Bogus - Thirteen Myths about Asylum Seekers, Refugees or Immigrants

Bogus - Thirteen Myths about Asylum Seekers or Immigrants

‘The immigration minister, Lord Rooker, further fuelled controversy yesterday when he claimed that most of the asylum seekers who would be housed in the new centres were “single men who had deserted their families for economic purposes” Guardian 15th May 2002

On asylum, Home Secretary Charles Clarke proposed that genuine refugees would no longer have permanent leave to remain in the UK. Instead, they would get permission to stay in the country for five years before it was decided whether it was safe for them to return to their countries of origin. He also promised more detention of failed asylum seekers and agreements to return them home. BBC News 7th February 2005

Romany children seeking asylum in Italy. Over 10,000 lone children – orphans or separated from their families – applied for asylum in EU countries in 2003

Romany children seeking asylum in Italy. Over 10,000 lone children – orphans or separated from their families – applied for asylum in EU countries in 2003 - (Source - UNHCR(pdf file)


Myths & Facts

There are endless myths about immigrants spread by politicians and newspapers. Most of them relate to supposedly ‘bogus asylum seekers’. These claims are usually ‘bogus’ and untrue. This is an attempt to give the actual facts about some of them.

Introduction: What do terms like ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ actually mean ?

Myth 1: They’re mostly ‘bogus asylum seekers’ or ‘economic migrants’

Myth 2: There are more immigrants every year and the government are letting more immigrants in each year

Myth 3: They come here to live off benefits & live better than most people born here

Myth 4: There’s no racism or prejudice involved in wanting to cut immigration

Myth 5: If they’re refused asylum it’s because they’re bogus

Myth 6: Most immigrants are criminals & cracking down on immigration cuts crime

Myth 7: We can’t afford to support them

Myth 8: It’d be more effective to help them in their own countries

Myth 9: We’re being flooded with immigrants

Myth 10: Our Culture and identity are under Threat from ‘multi-culturalism’ due to immigration

Myth 11: We take more than our fair share of immigrants

Myth 12: Immigrants are stealing our jobs

: Immigrant families often endanger and use their children

Conclusion – Time to call ignorance , lies and prejudice ignorance, lies and prejudice


Introduction: What do terms like ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ actually mean ?

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First there is a lot of confusion about what terms like ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ mean so here is an explanation.

An immigrant is anyone leaving one country and coming to another hoping to live permanently in it.

A migrant worker is someone coming into a country looking for a job temporarily and intending to return home when they have earned some money.

An ‘asylum seeker’ is someone who is seeking asylum. This means they are applying to be given the status of a refugee in another country on the basis that they face persecution in the country they have left under the 1951 Geneva Conventions on Refugees.

‘A Refugee’. - If an asylum seeker’s application for asylum is granted by immigration officials they become a ‘refugee’ in that country. They will be given either temporary or permanent leave to remain. If the leave to stay is temporary they can stay for a limited period until the government of the host country claims their country is safe for them to return home. If it is permanent they should sooner or later be able to become a citizen of the country and no longer be a refugee.

An ‘internally displaced person’ is someone who has been forced to leave their home and go to a refugee camp somewhere else in the same country ( whether they were forced by other people , a government or natural disaster)

Now for some myths and the truth about them

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Myth 1 : They’re mostly ‘bogus asylum seekers’ or ‘economic migrants’

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Politicians, government officials and even some trade unionists are quick to claim that “90 per cent of people who come to Britain are not genuine asylum seekers but economic migrants” as Martin Slade , General Secretary of the UK Immigration Service Union put it

Are most asylum seekers quite safe in their home countries? A look at the countries they come from makes that seem very unlikely - as shown in this Institute for Public Policy Research report.

Between 1990 and 2000 almost sixty per cent of immigrants to European Union countries came from Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Romania, Sri Lanka , Iran or Somalia. Immigrants from Afghanistan are the largest group of refugees in the world at 2.5 million.

In Britain in the last quarter of 2004 some of the commonest countries of origin for asylum seekers were also Iraq, Afghanistan Iran and Somalia – along with China.

Look at the Amnesty International Reports for these countries in their annual report and you will see that people in these countries have plenty of reason to fear torture or death.

