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Let’s celebrate the positive role of migration in building modern Britain

multicultural union jackAs the general election campaign comes to a climax it remains open season on migrants. London needs to voice its resistance. 

London is a world class city. Its cultural and economic power comes from its openness to the people of the world. International investment and international relations drive its contribution to the economy. The contribution of migrant communities to London is to be celebrated. From the historic presence of Romans to Huguenots, to the 20th century waves of Jewish, Irish, Caribbean, Asian and more recently Eastern European communities, every community comes to this city and London proudly embraces and showcases their skills, talent, culture and cuisine.

However last year the Coalition government announced last year that it was going to withdraw funding from the “Mare Nostrum” lifesaving operation which was saving migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean. Their argument was that by saving people from drowning they were encouraging illegal migration. I stood up in Parliament and condemned this decision. I descibed it as a “Let them drown” policy and said it represented a new low in anti-immigrant policy.

Tragically as a direct result of cutting the funding for saving migrants drowning at sea over a thousand people have drowned in the Mediterranean last month alone. This is why as a London MP, I have joined those condemning the failures of the EU and UK governments to respond rapidly, and humanely, to the tragedy of over 1000 people drowning in the Mediterranean this month.

To scaremonger against vulnerable people, fleeing war, facing a horrific death shows how far, and devastatingly effective, the toxic debate on migration has become against those it targets. Instead of reinstating the rescue operations as is urgently needed, their plight has led to a hysterical discussion about numbers and bombing boats. This is sadly nothing new. The Aliens Act of 1905 was set up to deport Jewish migrants fleeing the persecution of Tsars and deport those who managed to enter the country.

It should come as no surprise that the UN has condemned our media for vilifying migrants, referring to the chilling comments by Katie Hopkins in The Sun describing migrants as ‘cockroaches’, citing it as a word used by the Nazis and in the Rwanda genocide.

We cannot afford for our international relationship to be dented by a hostile and hysterical debate. Migrants contribute to the economy. This is part of the success story of London. If the migrant workers in London went on strike for a day, as has been the case in cities in the US, it would not only be the NHS that would grind to a standstill, but also many of our public services, and indeed other parts of London from the richest parts of the city downwards.

Ironically, this would also affect the leafleting operations of UKIP, whose toxic propaganda against migrants doesn’t bar them from utilising their labour – a microcosm, if ever one was needed, of how migrant labour is exploited and then vilified for political capital.

We must all be assertive about the positive role of migration in building modern Britain. Decades after the hateful words of Enoch Powell, whose ‘rivers of blood‘ speech whipped up racism that scars even today, London has proved him to be utterly wrong. London has been exemplary, be it in its united response to the devastating terrorist bombing in London on 7/7 or in winning the Olympic bid the day before, precisely because it is a city of the world that operates with its arms wide open to the world.

The Mayor of a global world class city like London must celebrate its openness and stand up for the myriad of communities that make it great.

The EU’s inhumane policy to migrants in the Mediterranean fails to recognise the effectiveness in an open approach and instead capitulates to the pressure of far right parties which are advancing by migrant-bashing. This must be stood up to. Rescue operations need to be reinstated right now.

In the end we all lose out, but none more so than those who are currently dying in their hundreds in the Mediterranean.


  1. David Pavett says:

    It is easy to agree with Diane Abbott that immigrants have contributed massively to every aspect of life in Britain. A history of Britain which did not include that contribution would be a history of Britain in name only.

    It is also obviously right to keep up the campaign against racism and against the demonisation of vulnerable people.

    But can it be satisfactory simply saying the things that are easy to say while remaining silent over the more difficult issues associated with the same question?

    The politically contentious issue is not whether immigrants make a positive contribution to the economy. Even UKIP admits that. The issue is whether or not there should be some control over the level of immigration. That rather more difficult issue is compounded by a second one: the EU’s policy of free movement. Is this really a sustainable policy? Is it even desirable?

    These are the issues that need to be discussed and after reading Diane Abbott’s piece we know only what she thinks about the easy bits while having absolutely no idea what her thoughts are on the more difficult and contentious aspects of the problem.

