Immigration

Immigration - deporting responsibility

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"We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It's not. It's easy. I'm going to do my best to help the British back to work." These are the words of Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas.

His comments appeared in an interview with the Independent in which he perversely described his commitment to booting out migrants as the logical conclusion of his lifelong fight against racism. "It's been too easy to get into this country in the past and it's going to get harder," he added.

Tube cleaners: a strike for freedom

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I was an activist from a young age. As a student in Nigeria I was secretary of the national students' organisation in my university. I had a political background - I lived with a political uncle and he was my inspiration.

When I came to England, and into the cleaning industry at London Underground (LU), the first thing I found was that the cleaners were predominantly black. That was a motivation, seeing what they were being subjected to. It reminded me of my background.

I got involved and felt I could be part of the struggle. I saw it as a set of people under slavery. It was not just about the money but their oppressive situation, and I felt there was a need for liberation.

The uprising of the 30,000

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Migrant workers have historically found it difficult to organise and fight. John Newsinger writes of a furious strike over conditions in New York, 1909, waged by newly organised migrant women garment workers who fought bitterly to the brink of victory, despite hired thugs and conservative union leaders

The Local 25 branch of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) had some 2,000 members working in the shirtwaist trade in 1909. They were mainly young Jewish women, immigrants from Tsarist Russia. On the evening of 22 November the branch organised a mass rally at New York's Cooper Union hall. The turnout took the organisers completely by surprise. Thousands came, both union members and non-members, and overspill meetings had to be arranged hastily in another half a dozen halls.

Fortress Europe on Samos island: a Greek tragedy

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When British academic Chris Jones, acclaimed for his writing on radical social work, went to live on a small Greek island he discovered that he was living on a frontline. He reports on the plight of desperate refugees who risk their lives to escape to Europe, and the reaction of the community.

There are now two significant groups of people travelling to the Greek island of Samos, which lies close to the coast of Turkey. One group is known as tourists or travellers. They come here conventionally from many parts of the world either on the summer charter planes or the ferry boats. They spend most of their time on the beach and rarely have any contact with the authorities. The second group also spends time on the beaches and in the sea.

Is Britain moving to the right?

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Labour's crushing election defeats and the increase in the vote for the Nazi BNP has led some to believe the country is drifting rightwards. Lindsey German opens our analysis of the situation by challenging that assumption and argues that election results don't tell the whole story.

It's hard to remember that only nine months ago 1 May was projected as a likely general election day. Then, the theory went, Gordon Brown would be able to take Labour to a fourth election victory, strengthen his position as elected prime minister and continue for another four or five years. Brown was at that time - again hard to remember - enjoying a honeymoon following the unlamented departure of Tony Blair.

Migrants: Britain's hidden labour army

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The deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in 2004 exposed the appalling working conditions of thousands of migrants in Britain. Hsiao-Hung Pai, author of a new book, Chinese Whispers, describes her quest to tell the stories of such workers and why going undercover was the only way to get at the truth.

Xiao Fan came to say goodbye. He had decided to return home, to Tianjin in north China. "I can't live a life like this any longer, hiding myself in the kitchen every day, fearing the next immigration raid. When it's so hard to earn even a pittance, it leaves you no dignity. What is the point? I've had enough."

Big mouth...

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Once again the singer Morrissey has plenty to say about immigration and British society. In a November edition of the NME, the magazine claims that he said, "The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away."

Later in the same article Morrissey boldly declares, "With the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. If you travel to Germany, it's still absolutely Germany... But travel to England and you have no idea where you are... If you walk through Knightsbridge you'll hear every accent apart from an English accent."

Sarkozy's raids of the playgrounds

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At the recent inauguration of a Moscow memorial to the victims of the gulag Nicolas Sarkozy made a fervent speech about the importance of human rights, underlining the necessity of interaction between authorities and population.

In accordance with the republican tradition, he stressed that in France "no one is above the law". Curiously, the French president seemed to have forgotten that in his country the law is currently being reformed so as to contradict the very human rights he was referring to.

Sarkozy's newly created ministry for immigration and integration maintains an image of support for immigrant families and their descendants, while its new policies are by far the most aggressive France has witnessed in the last decades.

Migrant workers and British hospitality

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"If you don't know who employs you, you can lose your job at any time," said a Polish hotel worker. "I feel this insecurity about my future in England. There are no rules here."

The insecurity is well founded. "During the eight months I worked I never knew whether I'd get paid, but I also had no idea who I was really working for and to whom I should complain when I'm not paid," said another Polish worker living in the south of England.

Companies use labour providers who subcontract to smaller agencies set up to act as front shops. These can then be folded up at any minute to avoid inspection. When wages are left unpaid, the agencies simply lay the blame with their parent companies.

Good Things Don't Come to Those Who Wait - in Chinatown

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"We don't get paid wages here," said a waiter at Chinatown's Furama Restaurant. "We only have tips of around £200 a week. The service charge goes to the employer. We don't get a penny."

This testimony is not an anomaly. Catering and hotel employers are making their own rules and there is no legal basis from which to challenge them.

The practices of one catering company, Green Events Ltd, provide a useful example. Prior to January waiters were paid £6.25 per hour plus 10 percent service charge. Under the new system, however, they are paid just;£4.25 per hour. Their employer uses the service charge to meet the minimum wage.

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