(Hi dug) Here's two "interesting" (i.e. scary) pieces from the guardian. It's all quite depressing, imho. I still haven't forgiven Blunkett for the "read my lips" - "well, I was only joking" thing. I decided then that nothing is beneath him, and he just keeps on confirming that opinion.
Alan Travis, the Guardian's home affairs editor, looks at this afternoon's debate on immigration and the contents of the home secretary's new asylum bill.
David Blunkett's new bill on asylum and immigration introduces measures such as an oath of allegiance and English classes in an attempt to integrate refugees and new immigrants into British life. It also sets up a network of accommodation centres in Britain to replace the troublesome dispersal system for asylum seekers. Initially, there will only be about six of them, housing around 3,000 asylum seekers. In a new move, education, health and translation facilities will be provided at the centres, on the basis that instead of having to wait three or four years for their applications to be resolved, the process should take no more than six months.
The bill also proposes some tougher measures to eject failed asylum seekers through deportations and removals along with other measures to speed up the system - particularly the appeals process. There are two areas likely to cause controversy among Labour MPs as the bill passes through parliament: the denial of the right of asylum seekers to send their children to local schools and to be treated by local doctors while they are in these accommodation centres. So it's likely that most of the debate will centre on those issues.
Mr Blunkett is arguing that one of the reasons why France failed to stop the rise of Le Pen is that the French socialist party did not introduce robust immigration and asylum policies. He says, for example, that by removing the immense pressure some local schools and doctors face in treating large numbers of asylum seekers in their area, he would be removing what he describes as the "firelighter for the BNP" in these communities, where such pressures can cause friction.
I think it's likely that the situation in France will shift the British debate on asylum one step to the right. Trying to build a more robust and publicly credible asylum system - as well as answering the claims of the far right - means that more draconian measures are likely to be taken and more rigour applied.
Our man on the sofa considers the issue of asylum seekers.
There is absolutely no chance of fascism raising its shaven head in this country. The Labour government, which has already fought prejudice by introducing curfews and arresting people without evidence, has promised it will be so. And if that means beating the bovver boys by booting out foreigners in double quick time, then count me in for processing a few asylum applications.
According to David Blunkett, who has never judged anyone by the colour of their skin, immigration policy is central to a liberal democracy. However it has to be "fair, but tough" (a clever switharoo on the old "tough, but fair" mantra, I'm sure you'll agree). Too many foreigners flooding in and taking all the jobs, everyone gets a bit racist. Too few people coming in and there's all the jobs to fill. 'Cos let's face it, no self-respecting true blooded Brit actually wants to clean anything or, say, learn IT skills, when there's the chance of getting your own chat show on Granada Men and Administrators.
So how does one hit the middle ground running? A tricky one. Mr Blunkett has wisely suggested that all dirty bogus asylum seekers (like those who arrive in Britain determined to earn some money) should be getting the boot quicker. Preferably straight off the Dover cliffs into a floating brig, I say.
At the same time, and this is the clever bit, you encourage all the immigrants who want to make money (and have a degree in computing) to come into the country. We don't want economic migrants, we want people coming in for economic reasons. That'll stump the BNP.
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