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In 2005, just before the general election, the government introduced a document entitled Controlling our borders: Making migration work for Britain, which set out what it called its five-year strategy for asylum and immigration. As its title implies, this contained the most explicit statement yet of the alignment of immigration policy to British interests. Prime Minister Tony Blair said in the foreword:
This five year plan for our immigration and asylum system is based on three sound principles. It shows how we are going to enforce strict controls to root out abuse. It will ensure Britain continues to benefit from people from abroad who work hard and add to our prosperity. And, importantly, it puts forward solutions to a difficult issue which are clear, workable and in the best interests of this country. I believe it will meet both the public’s concerns and our nation’s needs. (Home Office, 2005a: 6; my emphasis)
This represented, in more narrowly utilitarian terms, a continuation of the policy of managed migration that had been foreshadowed in Barbara Roche’s speech in 2000 in which she acknowledged Britain’s dependence on migration. The 2005 statement represented a significant shift from the welcome for ‘diversity’ contained in the 2002 White Paper. Although it reiterated the government’s commitment to the Geneva Convention, refugee status became temporary and conditional. The welcome for labour migration had never been unconditional. Roche had reiterated the importance of regulating entry ‘in the interests of social stability and economic growth’ (Duvell and Jordan, 2003: 302) and it was regulation that was central to this document.
In this part of the book the focus shifts to immigration policy. It examines the development of immigration policy, current policy making and debates about the future. Immigration policy is relatively new and the scope and pace of policy making has expanded rapidly in recent years. The complexity of contemporary immigration processes and the erosion of the distinction between countries of immigration and countries of emigration, together with global and regional governance, have meant that most states now operate some form of immigration policy. Global and regional developments have brought some convergence in policy making but nation states remain the key decision makers in relation to immigration policy.
The following chapters concentrate mainly on Britain and explore in more detail some of the questions raised in this chapter, which discusses some general issues concerning the making of immigration policy. The first section concerns the specific nature of immigration policy or ‘immigration exceptionalism’ (Sciortino, 2000) and the difficulties in implementing it. It discusses the tools of immigration policy and the strategies open to migrants and their supporters in resisting these controls. The following section discusses the link between migration and citizenship. Migration separates citizenship from residence, raising the issue of which rights non-citizens should be able to access and the process by which migrants are able to become citizens. It discusses different national models of citizenship and the impact of contemporary developments on these traditions. On the one hand there have been moves to acknowledge the importance of transnational mobility by granting more rights to non-citizens and on the other, the perception of a ‘migration crisis’ and a terrorist threat have led to the promotion of more national forms of citizenship based on notions of national culture and core values.
Contemporary international migration has been widely described as ‘new’ both in relation to its scale and to the types of migration that have developed (Koser and Lutz, 1998; Papademetriou, 2003). Every country in the world now participates in international migration, while complex migratory systems have developed at global and regional levels (Castles and Miller, 2003) involving movement in many directions. Established countries of immigration have seen a diversification in their immigration flows in relation to both the countries of origin and the types of migrant involved, while they remained major exporters of labour. Traditional emigration countries in Europe, such as Italy and Ireland, themselves became destinations for immigrants during the 1970s and 1980s. Turkey, which was a major source of labour for post-war European economic reconstruction has become a place of transit for migrants bound further west but now hosts new migrants from the states of the former Soviet Union. While emigrants have poured out of Eastern Europe, particularly following EU accession in 2004, other migrants have entered to fill gaps in their labour markets. Thus the categorisation of states as ‘immigration’ or ‘emigration’ countries is becoming harder to sustain.
There is also growing diversity in the motives for migration. People migrate for economic, political and family reasons and to study and pursue new opportunities and personal goals. New types of migratory strategy are developing including temporary and ‘commuter’ migration (Wallace, 2002), while a growing body of literature is pointing to the continuing attachment of migrants to their country of origin, through the maintenance of transnational connections (Portes, 2004).
