either a burden or to vanish into the shadow economy.

Those working closely on asylum issues have been pleading for such changes for years. Their arguments have not won the day because they sound “soft” when many of the public demand hard. But enlightened policies give the tough brigade more of what they want: fewer foreigners living off the official radar; fewer public health problems; more effective tracking and recording of asylum seekers; more refused asylum seekers returning home; less of a financial burden on taxpayers for those who stay but are forced to accept benefits.”

I think that this is a brilliant piece. Too often the debate is framed in terms of being nice to proper asylum seekers OR cracking down on bogus asylum seekers.


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  1. halima — on 24th July, 2008 at 8:58 pm  

    Voluntary repatriation.

    That sums up the intentions in this article. I love how we philosophise and complicate matters.

    I’ve written a reply to Baggini’s arguments on the priority principle a year ago in Prospect Magazaine. His argument there – and here, are about giving priority to long standing communities in the UK. He would do it at the expense of changing the welfare state – and alter it so much that we don’t much recognise the public service ethos in the UK.

    Voluntary repatriation isn’t brilliant – and it’s not a neutral agenda anywhere.

  2. Rumbold — on 24th July, 2008 at 9:07 pm  

    Halima:

    I had never heard of Julian Baggini before I read this article, so I can only go by that. His reference to repatriation is in the context of how to get failed asluym seekers to return home, and he doesn’t want to use force. Since hardly anyone advocates completly open borders, his attitude is distinctly moderate. The BNP are talking about encouraging immigrants/non-whites who legally reside in this country to go ‘back where they came from’, which is completely different.

  3. douglas clark — on 24th July, 2008 at 9:43 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Just for the hell of it. Another point of view.

    If someone came here seeking asylum, the first thing I’d do is find out what skills they’ve got. And then I’d find them a job. And after that I’d give them temporary leave to stay. And if they kept their noses clean I’d give them citizenship. Whether their asylum claim was valid or not.

    There was a programme on the telly t’other week about folk in Manchester and Glasgow deliberately protecting asylum seekers from the state. Civil disobedience if you will. That is the sort of coalition we should be building, not playing into Daily Mail narratives.

    I’d have also thought it was a bloody sight more libertarian than the article you cite, which seems to me to be geared towards letting the state track people more easily, for their purposes, which is exclusively to bring a little rain into the lives of us all.

    And it’s not even a full moon.

  4. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 7:03 am  

    Rumbold,

    Off topic.

    Like to comment on the Glasgow East result? The end of the UK, perhaps? I’d hoped they’d do it, but it was too much to hope for really. Oh, happy day…

  5. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 8:31 am  

    Silence from both Rumbold snd Sunny. Neither of whom seems to understand what is different about Scottish politcs and English politics.

  6. justforfun — on 25th July, 2008 at 8:57 am  

    OK – what is the difference between Scottish and English politics? :-) – Both nations trying to get away from the dead hand of Labour control?

    As in my son’s favourite film ‘School of Rock’ – Glasgow East stuck it to “the Man”

    Douglas – what will be the franchise for elections in an independant Scotland ( and in the referendum for an independant Scotland) ? – will it be based on residency or ‘ethnicity’ in terms of parents, grandparents etc or place of birth? Is there a concensus on these issues or have they still to be thrashed out between now an the referendum in 2010? There is a large Scotish diaspora, including one who snores in the bed beside me. Will my son play right back for Scotland, India or England? For whom can my daughter swim the anchor leg in the 4x100m Freestyle relay?

    justforfun

  7. Letters From A Tory — on 25th July, 2008 at 9:59 am  

    What a stupid suggestion. Being ‘tough’ on asylum is not just about statistics on asylum, it’s also about the message that is sent out to other nations about what awaits them should they try to enter the UK through ‘unofficial channels’.

    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  8. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 10:39 am  

    LFAT,

    You are just daft.

    You say this:

    Being ‘tough’ on asylum is not just about statistics on asylum, it’s also about the message that is sent out to other nations about what awaits them should they try to enter the UK through ‘unofficial channels’

    Well, why should we bother? If folk think the UK is an all right place to come to, why should we preclude them? I’m open to immigrants, are you?

  9. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 11:05 am  

    justforfun,

    I’d suggest to you that in England, a left wing vote, other than for the Labour Party, is probably a wasted vote.

    I’d further suggest to you that in Scotland, it is possible to vote left wing, and not vote Labour.

    That, I think, is a distinctive difference. An SNP vote is a left wing vote. Not a wasted vote.

    Let me be clear here about my beliefs. If anyone cares. I will always vote SNP until we free ourselves of Westminster. After that, I will vote Liberal, until the day I die.

