Every so often Immigration is thrown back into the spotlight of media (and therefore, public) attention. Sometimes the attention is raised by a failed politician hiring a boat and causing a nuisance chasing around the English Channel with a film crew looking feverishly for an overloaded boat crammed full of extremely desperate people that he can point at claiming that Britain is being overrun by these ‘enemies’, and at other times the attention is raised through terrible tragedies which claim the lives of many of these most desperate people.
On Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, children and a pregnant woman were among at least 27 migrants who died when their small overloaded boat sank in an attempt to cross the English Channel. More than 150 people have died crossing the Channel in the last five years and the real, unknowable, total could be far higher. The number of desperate people who have died trying to make it to the UK in 2021 is estimated to make up more than 25 per cent of all migrant deaths within Europe so far this year.
The imperialist powers on both sides of the Channel rushed out their political managers to stand in front of cameras splashing buckets of crocodile tears about while wringing their hands in feigned sorrow.
Priti Patel, the visibly uncaring British Home Secretary, after a few weasel words claiming to have been upset by the tragedy, went straight back to her script telling the ‘silly’ migrants that this “serves as the starkest possible reminder of the dangers of these Channel crossings organised by ruthless criminal gangs”. We are not too sure how she must come across to surviving refugees but if they have heard of her idea, now thankfully discarded, of pushing the overloaded rubber dinghies of terrified desperate humans back to France with Navy vessels, we cannot imagine they are taken in at all by her clumsy attempts at sympathy.
Boris Johnson has said with his best straight face, that he is “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened” about the deaths adding: “Now is the time for us all to step up… to do everything we can to break these gangs who are literally getting away with murder.” It is almost amusing to hear Boris and Priti talk of ‘ruthless gangs’ using the migrants for cash when Britain and France constantly use them to blame and provoke each other.
By way of honourable contrast, however, one bourgeois politician, Lord Alf Dubs, who was once a refugee himself, shows a genuine concern for the plight of people so desperate that they risk their own lives and those of their little children in order to get into Britain:
“When Lord Dubs saw children being carried wrapped in blankets out of small boats in Kent, he was instantly taken back to the moment he arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport having fled the Nazis at the age of six. ‘What it made me feel is terrible pain for the people who are fleeing,’ says the 89-year-old Labour peer. ‘People must be pretty desperate, having travelled so far anyway, to risk their lives in this way. It made me feel dismayed that our government is not enabling them to be safe.’
“Dubs still remembers the sense of ‘bewilderment’ he felt on arriving at Liverpool Street station in London to meet his father, who was Jewish and had left Czechoslovakia the day the Nazis arrived. He was one of 669 children saved by the English stockbroker Nicholas Winton and thinks he was lucky compared to the children who are arriving across the Channel now.
“’If I hadn’t gone on that Kindertransport, I probably wouldn’t have survived the Holocaust, but as a six-year-old I didn’t know that,’ he says. ‘I had two days on a train. These people have suffered enormously” (Rachel Spencer, ‘Alf Dubs: “Someone has to speak up for people who risk their lives coming here”, The Times, 25 December 2021).
Playing politics with the lives of refugees is quite common among the bourgeois parties all across Europe. The EU dignitaries will happily accuse Belarus, and even EU members, Hungary and Poland, of using refugees as some kind of assault force by pushing them across borders towards Western Europe but then use the plight of those same refugees when they get to the English Channel to bash Britain over a number of Brexit related issues. That said, that is no excuse for the disgusting bourgeois politicians in Britain who stir up anti-foreigner sentiments by talking of being ‘overrun’ and the need to ‘defend Britain’s borders’ from refugees.
The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, scored an easy goal against Britain when he said: “France accepted 150,000 asylum applications a year, compared with 30,000 in the UK.” Adding, in answer to the question of why immigrants risk crossing the Channel: “Today, people who want to seek asylum in England have no other means than to cross the Channel. This is because there is no legal way for immigrants to go to Great Britain and because you can work without identity papers in England and that creates a demand.”
