U-turn over lone child refugees

Submitted by Matthew on 11 May, 2016 - 1:19 Author: Colin Foster

On 4 May, the Tory government backed down and said it would after all admit some lone child refugees from Syria. On 25 April the Tories had voted down proposals in Parliament to admit 3,000 children, but by 4 May they had to retreat. They are still evasive. They won't say how many. None will be admitted until the end of 2016, and none that hadn't been registered in other EU countries before 20 March this year.

The government suggests it will supply funds to councils to help settle the refugees, but won't be specific. It was another victory against the migrant-haters on 5 May when Labour's Sadiq Khan won mayor of London despite Tory Zac Goldsmith's slurs against him as linked to extremists on grounds of his Pakistani family background. Now the left can and should be working for another victory on 23 June: a vote against Brexit. A vote against re-raising borders between Britain and Europe. And a vote won by unashamed argument for lower borders and a more open and democratic EU rather than play safe arguments that Brexit may be bad for business. More much, much more remains to be won.

From Syria alone, 4.6 million people are refugees (in addition to the 6.6 million displaced within the country). World-wide over 55 million people are seeking asylum. That is a big number, but also a small number (0.7%) compared to the world's 7 billion population, and a small number compared to the world's wealth (to allocate $10,000 to settle each refugee would take just 0.5% of world output). 1.2 million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon and 2.7 million are in Turkey. About one million refugees (by no means all Syrian) have recently come to Europe. The arguments of the right wing against are based on mean-spirited pseudo-economic arguments. Even if settling thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of refugees, were costly, the cost would be small compared to the loot siphoned off to tax havens. And the pseudo-economic arguments are also wrong. Migrant workers keep the NHS and many other public services going, rather than overburdening them, and migrants contribute £2.5 billion more in tax, per year, than they claim in benefits. The majority of migrants are of working age and so contribute more to the social provision that children and elderly people depend on.

In the year to April 2009 migrants from Eastern Europe were 59 per cent less likely to receive welfare benefits than UK natives; or 49 per cent if they had been here for more than two years. They were 57 per cent less likely to live in social housing. Detailed economic analyses show that more immigration increases average wage levels in a country, rather than pushing them down. Generally, countries with more immigration are economically more dynamic and prosperous. A study by Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini found that in Britain between 1997 and 2005 middle earners gained 1.5p an hour and upper earners 2p from the effects of immigration. Wages of the worst-paid 5%, they found, were 0.7p an hour worse than they would have been without immigration.

That drop is still tiny compared to the positive effect of workers of all origins uniting to win a living wage and tiny compared to the negative effect of dividing workers by country of origin. Bring down the borders!

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