I’m trying to put together a mental picture of the sort of person Michael Howard is talking about when he says things like
“Our immigration system is being abused – and with it Britain’s generosity.”
and proposes 24 hour surveillance at ports, barbed wire around every village green etc etc. The thing is, I’m really not quite getting this immigrant thing. I’m constantly told that immigration and asylum will be “key issues” in the coming election, and I need to understand why this is.
I mean, clearly they’re not key on a rational basis, I know that. Similar xenophobic movements have been created and exploited for centuries and it’s just a tad hard to accept that, no, really, this time it’s true that they’re going to take our houses and jobs and outbreed us and we’ll all be worshipping
$other_god and eating
$smelly_food. I’m not looking for justification on the basis of “it really does matter and this is why” because it doesn’t, and even if you were to think it important, considering it more important than, say, invading other countries or selling off public industry seems pretty irrational. Unless you’re just simply a racist, in which case I suppose it would be rational but not really something I could debate with you.
No, I’m trying to understand who these “immigrants” are. I’m fairly sure what a “good immigrant” is. Quiet, doesn’t kick up a fuss, might worship
$other_god but does it in private and wouldn’t mention it in public, doesn’t waft
$smelly_food fumes in your direction, has well-behaved kids who do well in school, and works hard all hours of the day for not very much money. Speaks English when necessary for the job, though might have a comedy accent.
“Bad immigrants”, though, the ones who abuse Britain’s generosity – who are they? I’m confused. There seem to be five basic groups mixed into one scary but contradictory menace.
Bogus Asylum Seekers
The old favourite. Drawn by the legendary softness of the British immigration system, which is whispered about in souks and brothels across the world. Pretend to have been tortured and/or persecuted, but in fact just mean to come over here, claim benefits and get houses that should go to British pensioners. Even if they are rejected, they disappear and then claim benefits. Somehow. Frequently have AIDS or TB. Eat swans.
May also be Gypsies – steal from chain stores and beg on the tube with their babies.
Illegal Welfare Cheats
Like bogus asylum seekers, but don’t bother trying to claim asylum, just get over here somehow and exploit the system somehow. Frequently have AIDS or TB.
Uneducated people who are here to steal our jobs, but can’t do them as well due to foreignness. Hide in lorries and suffocate occasionally. In fact, are frequently killed in industrial accidents which is of course terrible, appalling etc but basically their own fault when you think about it. Frequently have AIDS or TB.
Uneducated people who are here to steal our jobs, can’t do them as well due to foreignness – but are actually here legally, because of the legendary softness of the British immigation system (see above). Shoddy workers, also thieves and rapists. Exploit the NHS. Frequently have AIDS or TB.
We all know who these ones are – those Muslim fanatics we hear about all the time who want to destroy Western civilisation. Very hard to spot in practice, as the vanishingly small number of people even convicted of terrorism-related offences means that there isn’t much to go by. Clearly the country is actually full of them – Mr Tony says so – thus it behooves all citizens to keep an extra-special eye out for anyone displaying any tendency towards being Muslim in public. Probably do not have AIDS or TB, though you never know.
It should be noted that you can be a Terrorist and born in this country, but you are still really a Terrorist Immigrant because you should go and live in Iran if you like it so much.
The thing is, you can’t really be a combination of these, and a proper xenophobic movement needs a well-defined enemy, or at least a better-defined enemy than that. (You could technically be a bogus asylum seeker and a terrorist, but you wouldn’t fit the stereotype of the former – “technically” isn’t important here.) Some movements have a number of targets which they group under a general banner; neo-Nazis have different reasons for disliking homosexuals and Jews, but they’re all enemies of the Aryan race. It just doesn’t feel to me like that’s what’s going on here, though. It feels like there’s this vague mashed-together “threat”, which nobody’s really examining for consistency, and there’s not even a pretence that it’s consistent, yet it’ll do. News reports and statements, let alone casual conversation, often refer to “illegal asylum seekers” for instance, which is impossible; you’re either an asylum seeker, in which case your appeal is being considered and you’re here legally, or you’re not and you’re something else.
Maybe I’m missing a few details, or a few stereotypes, or the connections between the stereotypes. 1-4 are sort of vaguely similar I suppose – maybe the blending of them is more effective than I think it is. But I’m trying here, okay? I’m being a good citizen, I’m trying to understand what it is I’m supposed to be believing.