Here are some more details on some of these countries – including why many people are facing persecution in Romania , despite the rubbish the Daily Mail and other newspapers print

Romania & the rest of Europe – persecution of Romany or ‘gypsies’

The Democratic Republic of Congo

China

Iraq

Afghanistan

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Romania and Europe - Persecution of the Romany or 'gypsies'

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The parents of Conservative party leader Michael Howard were Romanian Jews who fled to Britain in the 1930s as fascism began to grow across the continent and were among the minority granted the right to stay and eventual citizenship. The one and only positive result of the holocaust was that it is no longer acceptable to be anti-Semitic.

You might think that means Romania and the rest of central and Eastern Europe is a safe place to live now. In fact it’s not if you’re a member of another minority who were sent to the gas chambers by the Nazis. Roma, Romanies or ‘gypsies’ are persecuted across Europe.

They were targeted again by both sides in the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia – with Serbian and Albanian paramilitaries attacking them in Kosovo – and they are still under threat there.

Across much of Europe Romany face persecution and can be arrested, beaten or killed without anyone being charged for these crimes.

To give one example

‘In November 2003 in Petrosani, 41-year-old Olga David, a Romani woman, died from injuries reportedly suffered 10 days earlier when she was severely beaten by three security guards at a coal mine. Together with her 12-year-old niece, Olga David had been collecting coal to heat her home, a single room without electricity or running water.’

The UN report that almost all Roma live in poverty and one sixth of them are starving to death. Most never get a proper education. Romany children in the Czech Republic are sent to schools for the mentally retarded. In some Czech towns the Romany are made to live in separate ghettos and walls built to keep them out of the rest of the town.

You would think the British press would be campaigning for an end to the persecution of the Romany – instead the Daily Mail in October 1998 ranted ‘Who’s being persecuted in Romania? No-one. That’s who.’

You would think that the British government would be prepared to grant Romany asylum. Instead British immigration officials were sent to Prague airport in the Czech Republic to ensure that no Romany were allowed to fly to the UK – a practice only ended in late 2001 when an under-cover Romany journalist used a hidden camera to reveal what was going on.

The Law Lords – the highest appeal court of the UK – ruled in December 2004 that the British government’s discrimination against Roma in its immigration policy is illegal

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The Democratic Republic of Congo

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The Democratic Republic of Congo is facing a civil war which has continued off and on since the British, Belgian and American governments backed a military coup which overthrew the first elected Prime Minister of Congo in 1960 (1). Warlords and their militias effectively run the country, selling mineral resources to British, European and American multinationals. There are invasions from militias and armies of neighbouring countries who take one side or other in the civil war – or just loot anything valuable. Massacres, rapes and torture are common. Over 6 million people have been killed in the Congo as a result – more than were killed in the holocaust. Yet just 200 out of over 1,800 applications from asylum seekers from the DRC were granted by the UK’s Home office in 2003.

Offline Sources

(1) = Ludo De Witte (2001) , ‘The Assassination of Lumumba’ , Verso , London & New York , 2001

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China

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The Chinese government locks up people who try to form independent trade unions and other dissidents in lunatic asylums. It brutally suppresses demonstrations just like it did at Tianenmen square. China’s still a one party state. If you get pregnant after having a child you’ve breached the One Child Policy and you’ll be arrested and taken away for a forced abortion. If you then campaign against forced abortions you’ll be sent for‘re-education’ – which involves being beaten , hung by your arms from the ceiling, held in insane asylums, and given electric shocks until you admit your ‘error’ – like Mao Hengfeng.

Do our governments let people trying to escape China find safety in Britain? No. We treat them as ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and they die in the back of trucks trying to get into Britain in the hope of living in safety with the same freedoms we take for granted. Or we put them on a plane back. Meanwhile the Department for International Development increases aid to China due to its ‘improved human rights record’ – even though Amnesty International say its getting worse.

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Iraq

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Iraqis suffered dictatorship and sanctions until March 2003 followed by war until May 2003 then terrorism, military occupation and torture which continues till the present.