    The difference between the English and the Scottish is that we are willing to vote tactically. We seem to be able to send a message.

    Gordon Brown is dead. The question is whether the SNP in Scotland can achieve enough votes to force a refurendum. I think they can…

  10. justforfun — on 25th July, 2008 at 11:59 am  

    Douglas – I would not disagree with your point about left wing voting in Scotland and England.

    Not so clear about your analysis of Scots ability to vote tactically as opposed to English voters.

    Is this a question of ‘opportunity’ or ‘ability’?

    Or is that because the Labour party is now so identified with Scotland in the English mind, that when they screw up in their backyard the ‘message’ is amplified, compared to the tactical voting in England?

    Or is this a romantic notion of yours that Scots are more canny? :-)

    What will be the franchise for the referendum – is it going to be on residency? I assume this is the only workable solution, but what about citizenship when Scotland is independant? Sorry to press you on this, but I worry about things like which country I, my wife or my children can be citizens of? Think of it as an insecurity if you like :-) .

    justforfun

  11. persephone — on 25th July, 2008 at 12:14 pm  

    I can see the point @ 3 as to asylum seekers giving something back & staying if they keep their nose clean.

    But as the UK is a small island with finite resources & space, do we limit asylum intake and at what point? (and yes i have seen the statistics of how many non asylum seekers are choosing to move from the UK so understand there is a two way flow.

    People argue that the asylum statistics in reality are not a huge % overall. What about seeing this from the aspect that hospitals, schools are already straining to keep a minimum level of service currently due to volume of patients and class sizes?

  12. The Common Humanist — on 25th July, 2008 at 1:15 pm  

    But the point is we are pretty much FULL so whoever in power is going to have to devise a drawbridge. Its just a question of numbers. We as a nation can’t sustain the current rates of immigration and we have to face up to the situation.

  13. Rumbold — on 25th July, 2008 at 5:27 pm  

    Douglas:

    I agree that asylum seekers should be allowed to work, as does Julian Baggini.

    I fail to see why the article isn’t acceptable to libertarians. In theory, I apporve of completly open borders between countries. However, given the welfare state and the significant differences in wealth and politics between various countries, letting anyone stay in Britain who wants to is not practical. Therefore, some of those who want to stay have to be sent back, and the best way to do that is through a humane and speedy asylum/immigration system.

  14. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 6:06 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Well, if they were working, they wouldn’t be a burden on our society, would they? In fact, they would be net contributers, wouldn’t they? Therefore, there would be no need to send them back, would there?

    What exactly have you got against other human beings anyway? Just ’cause their different or something?

    And anyway, you seem to suppose that allowing folk to stay here is impracticable, when that is clearly not the case.

    Triangulate, exterminate, triangulate…..

    Bloody libertarians. And politicians generally.

  15. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 6:09 pm  

    The Common Humanist,

    Any evidence for your assertions at 12?

    Thought not.

  16. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 6:27 pm  

    justforfun,

    You said:

    Not so clear about your analysis of Scots ability to vote tactically as opposed to English voters.

    Is this a question of ‘opportunity’ or ‘ability’?

    Or is that because the Labour party is now so identified with Scotland in the English mind, that when they screw up in their backyard the ‘message’ is amplified, compared to the tactical voting in England?

    Or is this a romantic notion of yours that Scots are more canny?

    It is all of these things, I think. There is certainly the potential to vote for a credible left wing party that is not Labour. So, ‘opportunity’ rather than ‘ability’ maybe.

    I can’t remember exactly, but I think Glasgow East was around and about the 27th safest seat in the country (UK) for Labour. If that is so, then it certainly should ‘send a message’ to Gordon Brown. You’d have assumed, I’d have assumed, that this joyous dominance of UK politics by the men from the North, would have been reflected in a dominant role for New Labour, whereas the opposite seems to be the case, yes?

    Is it a romantic notion? Perhaps it is. But romantic notions liberated Ireland, did they not?

  17. Rumbold — on 25th July, 2008 at 8:07 pm  

    Douglas:

    “Well, if they were working, they wouldn’t be a burden on our society, would they? In fact, they would be net contributers, wouldn’t they? Therefore, there would be no need to send them back, would there?”

    I wasn’t thinking so much about the contribution in terms of economic product, as some of the issues surrounding infrastructure and space in general.

    “What exactly have you got against other human beings anyway? Just ’cause their different or something?

    And anyway, you seem to suppose that allowing folk to stay here is impracticable, when that is clearly not the case.”

