by Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda.
Well here we are in January 2014 and the tidal wave of Romanian and Bulgarian benefit tourists hasn’t materialised. Farcical New Year scenes at Luton Airport of MPs and journalists staking out arrivals from half empty planes arriving from Sofia and Bucharest (and discovering two new arrivals both of whom had already been offered jobs), shows how laughable discussions about immigration have become. Recent announcements that overseas visitors will now be charged for treatment in Accident and Emergency Units, even though this measure is likely to cost more to administer than it is likely to save, show that immigration is an area of policy that is completely insensible to evidence as well as immune to sense.
Having stoked up a hysterical climate of fear and xenophobia, can we expect a climbdown from the government let alone the Daily Mail and the Daily Express? Sadly their disgusting rhetoric is likely to get even more extreme as the General Election gets closer and UKIP continue to perform well in opinion polls.
The Government continues to push the Immigration Bill through Parliament and we wait to see whether Labour has the guts to object to many appalling aspects of this proposed legislation. It is likely that this legislation will seriously damage race relations and equality in the UK. Proposals to force landlords, banks and health workers to carry out checks on the immigration status of customers and patients will mean that service providers will be likely to simplify their need to carry out complex checks by favouring people who are white and obviously British. People with foreign sounding names or with non-white skin colour can almost certainly expect to go to the back of the queue so service providers can avoid having to carry out sometimes complex checks on immigration status.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned the proposed immigration laws over fears they could stigmatise foreigners, deny housing to people in need and create a "climate of ethnic profiling". He goes on to say that he believes that the immigration bill will damage communities and lead to the marginalisation of refugees and asylum-seekers. Strong words that all MPs should be challenged to take seriously if we are to avoid serious damage to race relations in 2014 and beyond.