Islamic fundamentalists continue kill civilians in suicide and car bombings while torture and killing of civilians by occupying British and American troops, and the Iraqi police and National Guard of the Iraqi Interim government of Iyad Allawi which the occupying forces are training, is widespread according to Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch and The International Red Cross. The idea that Iraqis have nothing to fear in their country and are just coming here for the money is laughable.

Yet as far as the British government is concerned Iraqis fleeing torture or death weren’t welcome while Saddam was in power and they’re not welcome now. Of over 6,400 Iraqis seeking refugee status in the UK from January to June 2004 only 5 were granted asylum. Home Secretary David Blunkett made the ludicrous claim that with Saddam overthrown Iraqis no longer faced any threat. The vast majority of Iraqi asylum seekers face deportation back to Iraq despite protests by the UN and Amnesty International that they will not be safe there.

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Afghanistan

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“They are making money out of us. Everyone is making money. But local people are angry at us. They think it is us that are getting too much”

Mohammed Asgar, an Afghan refugee fleeing the Taliban working illegally for £2.50 per hour on under £30 per week in benefits in Glasgow in 2001

Most people will be well aware of the torture , killings and repression of women which took place under the Taliban from the late 1990s till October 2001.

What is less well known is that torture and killings did not end with the overthrow of the Taliban. According to the US-based Human Rights Watch the occupying US forces, warlords allied to them and the police and military of the new Afghan central government of Hamid Karzai all continue to torture and kill civilians – and attacks by Taliban rebels have not ended. Women continue to be repressed. There is massive poverty as a result of decades of war and the only source of income for most Afghan farmers is to grow poppies sold for heroin production. No wonder there are 2.5 million Afghan refugees in the world.

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Myth 2 : There are more immigrants every year and our government let more immigrants in every year

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Immigration rises and falls due to events. For instance the Kosovo war in 1999 led to a 55% increase in immigration to the UK due to ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serb paramilitaries , bombing by NATO , and ethnic cleansing of Serb civilians by the Albanian KLA

The number of people applying for asylum in the third quarter of 2004 compared to the third quarter of 2003 was down 24% for EU countries and down 29% for Australia and New Zealand (Source UNHCR (200 Asylum Trends in Industrialised Countries – Last Quarter 2004)

The British government deported 83% of the people who applied for asylum in the UK in 2003.

It is true that over the past 35 years the level of immigration globally has increased greatly – but the majority of immigration is between developing countries and the remainder is partly the result of three factors.

First political support and economic co-operation between some EU governments and the US and Canadian government and extremely repressive regimes with bad and often worsening human rights records. EU countries (including Britain) and the US have negotiated extensive trade deals with China and increased foreign aid to the Chinese government despite its widespread human rights abuses. Saddam Hussein was backed by the British, French and US governments in the 1980s. There was extensive co-operation between the Sudanese government and western oil firms investing there to force southern Sudanese villagers out to make way for oil pipelines in the 1990s..

Second wars and civil wars have developed as a result of the strains of free market ‘reforms’ , the collapse of Communist states , and the US feeling free to go to war on any country it wants to due to its greater global dominance as the sole remaining superpower

Third the growing gap between rich and poor , both between and within countries, largely as a result of ‘free market reforms’ has led to more people being left in levels of poverty which leave them unable to feed themselves in their home countries.

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Myth 3 : They come here to live off benefits & live better than most people born here

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Most people granted refugee status in EU countries including the UK are granted only ‘temporary leave’ to stay in the country , not a permanent right to live there. Temporary refugees do not have the right to work or the right to claim benefit , nor are they guaranteed housing.

Of those asylum seekers who do get benefits most get only 75% of income support in the UK – an average of £38 a week. Families get less per person than individuals. In 2000 a family of 4 Kosovan Albanians got just £107 altogether in benefits – less than £30 each.

Whats more only £10 of this per person is cash – the rest is in the form of vouchers , which are being replaced with electronically read ‘smart cards’. Whether it’s a voucher or a smart card you can only spend that voucher or use that ‘smart card’ in certain shops – principally some of the main supermarket chains . So no buying cheap food with most of your money.

Would you travel half-way round the world for £38 a week in Britain , when £28 of that was in vouchers or on cards that you could only spend in some fairly expensive supermarket chains? No. Most of these people are here either because they don’t want to be killed or tortured – or because they want to work and earn a wage.