    So you believe that everyone who comes to the UK should be allowed to stay, no matter what? We would see an influx of millions (if not tens of millions) of people every year. Where would they all live? Should we concrete over the whole of the UK? What about services like schools and hospitals? Even if they had more money, they wouldn’t necessarily have the space and staff to expand sufficiently to cope with millions of extra people per year. Where would all the new jobs come from? What would these people be doing?

    I believe that aslyum seekers should be treated humanely when they apply for aslyum here, and not herded into detention centres. I believe that their cases should be heard quickly, rather then forcing them to wait for years for a result. I believe that they should be allowed to work while their claim is being processed. I believe that we turn a number of aslyum seekers away who shouldn’t be turned away, for example homosexuals from Iran. Finally, I believe that the government of the day should launch into a firm and passionate defence of the principle of aslyum, rather then cowering before the tabloids.

    What I don’t advocate is unlimited mass migration to the UK. I suspect that you will find few that do.

  18. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 8:33 pm  

    OK,

    Lets get real about this, shall we? It has been the case for as long as we have been in the EU that French folk have had the right to reside here. The fact that they don’t appear on your radar is because they don’t exercise that right in significant numbers. The Poles are now leaving the UK in numbers that are causing pain to some agricultural industries. The money doesn’t work any more.

    Space? Have you ever looked at North Britain? There is space aplenty. In fact there are places where folk lived in the past that are bereft of humanity now. I suspect you are a Londoner, and you think that London is the rest of the country. It is not. We have green fields and mountains and shit like that. Come to my home town and I’ll show you an empty valley that could easily support a city of two million or so. That is on my doorstep. North of the Campsies, if you care to look.

    What I don’t advocate is unlimited mass migration to the UK. I suspect that you will find few that do.

    That is because you have fear in your head, sir. I’d recommend that you never read the Daily Mail again.

  19. Rumbold — on 25th July, 2008 at 8:49 pm  

    Douglas:

    The reason we don’t get millions of Frenchies over here is because there is not the economic incentive to migrate to the UK for large numbers of the population. Whereas with South Asia or other pooper regions there is the incentive to migrate here, which is why hundreds of thousands get into debt and risk their lives to get to Western Europe. That is not a criticism, as I would probably do the same, but it does make open borders impracticable at the moment.

    ” Space? Have you ever looked at North Britain? There is space aplenty. In fact there are places where folk lived in the past that are bereft of humanity now. I suspect you are a Londoner, and you think that London is the rest of the country. It is not. We have green fields and mountains and shit like that. Come to my home town and I’ll show you an empty valley that could easily support a city of two million or so. That is on my doorstep. North of the Campsies, if you care to look.”

    But how many could Scotland actually sustain? There is a reason why Scotland has historically been a net exporter of people.

    “That is because you have fear in your head, sir. I’d recommend that you never read the Daily Mail again.”

    I don’t think that non-unlimited migration is a policy confined to the Daily Mail sphere. Are there any parties or newspapers that advocate completly open borders? I wonder how many people on Pickled Politics would support such a scheme?

  20. douglas clark — on 25th July, 2008 at 9:35 pm  

    Rumbold,

    We are talking here about asylum seekers, not an ‘open borders’ scenario. You do understand the difference?

    Yet, we do have an open borders scenario, specifically within the EU. Sure, people come here, because they can do things we don’t want to, Polish plumbers comes to mind, probably through a Daily Mail agenda. And then they leave. Probably not through a Daily Mail agenda.

    Did you ever read a Daily Mail headline about, say:

    “Disaster! Polish plumbers go home! We are stuffed.”

    No, I didn’t think so.

    Nor do you happen to hear the silent voices of indigenous folk that are quite taken to asylum seekers. That think that they are perhaps the bees knees. That they could add to this society. No, you don’t, because the Daily Mail has got it into your head and progressed a meme, that these folk are worthless. They are not. They can and should contribute to the society we live in. Not be seen as a problem, but rather as an opportunity.

    It takes guts to get here. And, generally, the British have always stood up for the individual rather than the state. Bloody hell, I seem to be more of a Libertarian than you.

  21. halima — on 26th July, 2008 at 6:05 am  

    Go Douglas Clark!

  22. Rumbold — on 26th July, 2008 at 10:32 am  

    Douglas:

    “We are talking here about asylum seekers, not an ‘open borders’ scenario. You do understand the difference?”

    Have you been reading anything I have been saying on this thread? If you allow asylum seekers to stay no matter what, then everyone will just apply for aslyum, therefore you have open borders.

    “No, you don’t, because the Daily Mail has got it into your head and progressed a meme, that these folk are worthless.”

    When did I say that? When did I even suggest that? Does wanting an asylum system mean that you hate asylum seekers? You have lost it a bit on this one.

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