Let’s be beastly to foreigners

The Illegal Migration Bill is the opening shot of the Tory general election campaign, writes Eddie Ford

Not least thanks to the intervention by ‘comrade’ Gary Lineker, the government’s Illegal Migration Bill has become big news. Apparently, Britain is being invaded by an alien army offloaded by small boats operating out of France.

In fact, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, told parliament that the country is at risk of being “overwhelmed” by 100 million people! That is, the number of people that she says are eligible to come to the UK under current asylum laws. Actually, she derived that figure from a recent United Nations estimate of people fleeing conflict, persecution and climate change worldwide. But, hey, why let rationality get in the way of a juicy headline in the rightwing press?

Undoubtedly, the bill will be delayed by the House of Lords. But if it passes through parliament and gets royal assent, the legislation will certainly be challenged in the courts - just like the crazy idea of relocating illegal immigrants to Rwanda for processing, asylum and resettlement. Indeed, on March 14 a court of appeal judge ruled that a group of asylum-seekers can bring a legal challenge against the home office for what they claim has been a failure to consider the “dangers and risks” of deporting them to Africa. Interestingly, the home office has said quite explicitly that the Illegal Migration Bill falls below legal requirements - Braverman admitting there was a “more than 50%” chance it breaks human rights laws, thus increasing the pressure from Tory backbenchers to pull out altogether from the European Convention on Human Rights and really get Brexit done.


Having said that, the government inserted what is known as a section 19(1)(b) statement into the bill, indicating that it intends to proceed regardless, by sidestepping ECHR rulings on the grounds that it is primary legislation and the courts cannot override it. Hence setting itself up nicely for a headline-grabbing confrontation with Strasbourg, which it can then blame in populist fashion for the failure to implement the measures which were never going to be implemented in the first place. Anyhow, the bill this week passed its second reading in the Commons by 312 votes to 250 with no Tory MP voting against - though there were 44 Conservatives who did not vote at all, including former prime minister Theresa May, who rubbished the bill during the debate. Sir Robert Buckland, former justice secretary, said he and other Tories who voted for the bill were only backing it on the basis that some of the details would be changed later.

In 2022, 45,755 men, women and children crossed the Channel in small boats to reach the UK - a dramatic increase from the few hundred in 2018 - most of whom then claimed asylum. Nearly 3,000 people have already made the crossing this year, with official estimates expecting more than 80,000 in 2023. What does the wretched bill promise them? Basically, draconian measures to delight and titillate regular readers of the Daily Mail. If you come here illegally, you will never become a British citizen and will be further punished by being put in some sort of detention centre - possibly a former RAF camp or something like that, before being sent back.

And here lies the big question - seeing how people will keep coming, where do you send them back to? France will not accept them. You get a similar response from other European countries. Maybe the migrants entered the EU through Bulgaria or Greece, but just because these people travelled through Europe, it does not mean that these countries want them either.

Then you start looking at the countries they originally came from - Afghanistan, for example. Are you really going to fly people to Kabul airport? What about Syria, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea. Half of the people who crossed the channel last year came from the above countries and at least 80% of asylum claims from those countries are currently granted. For Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria the figure is 98%. Okay, you can just about imagine it working when it comes to Albania - but most people are fleeing war, oppression and lack of opportunity.

An important note needs to be added. When it comes to the small boats, we are not dealing with the most desperate of the desperate. They are people who, back home, might be considered as middle class, hard working and certainly aspirational. After all, if you look at the cost of coming over in a small boat from France, it is something approaching £10,000. You either have to pay that straightaway in some sort of arrangement before you set out, or afterwards - which seems to be the case for most people. Get your family to give an assurance that this money will be paid - that is how the business model essentially works.

With Albanians, we are talking mainly about economic migrants - not refugees escaping political persecution, as most of the left insists, tailing the liberal idea that they are therefore ‘deserving’ migrants. Rather, they are people simply looking for a better life - to which you can only but say good luck to them. Regarding Albania, some 50% of those between aged 15 and 25 have gone abroad, whether to Italy, Germany, or … Britain. Why Britain? As they will patiently explain to any BBC reporter, it is because they speak some English – perhaps they also have family and friends in the UK - a huge advantage when coming to a foreign country. It is not remotely surprising that many youngsters abscond from hotels they have been sent to in order to get together with friends or relatives and make some money together - often with the aim of going back home and perhaps building a house, or becoming a respected man in the village. Why on earth not?