Nor are ‘detention centres’ for asylum seekers , as some newspapers would have you believe, 5 star hotels. They are effectively prisons, run by private companies for profit on government contracts. People, sometimes whole families, guilty of no crime are held there for months – sometimes years. The windows have grilles on them and the doors are made of steel. You can only move from one room to another under guard at the prescribed times.

People are dragged away screaming or crying in the middle of the night, bundled into a van, then a plane, and sent back to countries where governments , militias , armies , police or religious lunatics are waiting to torture or kill them – or to third countries where they may go through the asylum process all over again before being deported to their country of origin.

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Myth 4: There’s no racism or prejudice involved

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Example 1 : ‘Bogus asylum seeker’ speeches cause racist attacks

Police research in 2001 showed that the number of racially motivated attacks in Britain increased by 300% after speeches by politicians attacking ‘bogus asylum seekers’. In the final week of the election there were racist attacks from Glasgow to Dover , race riots in Oldham and the neo-fascist British National Party got 16% of the vote in some constituencies.


Example 2 : Britain and Zimbabwean asylum seekers – no blacks please we’re British

The British government and the Conservative party rightly condemn torture, murder and repression of the Zimbabwean opposition by Mugabe’s government.

If much of the concern over immigration isn’t racist its funny that no-one has a problem about white Zimbabweans being given the right to stay in Britain indefinitely – but they all think it’s quite right that the government sends back black Movement for Democratic Change supporters , even though a dozen black Zimbabwean MDC supporters are killed by Mugabe’s followers for every white farmer.

Don’t mis-understand me. I think its completely right that the government allowed white Zimbabweans into the country in 2001 – even going as far as giving them special treatment by not making them go through the normal asylum process so long as one of their grandparents was born in Britain.

In November 2001 alone 150 black Zimbabwean MDC supporters were sent back to face torture or death. Then in 2002 Home Secretary David Blunkett effectively criminalised black Zimbabwean asylum seekers by changing the immigration rules so that they will have their asylum application rejected unless they get a visa in their country of origin Zimbabwe. Since the British embassy in Zimbabwe isn’t in the habit of giving out visas (and probably under orders not to give out more than a handful) anyone seeking asylum from Zimbabwe who didn’t have one British grandparent is now automatically an illegal immigrant.


Example 3 : Britain and Roma or ‘Gypsy’ asylum seekers

no gypsies please we’re British

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Myth 5 : If they’re refused asylum it’s because they’re bogus

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Whether you look at the figures for the UK or the entire EU around 60% of asylum seekers come from countries where they face persecution as minorities (e.g Roma/gypsies fleeing Romania and other central and Eastern European countries , Kurds fleeing Turkey) , civil war (e.g Congo) or other serious threats to their lives.

Yet 83% of all asylum applications in the UK were rejected – because the government have set quotas for the numbers to be deported each quarter and each year.

With the quota system used by the British government since 2000 many asylum seekers are refused leave to stay simply because there are quotas to meet for the number deported annually.

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Myth 6 : Most immigrants are criminals & cracking down on immigration cuts crime

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Police statistics show immigrants are more likely to be the victims of crimes than to commit crimes themselves – especially soon after newspaper headlines or speeches about ‘bogus asylum seekers’ which have been shown to cause racist attacks to treble in the days after them.

There is certainly organised crime, and much of it international – drug smuggling, smuggling of counterfeit goods, and even teenage girls kidnapped and forced to work as prostitutes.

The idea that cracking down on all immigrants will help stop this though is the opposite of the truth. The majority of immigrants are not criminals. By wasting money , manpower and time on employing thousands of customs officials, immigration service officers, police and private ‘detention centre’ guards on chasing , arresting , locking up and deporting these people we are wasting resources that could be used to deal with the minority of actual criminals – both British criminals and ‘immigrant’ criminals.

