Some Thoughts About Immigration

by Ray_North on August 26, 2014

imagesAs we drove up towards the embarkation gates at Calais, you couldn’t help but notice the number of black men standing in clusters by the side of the road. Some smiling, some looking forlorn, there were easily 200 of them – they all appeared to be waiting for something.

Now, I didn’t talk to them, and what I’m about to say is pure conjecture on my part, but it seems likely that they were immigrants seeking entry into the UK – now, again I don’t know whether they were about to do so perfectly lawfully, or whether they were refugees or asylum seekers or what. I just don’t know – but, I do know that the sight of these dozens and dozens of young men left me feeling decidedly uneasy.

There was something not right about it.

It felt as though, all one had to do was strip away the denim jeans, football shirts and baseball caps, and one could easily have been looking at a line of young African ‘slaves’ waiting at the port in Georgetown or Liverpool in about 1840.

Where these men trying to get to the UK? If so, why? Now one thing we know, is that despite the bullshit proffered by Nigel Farage and the Daily Mail, people do not travel to the UK to claim benefits, that is a fallacy. They come here to work. And, the overwhelming evidence, is that most are able to obtain work of some kind. But, what kind of work? Well, and again, I tread carefully, because I don’t know the history of any of these people, but, they didn’t look like professionals and graduates to me, so, the likelihood is that they would be seeking menial work as cleaners and labourers, the jobs which are antisocial in terms of hours and incredibly badly paid. Jobs, which I’m sure, most of them were more than capable of doing. Which again, begged the question, if all these men, clearly young and healthy, were leaving their homes, then what kind of destabilising effect does that have on the communities that they leave behind?

And, why would these people be so keen to leave their own homes and move to a foreign and not particularly friendly country to carry out shite jobs for, what most of us would deem to be shite money? The answer must be that their own countries are economically depressed and stagnant, so turbulent, politically and economically that they see a long queue at Calais followed by an uncertain future at Dover to be preferable to the possibility of poverty, war, famine, draught and all the other ills that have destroyed much of Africa.

We in the West should hang our heads in shame about this.

After all, it is, without doubt, in great part, down to the failings of the West that most of the countries of Africa are so troubled. Empire, raped them; the Cold War saw preposterous leaders supported and fledgling democracies de-stabilised; and global capitalism has seen them change their land use to one that they are not particularly well equipped to deal with – these young men are coming to the West to flee the effects of the West, and there is a cruel irony to that.

Alas, rather than feel remorse about our role in the demise of Africa, we vilify these people who are seeking to improve the lot of their families by seeking a few quid in the UK to send home. We dismiss them as scroungers and benefit hunters, we accuse them of seeking to take our jobs and dilute our culture, when they do nothing of the sort. We invoke petty racism and try to dress it up as cultural and economic reality. It spoke volumes to me, as I watched them on the side of the road, how many of the white British, in their fancy cars, coming home from the nice holidays in France, started to lock their doors at the sight of the queue of Africans.

So, what should we do about Africa?

Well, ok, already, we give a certain amount of aid, in the form of Charity and, more formally, the Overseas Aid Budget, but, it clearly isn’t enough, because if it was, the queues of people trying to leave would evaporate, or at least diminish. The countries of Africa need real investment in infrastructure; they need the West to stop crippling them with loans and tied aid, and they need arms manufacturers to stop arming their less attractive leaders to the back teeth. As ever, the problem of Africa needs political will and international structures that are strong enough to overcome the needs of individual countries and global markets.

There are some who might read this and denounce me as a bleeding heart liberal who wants open borders and the free movement of all people regardless of their background – actually, I am wary of this, not because I feel threatened by immigration, which is the way of the right, but because, I do fear that mass movement of young people (often the best and the brightest), has a massively detrimental effect upon the cultural and socio-economic health country that is haemorrhaging its population. Just as I don’t want to see the mass movement of Wales’ bright young things (though I accept that it is inevitable to a certain extent), I don’t want to see the best of Africa or Asia or Eastern Europe move either.

I hope that all those who lined the Route Des Anglais in Calais find what they are looking for, but, even more, I hope that the politicians and diplomats of the so called developed world find a way to ensure that the continent of Africa thrives and that its young people thrive with it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie Kaye August 27, 2014 at 10:26 am

I totally agree Ray, great article. The Mailista/ Ukipper/ borderline racist and makes me ashamed to be British line makes no sense. I think their neo-liberal and corporate paymasters have more of a fix on destroying the benefits that they accuse immigrants of being attracted to (namely the NHS and welfare). They attack these institutions with a view to turning the population against them, rather than inviting any intelligent discussion on immigration and foreign aid policy. The fact that they can tap into underlying racial prejudice and neo-colonial sense of entitlement is a filip to them.

6 months of a Tory/ UKIP coalition (and I hope that never comes) would make people see the error of their ways.

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Mike Killingworth August 28, 2014 at 9:05 am

The issue, of course, is that Ray – and Eddie and I’m just the same – only wants Africa to thrive if it can do so without harming Europe. Probably the best bet for Africa itself is radical Islam, but we certainly don’t want to promote that! I also think the hand-wringing over slavery can be overdone. We (by which I mean white Europeans) didn’t sail to Africa originally in order to enslave, rather we found it there as a social practice at a time when we were still practising the remnants of “bastard” feudalism ourselves.

Actually, I suspect we damaged black self-esteem more by abolishing slavery (thereby preventing them from doing it for themselves). And by Ray’s argument Africans can go on blaming white Europeans forever. Is that adult behaviour? Or is the very concept of “adulthood” culturally specific (I suspect it is).

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