Yes, migrants are net contributors, but they are also our partners in challenging inequality and injustice, says Don Flynn, from the Migrants Rights Network
Last week’s report from academics at University College London on the fiscal impacts of migration to the UK is just the latest in a whole sequence which has made the case that, far from being a charge on the taxpayer, the migration that developed over the course of the 2000s, has brought in a cohort of net contributors.
We can expect that this steady accumulation of evidence supporting the view that migration does generate positive effects is to open up space in the political mainstream for the argument that immigration policy should incline towards openness rather than closure. Advocacy in support of groups like international students and skilled migrants has already advanced to the point where it has the ear of leading ministers with Vince Cable at BIS being particularly outspoken.
Arguments in favour of more openness on immigration policy represent both opportunities and challenges for groups working to support the rights of migrants. Opportunities in the sense that they undermine the ‘commonsense’ presumption that society is better protected when it imposes strict control over the movement of non-nationals; challenged because so much of the discussion revolves around the election of the types of migrant for whom borders will be relatively open.
MRN has always resisted the idea that a simple formula is available which will assist state functionaries in a decision-making process about who is the ‘good’ immigrant, as opposed to the undesirable. The slogan which the Home Office has raised to official status, branding its policies as aiming to select ‘the brightest and the best’ seems especially inane as the evidence accumulates that the gains for the welfare of the population are just as likely to come from just about all of the newcomers who are willing fill whatever niche on offered up and to meet the demands for taxes that will inevitably come their way.
This week we will be launching the ‘Migrant Manifesto’ which we think is really needed if we are going to build the communities in the UK which can really meet all the challenges of living in our modern globalised world and at the same tackle all the growing problems that come from inequality and social exclusion.
This means going beyond the simple celebration of the fact that migrants contribute more in taxes than they take out in services. Our Manifesto will call for acknowledgment of the fact that the immigration policies of recent years have created a hugely uneven playing field for newcomers, with rights to secure residence status, to challenge the unfair decisions of the authorities, to sponsor the admission of family members, to access the public services which they pay for from their tax contributions, to escape from the dangers of exploitation in the workplace, and generally to live without the fear of the constant demand to produce papers that ‘prove’ identity and legal status, all being badly eroded.
Our view is that policies on the way migration is managed should be as much about basic human values and they are about extracting economic advantages over people deliberately made vulnerable because of their status as non-nationals. If we thing that it is permissible to squeeze more out of migrants than it is out of citizens then we will be held back from challenging inequality and the gross injustices that emerge from racism and xenophobia.
Our ‘Migrant Manifesto’ campaign will go live after its launch this coming Wednesday.
What it calls for has been outlined in a series of blogs on this website over the past six weeks. The full text will be public after the launch and we are offering it up as an opportunity for discussion and, hopefully, a spur to campaigning activity during the next six months. A special website will be launched very soon to help sustain the momentum of this work.
To recap on what we are calling for, check these blogs from the last few weeks
We hope that these calls for action will resonate with groups working with migrant communities right the way across the country. The Migrant Manifesto will make progress only if it is taken up and developed by people who can affirm its basic propositions, but also add and take them further forward.
We welcome your comments about this campaign and will look forward to hearing from you all.
This article originally appeared on the Migrants Rights Network website, of which Don Flynn is Director, and has been reproduced with permission. Don is also a member of the CHARTIST Editoiral Board.