We’re also making organised crime a fortune because they have a new racket which we’ve given them by making it illegal just to enter the country – people trafficking and forgery. The life savings of many asylum seekers are spent paying these gangs to smuggle them into other countries in the hope that they’ll be safe there , and on paying for forged visas and passports. Remember the British government expect people running for their lives to have all their documents handy – and often to have stopped off at the British embassy to pick up a visa (despite the fact that the British embassy in their country is instructed not to give out visas).

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK unless they have been granted asylum – a process which can take from months to years. During that time, given that they get £38 a week each – or less if they are a family - some turn to begging in order to survive or feed their children. This frequently leads to a tirade from the government and the conservatives about ‘aggressive beggars’ and encouragement from the government to police and judges to arrest and convict those guilty of ‘aggressive begging’. The government then lets it be known that since these people are now guilty of committing a crime their asylum applications are likely to be refused.

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Myth 7 : We can’t afford to support them

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On Home Office figures foreign born workers in the UK bring in 10% more revenue in tax and national insurance every year – more than £2 billion - than they cost in benefits and use of services like the NHS.

From May to September 2004 ninety thousand migrant and refugee workers from central and Eastern Europe countries which had joined the EU on May 1st contributed £120 million to the UK economy and £20 million in taxes. Only 16 out of 90,000 claimed benefits.

Many wealthy countries face a falling population due to emigration and falling birth rates which could cause economic decline unless there is increased immigration. In other words without immigration our economies will contract

Of course if you make it harder and harder to claim asylum more of them will work illegally – and pay no tax whatsoever.

The ‘pensions crisis’ caused by our aging and falling population is constantly referred to by the two main parties. Well we have a ready made solution – immigration. (Of course the pensions crisis is largely the result of the government allowing the value of the state pension to fall and planning to phase it out but that’s another matter).

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Myth 8 : It’d be more effective to help them in their own countries

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Apart from the fact that many of them would be in jail , tortured , raped or dead in their own countries (they’re mostly not economic migrants remember) the foreign aid budgets of most wealthy countries are puny – most don’t even come close to the 0.7% of annual national income requested by the UN.

Migrant workers with jobs in the wealthy countries however sent back $80 billion to their families in the third world in 2002. That’s more than twice the amount of foreign aid given by all the OECD governments put together each year.

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Myth 9: We’re being flooded with immigrants

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In fact birth rates in most of the European Union countries (excluding those which joined after 1999) are falling so fast, and there is so much emigration from them, that they need greatly increased immigration in order to maintain their current population levels and prevent their populations ageing to the extent that the working age population cannot support those who have retired on pensions.

Unless immigration to the UK rises our population will fall by 3 million by 2050 on current projections

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Myth 10: Our Culture and identity are under threat from ‘multi-culturalism’ due to immigration

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The idea that culture is a fixed and unchanging tradition handed down unchanged from one generation to the next is obviously false – and a good thing too. If culture, laws and traditions could never be changed we would all be living in very backward and repressive societies.

Just as a living language can take and modify useful words from other languages a culture can benefit from hearing of other ways of viewing the world and behaving. Languages like Latin became irrelevant and stopped being spoken because they were restricted to an elite. Our culture will not thrive if it doesn’t gain from interaction with other cultures and belief systems.

There is no such thing as cultural purity any more than racial purity – all countries contain people of mixed race and mixed culture and they always have.

Even before 1066 Britain had a mixture of Picts, Celts, Vikings, Angles, Saxons , Jutes and Danes among others. It also had some African, Italian, African and Arab culture and genes thrown in from the Roman legions sent here. The Normans were also a cultural and racial mixture of Franks and Danish Vikings. The slave trade, shameful as it was, brought more African culture and genes to Britain. So the idea that ‘racial’ or cultural mixtures , or high levels of immigration, are anything new to Britain is nonsense.

Muslim ‘culture’ is not monolithic any more than Christian culture or secular European culture is. A minority of Muslims – like a minority of Christians – are fanatical fundamentalists who want to convert or suppress all other viewpoints. The majority are not. Many Muslim refugees are trying to escape repressive Islamic fundamentalists or dictators.

There are as many different interpretations of Islam and the Koran as there are of Christianity and the bible. Many Muslim women are using passages from the Koran to demand greater rights and freedoms.

There is no threat to our culture – we can only benefit from being able to adopt what we like from other cultures and reject what we dislike.

