Welcome to Britain Colin Yeo, Biteback Publishing, £20
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced in her speech at the Tory party conference that she intends to fix the “broken immigration system”. Aside from the irony that her party has been in government for the past 10 years and so bears a considerable responsibility for it being “broken”, she would do well to read Colin Yeo’s book. She will not find it comforting reading, neither would many of her predecessors (Tory and Labour) at the Home Office; and nor should they. In Welcome to Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System, Yeo, an immigration lawyer, has produced a well-researched, well-written and damming account of immigration law, policy, practice and procedure as implemented by successive governments. He successfully disentangles the complexities of law and regulation to reveal their sheer arbitrary pointless ineffectiveness.
Above all, the book is illustrated with real experience — many from the author’s own clients — that demonstrate the human cost of this brutal system. In his introduction he sets his case in historical, political, and social contexts. He examines the rationale of having an immigration policy and whether it is of benefit to migrants or to wider society. Successive chapters cover the “hostile environment”, the absurd complexities of immigration law through asylum, student visas, detention, deportation, and citizenship. Throughout he demonstrates that neither immigration law or practice rarely achieve their supposed intentions. Instead he shows how questions of political expedience and racism have shaped the policy of successive governments.
He also tackles many of the myths around immigration and asylum, and makes the case that we are all worse off because of them. I have two criticisms though. First he posits that David Cameron unintentionally set a target for the reduction of net migration under questioning by Andrew Marr on his BBC show in 2010. And that this has then driven policy in the decade that followed. This does not fit with the case he makes in the rest of the book. Second, and crucially, is Yeo’s weak conclusion. What Now? Yeo is not a revolutionary socialist and, therefore, his answers are confined to making reforms within the existing structures of society.
Most of his proposals are progressive ideas that can and should be fought for; and this is where he falls down. Having made a compelling argument that immigration policy derives from political interests and is shaped by racism he does not show a way to win the reforms he proposes. Nonetheless, this book is a useful read for socialists and anti-racists.