Let’s talk about immigration

This morning’s Twitter has been ablaze with this front page headline on The Times:

(you’ll be able to click on it to get a bigger version you can read).


Personally, politically, this absolutely disgusts me. The way this is portrayed smacks of the sort of revolting politics that Fascist states dabble in – making organisations publicly list particular people for reasons they make sound innocuous or even sensible, but actually harbour gross distortions of what is generally seen as right.


Many commentators are arguing this rhetoric in the UK has been rising since the EU referendum because of things like this:

And that is true – hate crime statistics have risen in everywhere except Scotland since the June vote. Although we cannot be that complacent in Scotland. The most recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (the fieldwork for which was done in 2015) show worrying attitudes to in-migration, with 41 per cent of respondents agreeing that “Scotland would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live in Scotland” and 30 per cent of people agreeing with the statement “people from Eastern Europe take jobs away from other people in Scotland”.


So, why does immigration, or in-migration, come into social policy? Well, one of the key issues around social policy is the distribution of limited resources. As we discussed in lecture 3, this dates right back to the seventeenth-century when one’s parish was used a way to limit your access to welfare. Earlier this week, I blogged about the idea of “social citizenship“. Citizenship, in modern liberalism, is tied to nationhood and the nation-state.


There might, therefore, be a legitimate reason in saying if people have not paid into the resources of the country then they should not be able to access them. There might be humanitarian exemptions from this relating to asylum-seekers, which virtually all nation states in the world have a moral duty to help under the United Nation Convention on Refugees.


Other in-migrants, for example those from EU states, tend to be young and actively seeking work, and have a higher employment rate than the non-migrant population. They are therefore paying in, so do deserve a level of support equal to anyone else in the nation-state.


Yet the public discourse on migration focuses on disgusting, negative tropes and the stoking of hatred towards “Schrodinger’s immigrant”, who is somehow simultaneously stealing “our” jobs and living off “our” benefits. More subtly, we get the distinction made, again, between the “deserving” and the “undeserving”, this time by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in her speech to the Conservative party conference:


(H/T Dr Imogen Tyler)


These discourses make these groups abject – that is objects of widespread social disgust. This is an approach to analysing social policy that Tyler and Jensen apply in their article on the reading list for the module, and that Dr Tyler uses to understand discourses surrounding in-migrants in her book Revolting Subjects.


Just like we can now look back at the Elizabethans basing access to welfare on whether you lived in the parish you were born in as something bizarre, it is not rational or innately right that we talk about in-migrants the way we do. Question everything.


(P.S. this post uses a new category FOSP – Futures of Social Policy)


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