Mobile billboards in London boroughs warning illegal immigrants who are in the United Kingdom to “go home or face arrest”; stop and search operations against suspected illegal immigrants. While comparing the situation today with what prevailed some four decades back, when Enoch Powell could make his venomously racist speech, may be a stretch, the current slew of anti-immigration measures marks a new low in the Conservatives’ ostensible bid to tackle illegal immigration. The government more recently announced a visa bond scheme that it said was under consideration, which drew a domestic and international uproar, as the scheme targets six Commonwealth countries — India included — from where visitors on six-month U.K. visas would be asked to pay a bond of £3000. Stung by the sharp response, the government has put the scheme in cold storage for the moment stating that it will first do a pilot. In sum, the latest turn the immigrant policy has taken is unconvincing at best and offensive at worst. It lacks thought and planning, and strips people of human dignity both at home and abroad.
Curiously, the Commons select committee headed by a Conservative MP sees little merit in the Cameron government’s current goal, namely to narrow the difference between migration in and emigration out. The difference between the two is the net migration figure, and is based on an extremely random sample survey of international passengers, originally introduced to study tourism trends. Besides a large margin of error, this whole approach must also be grossly misleading because the largest number counted as ‘immigrants’ are overseas students. But the Commons report also says that Home Office statistics do not indicate the number of visa-holders who have leave to stay, or those that have over-stayed. The approach of the Home Office has yet again exposed cracks within the ruling Conservative-Liberal coalition. The Business Secretary, a member of the junior partner, has dubbed the entire campaign as highly exaggerated, considering that it is almost impossible for undocumented migrants to work in Britain legally and claim benefits. Labour’s shadow justice secretary has alleged that the real targets of the current anti-illegal immigration drive are the UK Independence Party voters whom the Conservatives want to win over. While there may be substance in these objections, the Lib Dem and Labour parties themselves are not free from the charge of playing the immigrant card at one time or the other. At another level, all the mainstream parties in Britain are guilty of pandering to the British National Party’s hostile anti-European stance, one that is essentially anti-immigrant.