Personally I’m glad we’re no longer ruled by absolute monarchs, burning witches, having pogroms against jews , keeping slaves , bear baiting, using children as chimney sweeps, forcing girls to have backstreet abortions , or being forced into church on a Sunday by halberdiers. These changes are the result of cultural change which happens over generations irrespective of the amount of immigrants coming into a society.

The bigots have simply realised that it ‘the threat to our culture’ is a euphemism that sounds more acceptable than ‘the threat to our racial purity’.

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Myth 11 : We take more than our fair share of immigrants

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There are far more refugees going to third world countries every year than to wealthy ones.

The countries hosting the largest number of refugees in the world are Pakistan with 1.1 million and Iran with 985,000.

The majority of immigrants in the world go to Asian and African countries which between them host over 60% of all the refugees ,asylum seekers and internally displaced people in the world.

Latin American countries host another 8%.

The whole of Europe , including Russia and other countries outside the EU , host 25%. Oceania - including Australia and New Zealand - hosts 0.4%. , the US and Canada between them 5%.

(source - UNHCR basic facts)

Only 0.5% of the UK’s population are refugees without permanent leave to remain or asylum seekers. Fifty-five out of 163 countries in the world have a higher proportion of refugees and asylum seekers per head of population than the UK.

Most of the countries with the highest proportion of temporary refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people in their population are third world countries or former Communist ones. Bosnia has the highest at over 2% , Liberia comes second.

(Source – IPPR (2005) , ‘Asylum in the UK’ )

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Myth 12: Immigrants are stealing our jobs

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There is very little truth in this. The truth is that governments and companies in the wealthier countries have not been prepared to invest in training and education – particularly for nurses, doctors and the trades – plumbing , joining and so on. As a result there is a shortage of people trained in these skills, the prices tradespeople can charge for their work has gone up to £20 an hour or more and some migrant workers with these skills who are prepared to work for less have come to fill the shortage.

This problem could be solved by government schemes to provide grants or long term zero interest loans to anyone wanting to study a trade such as plumbing or joinery for instance , and giving similar grants to practising tradespeople to take on apprentices. Stopping migrant workers filling the skills gap in the short term would only lead to an even worse shortage of these skills – and an even higher price to pay for people wanting to get broken pipes or floor boards fixed.

The shortage of doctors and nurses could be dealt with by increasing wages for nurses and cutting working hours for both nurses and junior doctors – both of whom (in Britain at least) are forced to work such long shifts that they are working half-asleep and end up making mistakes in diagnosis and medication which could easily be avoided if their weekly hours and shift lengths were cut. It would also encourage more people to join the profession.

Migrant workers will also frequently do jobs that most people in EU Countries don’t want to do – cleaning for instance.

It’s also worth considering what would most likely happen currently if no immigrant workers were allowed into the country. The rate at which multinational firms are re-locating production and jobs to third world and Eastern European countries with lower or no effective minimum wage would just increase.

There are possible solutions to this problem but cutting immigration isn’t one of them.

One would be for EU governments, Canada, the US , Australia and New Zealand to offer increased foreign aid to third world countries and the poorer of the former Communist countries on the condition that they first introduce a minimum wage or increase their existing minimum wage, with phased increases every year after that.

Another would be to make the legal minimum redundancy pay for employees to reduce the economic benefits for companies relocating plants simply to exploit third world and eastern European workers for lower wages.

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Myth 13: Immigrant families often endanger and use their children

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard has falsely accused asylum seekers who were headed to Australia by boat of throwing their children overboard in order to force the Australian coastguard to rescue them and take them ashore.

Australian navy officers admitted that in fact asylum seeker children only ended up in the sea with their parents when their boat was sunk during a navy operation to prevent them getting to the Australian mainland.

British politicians have also accused Romany and Kosovan asylum seekers of ‘aggressively begging’ and ‘cynically exploiting their children’ to beg.

This is somewhat ironic given that the British government give asylum seeker families only £10 in cash benefits per person per week to survive in the UK – and banned them from working until their asylum claims are heard, which can take months.

How else would they feed their children then except by begging? And where would their children be safer than with their parents?