Immigration and emigration have been significant elements in Britain’s history. Throughout the nineteenth and for much of the twentieth century, Britain was predominantly an exporter of labour, mainly to its empire. This emigration included the officer class and the settlers who took over land in the empire as well as Britain’s ‘unwanted’ population, who helped provide a labour force in the so-called ‘empty’ lands. Immigration also has a long history, as a result of conquest by others (for example the Romans, Normans and Danes) and of Britain’s own imperialist ventures. Britain has also accepted refugees, including the Huguenots – Protestants fleeing Catholic France – and revolutionaries from Europe. Marx and Lenin both spent time in exile in London and Marx was buried in London’s Highgate Cemetery. The first mass immigration was from Ireland, particularly in the wake of the famine of 1846, and Irish people continue to be Britain’s largest ethnic minority (Hickman and Walter, 1997).
Britain has an uneasy relationship with its immigration history. Holmes (1988) suggested that official accounts of Britain have been unwilling to admit the extent of immigration since it interfered with myths of nationhood based on a common culture. More recently, diversity has been claimed in the name of a particular form of Britishness. The White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Haven suggested that, ‘British nationality has never been associated with membership of a particular ethnic group. For centuries we have been a multi-ethnic nation. We do not exclude people from citizenship on the basis of their race or ethnicity’ (Home Office, 2002a: 10).
Migration is both an individual decision and a social process. Individuals, families and groups make these decisions within a social, political and economic context that provides opportunities and constrains their movement. The choice is rarely made alone, but involves negotiation with family and friends and wider networks. Migration can be an overwhelmingly important event in people’s lives but may also be seen as an ‘ordinary’ activity (Burrell, 2006: 1) that is part of a well-trodden path taken by friends and family members, as Irish migration to Britain became at certain periods. For some, migration is a positive choice, through which they hope to attain a better life, economically, socially or physically. For others it may be forced by economic and political circumstances that allow limited choice in relation to timing or destination.
The study of migration has increased dramatically from the 1980s as migration and its implications for migrants themselves and for society in sending and receiving states have become of major interest to academics and policy makers as well as the subject of heated political debate. The field has been dominated by sociology, geography and economics, with their different though overlapping concerns but the nature of migration lends itself to interdisciplinary study and major contributions have come from, among others, history, political science, social policy, law and psychology. Migration, with its themes of displacement and loss, of new possibilities and multiple belonging, has long been an important subject of literature, which can throw a particular imaginative light on the migratory experience, and increasingly of film and other cultural media.
The movement of refugees has been the most visible and controversial aspect of international migration since the 1980s. Unlike the migratory movements discussed in the previous chapter, the migration of refugees is seen as involuntary, or forced, and a result of non-economic motives. The number of forced migrants has expanded due to the escalation of conflicts and the collapse of state structures. The closing-off of other routes to migration has also increased asylum claims. The Third World generated huge refugee flows before 1960 but the overwhelming majority settled in their region of origin (Zolberg et al, 1989: 228) and were therefore of limited concern to the West. The end of Cold War, rather than leading to a more peaceful world, has brought renewed, and in many cases more entrenched, conflicts. Civilians are increasingly the targets of human rights abuses and account for 90% of deaths in contemporary conflicts (Castles, 2003: 50). While the majority continue to remain in their country of origin, a minority move across continents to seek asylum in developed countries.
Not all of those forced to leave their homes are counted as refugees in international law, and are able to claim its protection. The basis of international refugee law is the Geneva Convention on Refugees and its Bellagio Protocol, which had been signed by 146 of the 191 member states of the UN in 2005. The rights embodied in the Convention include the right of individuals to apply for asylum and an impartial refugee determination process (UNHCR, 2006), non-refoulement (protection against being sent back to face danger or persecution) and minimum standards of living in the country of asylum for those granted refugee status.
This chapter both draws together some of the ideas developed in the book and discusses alternative views of immigration controls. For the past century, the imperative of maintaining strict control on entry has been an assumption of policy making that has been taken for granted in Britain and increasingly in other developed countries. The practical and ethical problems associated with immigration policy, however, demand that this view is questioned rather than accepted as obvious. The chapter firstly summarises some of the issues discussed in earlier chapters. It then examines in more detail the approaches to immigration that were outlined in Chapter One. Finally, the case for open borders is discussed, including arguments from ethical, economic and social perspectives.
