No immigration controls

Two members of Respect explain why they are backing the CPGB's motion on immigration controls

click here to read all our motions 20 signed up Respect members can present a motion to conference. Send an email to respect@cpgb.org.uk if you support one or all our motions. Remember, the deadline is Friday, October 14. Eddie Barns is a member of Respect in Hackney. He will be seconding our motion on open borders at the pre-conference meeting of the branch, as his experience as a lawyer dealing with immigration cases has convinced him of the need for a principled stand on this question I have been mainly working with unaccompanied minors - young people who come to Britain from Afghanistan, Iran and the like. These people haven't been able to get representation due to the cuts in legal aid. I have working in this field with a group called Cayr - Community Action with Young Refugees. Of course, the question of youth and children coming to this country is a particularly emotive, high-profile one. But immigration controls in general are a form of policing the working class. For instance, young migrants are used as a source of cheap labour in factories, etc, but when they reach 18, these kids are sent packing. They are being used as fill-in labour, so when the economy no longer needs them they are disregarded. And the way they are treated when they are over here alienates so many of them that some get into substance and alcohol abuse - it's a bleak story. But then the use of youth migrant labour has to be seen as part of a bigger picture of abuse. At the root of the problem are immigration controls in general. We need a general approach, not just a case-by-case method. Without immigration controls, the problems disappear. Human beings could then come and go when they want, how they want. People have always sort to improve their lives, economically or socially, by migration and what's wrong with that? The principled position is opposition to all immigration controls. Dave Landau is backing the motion on open borders proposed by the CPGB for the November 19-20 annual conference of Respect. Over the years, comrade Landau has been in a variety of anti-deportation campaigns and is currently prominent in the No One Is Illegal group (for details of the campaign, contact info@noii.org.uk). He is a member of Respect in Islington People think of immigration controls as being 'normal' features on the political landscape. But, of course, if you go back just 100 years ago or so, such controls did not exist. The first controls, in the form of the Aliens Action, was introduced in 1905 after a campaign that unfortunately did include sections of the official labour movement, the TUC in particular. These restrictions were aimed against Jews fleeing poverty and persecution in eastern Europe and Russia. There were sections of the labour movement then that talked of the 'dilution' of the conditions of indigenous workers, that the migrants would undermine trade union organisation. The same sort of arguments used today. The answer then was the same as the answer now: all workers, whatever they country of origin, must be organised and represented by the movement here. One of the problems we find in many immigration campaigns is that this phrase about 'refugees and asylum-seekers' keeps cropping up as the focus of our efforts. There are two criticisms of this. First, all asylum-seekers are refugees. Second, it misses a whole group out. What about people who come - legally or illegally - as economic migrants? Without taking a position on migrants in general rather than concentrating on special cases, Respect and others only look at half the story. Of course, there is always a need to concentrate on particular campaigns and cases when there is immediate danger. But if you make that your general approach, it is extremely divisive. People think of opposition to all immigration controls as an 'ultra-left', utopian position. George Galloway has said as much. Actually, it is the only stance that can guard against divisions being fostered between different groups of migrants and between some economic migrants and the working class of the UK. When one particular group of migrant workers is illegal, it becomes a potential weapon to undercut the conditions of all workers. Instead of saying 'Keep them out', we have to say 'Organise them'. The basic trade union principle, 'Unity is strength', in other words. We unite with anyone on particular immigration campaigns: we do not make it a condition that people agree with us on 'open borders'. But a political party like Respect must fight for the principle. It must not attempt to fudge the question by concentrating exclusively on 'refugees and asylum-seekers'.