Even if it gets through the courts, which seems unlikely, how practical is the small boats legislation? After all, we have had a Tory government spend £149 million on the Rwanda scheme, with lots of court cases, but not one person has been sent to that country yet - possibly nobody ever will be. Even if it does get off the ground at some point, it is only expected that about 200 people will be able to be transferred. Therefore the mind boggles at the thought of trying to send tens of thousands there. Forget it - pure fiction.

Indeed, why are there small boats in the first place? Because the previous model of smuggling yourself over in a ferry or the back of a lorry was broken by the introduction of sniffer dogs, heat detectors, cameras placed all over the Channel crossing, etc. Now it could well be the case, leaving aside the courts for now, that the small boats model will also be blocked off, because the British government has pledged to spend £500 million over three years to help prevent migrants from leaving France. If so, then some other model or route will emerge - whether the Irish Sea, the North Sea, or whatever. Either way, people are desperate for a better life and will search it out, whatever governments say or threaten to do.

Fifth columnists

So what is the point of attempting to “push the boundaries of international law”, as Braverman said? Why bother with the hassle of forcing a piece of legislation through parliament, when you know - or think you know - that it will be rejected when it comes to appeals, as it works its way through the court system? It is a near certainty that the proposed legislation will not be in operation before the next election.

Judging by the recent rhetoric, the answer is obvious, with one government critic describing the small boats crackdown as “performative cruelty at its worst”. It is about refighting the Brexit wars, the small boats representing the opening shots of the 2024 general election, which will be fought on the basis of Labour being ‘soft’ on illegal migration. An email sent to thousands of party activists in the name of Suella Braverman blamed “an activist blob of leftwing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party” for the government’s failure to stop Channel crossings.


At prime minister’s question time in parliament, Rishi Sunak - getting uglier by the day - accused Sir Keir Starmer of being “another lefty lawyer” trying to block the will of the people to curb migration. According to the home secretary, by voting against the bill, the Labour Party has proved that it wants “open borders and unlimited migration”. Meaning that the Tory Party is the last defence against the migrant armada and its fifth-columnist accomplices, which include Guardian journos, celebrity do-gooders - and, it seems, Theresa May.

Labour will respond, probably rightly, by saying that the legislation will not work - giving the Tories an incentive to spin things out for as long as possible. This is going to be their weapon against Labour. But what is Labour’s alternative? ‘We want to stop the small boats as well, we too hate the evil people smugglers, but we want to do it properly.’ Well, how would you do that, Sir Keir? Labour is not going to declare itself for free movement and hence an influx of foreign labour. It, too, is a national chauvinist party to its rotten core. As night follows day, Labour will try to compete with the Tories. But it will never outcompete them on such a matter - ie, who will be the nastiest to foreigners. The Tory Party has a long record on this. Yes, Labour has a dreadful record too - but the Tories have an even longer one, going back to their very origins in the 17th century when they organised efforts to oppose migration by French Huguenots. Given the size of the English population at the time, around 5.5 million, they came in relatively huge numbers - between 50,000 and 60,000 of them. Yes, in small boats too. Most were skilled artisans: silk weavers, silversmiths, watchmakers, hatters, glass blowers. The Tories, who packed parliament, not least because of manipulation of borough corporations, accused them of undermining their English counterparts. Keep the Huguenots out! The same went for the Irish, Jews, Ugandan Asians, etc.

In the view of the CPGB, people should have the right to live anywhere they want on the planet. But we do not just finish it there, of course, otherwise we would risk becoming mere liberals or libertarians. We need full trade union and legal rights, because the reality is that economic migrants will keep coming to the US, UK, Germany, etc. Therefore the crucial question is: do you have legal status? If your status is illegal, that means you are vulnerable to super-exploitation by bosses, whether they be building subcontractors, cleaning companies, delivery operators or simple criminals - it is, in particular, a way to undermine wages at the bottom end of the working class. If you are in competition with an illegal worker, the chances are that they are being paid worse than you, doing more hours, and if they start to get troublesome, then the boss can threaten to call the police and get them deported.

Migrants should have full citizenship rights after six months. But communists want a situation where the labour movement organises them into trade unions - integrating them into British politics. That is the first step in limiting competition between workers. A fundamental principle of the political economy of the working class - a class that is born of capitalism, but goes against the grain of capitalism - ending in the overthrow of capitalism. We stand for free movement, but also organising labour in Britain and internationally. We are not out to preserve the position of the working class in Britain by keeping workers out with so-called ‘non-racist’ immigration controls, whatever they are. Who is to be kept out? French, Poles, Germans, Albanians, Africans, Indians, Americans, Ukrainians, Hong Kongers?