Managed migration has become the dominant policy of states in the developed world. While markets in goods encompass every corner of the world and global communications bring visions of opulent western lifestyles to the poorest places on the planet, the ability to exercise mobility is becoming increasingly selective. Inequalities in the global economic and political system and the conflicts these generate have precipitated international movements on a scale that matches the mass migration associated with the industrialisation of the major powers in the nineteenth century. Governments in the rich countries attempt to separate out ‘wanted’ from ‘unwanted’ migrants, competing for skilled workers, who are given privileged entry and rights of settlement, while the poor are blocked from entering the most desirable destinations. New hierarchies are developing based on skills, wealth and country of origin.
On 6 July 2005, it was announced that London had won the competition to host the 2012 Olympic Games. This unexpected decision was widely attributed to London’s multiculturalism, which was featured prominently in the campaign to win the Games. The next day, four young British-born Muslims blew themselves up on the London transport network, killing a total of 52 people. This incident, which in the language adopted following the attacks of 11 September (9/11), has become known as 7/7, shattered London’s celebration and sense of ease with itself.
This event exacerbated anxieties associated with immigration and ethnic diversity and raised questions about what it means to be a British citizen. These young men were born in Britain, but their acts suggested a rejection in the most deadly fashion of the society in which they lived and had been brought up. Statham, writing earlier, had suggested that the ‘assault by the radical right on … the failures of multiculturalism has effectively linked the anti-immigration debate to questions about the loyalty of groups of migrants who are in many cases already citizens, but ones of Muslim faith’ (Statham, 2003: 165–6). This demand for loyalty was taken a stage further by Prime Minister Tony Blair on the first anniversary of the bombings. He demanded that Muslim leaders: ‘do more to attack not just the extremists’ methods, but their false sense of grievance about the West. Too many Muslim leaders give the impression that they understand and sympathise with the grievances, an attitude that ensures the extremists will never be defeated.’
This chapter looks at some of the human stories behind the policies discussed in earlier chapters. It discusses the experiences of people subject to immigration control and the impact it has on their lives. Many people become involved with immigration policy on a regular basis: immigration officers and lawyers and, increasingly, service providers, who are required to scrutinise immigration status as well as people who become involved in campaigns for migrants’ rights. The focus here is on those who are the target of immigration policy, for whom it can make the difference between security and insecurity; the ability to settle and being socially and economically excluded; and in some cases between life and death. Immigration control involves a process in which those most affected by decisions may have little influence over them and have no part in making the broader policy agenda within which these decisions are made. They may receive little information about the reasons for these decisions and may wait months or even years during which their lives are placed ‘on hold’.
The chapter concentrates on the direct impact of immigration policy itself rather than on more general issues involved in settling into a new society. The diversity of experiences of immigration policy has increased as civic stratification has widened the gap between different groups in relation to their rights and security of residence status. Those with skills deemed highly valuable gain secure status and may face only minor inconvenience as their visas and permission to work are negotiated, often by an agency or through their own company.
Immigration, particularly asylum, has become a major political issue in Britain and Europe and its impact on welfare, employment and ‘social cohesion’ highly contested. While asylum policy has become more punitive, dependence on immigrant labour has been increasingly acknowledged by governments which attempt to ‘manage’ migration to secure the benefits without the presumed costs. The book provides an essential background to understanding these debates.
Based on documentary sources and primary research, it focuses mainly on Britain within an international and European context. The first part examines different theoretical approaches to understanding migratory flows and strategies. It explores forced and voluntary migration, the gender dimension in migration decisions and transnational links maintained by migrants. Part two focuses on continuities and change in migration policy and how boundaries have shifted to exclude and include different groups. It explores links between immigration policy, welfare and social exclusion, and migrants’ experiences in negotiating and challenging these policies. The book concludes by questioning whether immigration controls can be justified on either ethical or practical grounds.
The book will be a key text for students and researchers of migration and ethnicity, and of social policy and welfare. It will be of interest to professionals working with migrants and refugees and to all those concerned with migrant rights.