Julie Spence, the head of Cambridgeshire Police, launched a vitriolic attack in early September on the numbers of Eastern European migrants working in the county.
They cause crime, she says; they carry knives and drink-drive; they don’t know how to behave in peaceful, law-abiding, bucolic thatched-cottage Britain. She was widely praised in the media for her realistic attitude and for “breaking a taboo” by revealing uncomfortable truths about the latest wave of immigration.
Meanwhile, two Polish workers were beaten up and hospitalised in Wisbech, a small town on Ms. Spence’s beat, by a gang of ten white youths. At their recent court appearance the racists were describes as acting “like a pack of animals hunting down prey”. Ms Spence made no comment on this incident, or on any of the many like it that have been perpetrated across Britain by gangs of anti-immigrant thugs.
The Home Office has responded to calls from Spence and two other police chiefs by asking for the extension of EU movement restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens by “at least” another year, allegedly in order to relieve pressure on public services.
Yet the Institute for Public Policy Research has found, “Studies show it is social networks that propel migrants here. The numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians in Britain are so small there are no social networks to attract them.” Furthermore, about 380,000 people leave Britain each year and many migrant workers stay only a year or two, so there is no real “pressure” at all.
The real problem, as regards both crime and public services, comes from the situation in which migrants all too often find themselves. Britain has a flourishing twilight economy in which corrupt “gangmasters” find it easy to exploit migrants with few rights and unsure even of those. In these circumstances, the risk of industrial injury and even death is greatly increased, as the tragedy of the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay unforgettably demonstrates.
Migrants who are forced into prostitution by criminal migration racketeers cannot escape because immigration law treats them as the criminals, and public services have to pick up the pieces — if the migrants in question are lucky. If they're not, they spend months in a detention centre, going slowly mad, before being deported to a country they may have fled because of persecution, torture and the murder of their families.
Politicians, however, act as if they are concerned only with gutter-press hysteria and the prejudices that exist against migrants.
As Rick Muir of the IPPR sums it up: “Social disadvantage... creates an environment in which low-income families are forced to compete for scarce resources, such as jobs, childcare and affordable housing. Issues of material scarcity, and perceptions of unfairness in how such scarce goods are distributed, play an important role in generating the current atmosphere of hostility towards asylum seekers and migrants more generally.”
Workers made redundant to be replaced by migrants on lower wages and with less rights, such as those last week at the Tulip food packing plant in Thetford, can come to feel hostility towards the workers who replace them.
The only answer to this is working-class solidarity. Workers’ struggles for universal rights, for higher wages and better conditions for everyone, can unite workers across artificially fostered divides with remarkable strength — as with this year's Irish ferry workers’ strike securing equal rights for their Polish colleagues.