France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, took Darmanin’s words about working in Britain without papers a little further accusing the UK of having “an economic model of, sometimes, quasi-modern slavery” that he said encouraged desperate people to attempt perilous Channel crossings.
These points in the UK’s legal position re asylum seekers that the French are talking about are quite relevant to the question of why migrants risk the crossings. To claim asylum in Britain you need to physically be in Britain. During the Covid crisis, and disputes around Brexit rules, followed by driver shortages there has been a lot more scrutiny of l,orries and containers keeping crossings by that route to a minimum and making reliance on rubber dinghies far more likely as a method than it used to be.
The second part of the points that the French ministers raised was the fact that although, by current British law, an asylum seeker isn’t allowed to work while waiting for their claim to be processed, it is just these very vulnerable people who are visited by the gang-masters offering long hours of work at very low wages, a means to earn a little and ease the sheer boredom of just sitting and waiting day after day.
If asylum seekers were allowed to travel freely to Britain to make their claim and if while waiting for a ruling they were allowed to work legally, this would free them from both the ‘criminal gangs’ that herd them onto the rubber death-traps to try their luck crossing the English Channel and the ‘criminal gangs’ waiting to use them as virtual slave labour in illegal work bondage.
We would hope that most of our readers either have a good understanding of immigration or are prepared to gain one. Our recommendation for the speediest understanding would be to read to the CPGB-ML pamphlet Capitalism and Immigration. Just two snippets from this pamphlet written by Harpal Brar should give enough of a flavour of the work to those seeking to understand; “The issue of immigration remains the Achilles’ heel of the British working-class movement, just as it was in Marx’s day, when he and Engels noted that the antagonism between Irish and English workers in England was the key to the impotence of the English working-class movement, despite the latter’s high level of organisation. If we are serious about building a revolutionary movement capable of overthrowing British imperialism, it is imperative that those working within the movement are able to see clearly on this, the most divisive of issues, and are confident in thoroughly refuting all the bourgeois prejudices that have been so carefully inculcated in our minds via school, literature, and the media.“
That pamphlet goes on to point out and expose the political charlatans masquerading as friends of the workers:
“Listening to the leaders of the bourgeois racist parties of the respectable and not-so-respectable variety, ordinary workers might be forgiven for gaining the perception of immigration being a new, and dangerous, phenomenon. It is worth reminding them that immigration, the racist myths to the contrary notwithstanding, is not a novel phenomenon, which only began with the arrival of foreign workers in western Europe in the aftermath of the 2nd World War from the erstwhile colonies and other poor countries – in the case of Britain from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. To assert that somehow foreign workers would undermine national culture, stability and racial homogeneity is to make the bold and absurd claim that the countries of Europe developed in idyllic and splendid isolation from the rest of the world – a claim devoid of all foundation.”
With this current tragedy we once again, as ever, witness the media and political prostitutes of all hues leading the chorus in an orchestrated debate waxing lyrical about protecting British borders and British jobs.
The bottom line is that whether someone migrates here or was born in the next street to you, when it comes to getting a job under the capitalist system, they are both your competitor. Capitalism sets all workers at each other’s throats while the capitalist sits back lowering wages and goading the working class to find even more ways of dividing themselves.
Capitalism is the cause of housing shortages, and homelessness,. unemployment and poverty, racism and all other forms of backwardness that destroy our unity. But, if we can build that unity in spite of the xenophobic garbage we are fed from our birth onwards, we can relieve the bourgeoisie of their command and end unemployment, housing, fuel and food shortages, guarantee education and jobs for all and go on to build a world where everyone can develop all of their talents for the benefit of all. It will be no easy task to achieve this ultimate goal of Marxism-Leninism, but, the alternative is watching our world burn through endless wars brought about by the unslakable greed and hatred of capitalism.