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Conclusion – Time to call ignorance, lies and prejudice ignorance, lies and prejudice

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The British government have set quotas for the number of refugees to be deported each year, in clear breach of the 1951 UN Conventions on Refugees, to which the UK is a signatory. The opposition Conservative party want to go further and set quotas for the maximum number to be allowed into the country each year. How can quotas be reconciled with judging each case fairly? Good question.

Even those people granted asylum in the UK will not be allowed to stay permanently on Home Secretary Charles Clarke’s latest plans. So what will happen to Afghans, Iraqis , Serbs , Albanians and Romany gypsies if their countries aren’t safe at the end of this period ? They’ll be sent back despite the fact they still face genuine persecution and a real threat of torture or death. That’s a breach of the Geneva Conventions and worse it’s simply wrong. All that Britain will offer refugees in future is apparently a stay of execution at best.

.Un-skilled ‘immigrants will find it hard to get into the country, just as in Australia , due to quotas and a ‘points system’ for deciding who will be given a place. This plan is based on the usual false premise that most immigrants are economic migrants. By confusing the issues of economic migration and asylum it will punish genuine refugees seeking asylum in Britain and Australia. How exactly are Romany gypsies meant to become skilled workers when their children are mostly sent to schools for the retarded in the Czech Republic ? How are Afghans and Congolese meant to acquire skills in countries fighting civil wars decades long ?

Politics, as Tony Blair never tires of telling us, is all about tough choices.

There’s a tough choice to be made right now about what to do about growing levels of prejudice and hatred and whether to oppose it , even at the risk of being unpopular while doing so , or pander to it so that it grows more respectable, more acceptable and more people start to believe all the rubbish that is talked about immigrants.

It’s a choice between sticking to the principles of the Geneva Conventions which are one of the things that separate us from the dictatorships and fanatics who we say we oppose and despise – or else throwing those principles away one at a time for a short term advantage over political rivals and ending up just the same, with no-one’s right to exist in peace being guaranteed any more in the end.

So far our government, four opposition parties (the Conservative party, the United Kingdom Independence Party, the British National Party and Kilroy Silk’s Veritas ) and many people in this country are taking the easy option of trying to make themselves popular by using immigrants as a scapegoat for all our problems.

They’ve forgotten that the way immigrants are talked about now is the way that Jews were talked about in the 1930s not just in Germany but all across Europe including in Britain. They’ve forgotten that we didn’t bomb the rail lines going to Auschwitz and Dachau and sent back shiploads of Jewish refugees because we though ‘the Jews always tend to exaggerate’.

And not a thing has changed between 1930 and now if you replace the word ‘Jews’ in the newspaper headlines and the speeches and the gossip with ‘immigrants’. The same prejudice and hatred is being allowed to develop. Jews/immigrants are criminals. Jews/immigrants are taking all our money/jobs/women/begging while they’ve plenty. Jews/immigrants are liars/cheats. There are too many Jews/immigrants in this country already.

Many newspapers are also guilty of telling blatant lies about asylum seekers and they should not be allowed to get off with it.

The Sun newspaper in Britain for instance ran stories complete with bogus statistics about supposedly ‘bogus’ asylum seekers.

In Australia the media regurgitated blatantly untrue claims by the ‘Liberal Party’ government - including the Prime Minister John Howard – that asylum seekers trying to sail to Australia had thrown their children into the sea.

The Press Complaints Commission’s own guidelines on corrections say that where a complaint is upheld by the commission against a newspaper that newspaper should print a correction and apology ‘as prominent’ as the original claim. That means if a newspaper runs a front page headline story with false claims in it it should have to run another front page headline story admitting its claims weren’t true. Time the PCC enforced this properly – and the government gave it the legal powers – including the power to impose large fines for failure to promptly run a correction story , and the power to have a newspaper banned until it does so if it continues to refuse to.

Its time also for each of us to make a tough choice and the next time you hear someone complaining about immigrants or asylum seekers decide. Are you going to agree and help the prejudice grow ? Or will you say no , the truth is immigrants don’t get much in benefits and most of them are trying to escape torture or death and most of the rest want a job ?

It might not make you popular at the time or with some people – but think about it.

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