    Last year net migration into the UK was 225,000 which is the size of a fair sized city (like Aberdeen). That poses real challenges in terms of housing, schools and social services as well as in terms of the impact on communities under stress. Regarding the latter it has to be said that this impact is felt most in working class areas.

    So is it enough for the left to simply remind themselves of what they already know (Britain is an immigrant nation, successive waves of immigration have brought great benefits etc., etc) while failing to contact with the difficult and contentious aspects of the question?

    Without some attempt to address these points one is left with the impression that all immigration at all times and for whatever purpose is a good thing and that the question of control/managment of large flows of population should not be on the political agenda. Is this what Diane Abbott wants to say? I really don’t know. I think that she should tell us.

    1. Robert says:

      Totally agree with that, we have always accepted immigrants, but to be honest what Blair did and the reasons he did it, the non house building was wrong.

      But I’m the son of an immigrants, and when Blair allowed in so many to lower wages in the main what can people say, and without building or helping the areas which were flooded like mine.

      people are now angry and annoyed by the families who cannot get council houses , cannot get dentist or cannot find low paid jobs.

  2. Billericaydickie says:

    Both of the above are good comments but you will never get the likes of Ms Abbott and her open borders approach to enter into a real discussion on the matter of immigration.

    There is of course no reason why she should. She lives in a house worth slightly under two million, pulls in about a 100k per year and sends her child to a private school. She also thinks white people ” divide and rule ” non whites.

    She is hardly the kind of person to be listened to on the question of immigration but never mind.

    1. Matty says:

      Well, she wouldn’t want to talk to you because you have a criminal record of racially-aggravated harassment

      1. John p Reid says:

        Marty could you put your full name, that way Billericky Dickie, would have to reveal who he or she is.

        By the way, Diane Abbott has praised Darcis Howe who has a similar ,criminal record

        1. Robert says:

          How would you know my real name, is my real name. My name is Robert if you need to know what my other name is then ask Left futures because they have it. I normally use Robertc because we have so many Robert’s C is my surname.

          1. John p Reid says:

            I thought it was Phew?, it would stop MATTY questioning if dicky was Terry fitz

        2. Matty says:

          I’m not questioing who Billericaydickie is because it is obvious that he is Terry Fitzpatrick. Look at the article I linked to “I had seen the ugly side of Fitzpatrick – and his troll-like internet alter-egos billericaydicky and terryfitz – over many years.”

          1. John p Reid says:

            Oh well if you say it, it must be true

  3. James Martin says:

    The problem with Diane’s approach is that it confuses the past with the present. Yes, Britain has been shaped by successive waves of immigrants over centuries. Yes, that has been positive.

    However, that is not the same as saying open borders are inherently good. Marx and Engels understood the problems of uncontrolled Irish immigration in terms of social cohesion and undermining organised labour in the 19th century (and their position was not a racist one, particularly given their support for Fenianism and the influence of Lizzie Burns on Engels).

    So when Diane mentions London, I would like to know when there has there been a time when 40% of London residents are born outside the UK as is now the case? The fact that we only have UKIP to deal with rather than a large genuine fascist organisation currently is a testament to the ‘rub a long’ mentality of the British working class, but there are still serious risks here.

    And those risks are nowhere more real than the apartheid situation we have in many cities involving Muslim communities that have yet to be integrated (after decades). Indeed the increasing moves to start state funded Muslim free schools is an indication of just how bad things are.

    And when Diane talks about the situation of the new boat people in the Med, there really are no easy solutions there other than the need to resolve the situations in their countries of origin that make them want to risk their lives to come to a perceived land of opportunity and wealth. I have heard calls for organising transport for them into Europe, but then just how many would that be – a million, 2 million, 10 million, all coming for their free tickets and visas? And what would that mean for the labour movement and social cohesion if we have a new version of the Irish navvies undermining both, and with perhaps a London population where far more than 50% are born outside the UK? What would that mean for public services like the NHS? What would it mean for housing allocation? What would it mean for a new threat of fascist reaction?

  4. Verity says:

    In her use of the word ‘openness’, Diane Abbot shows her journey from a socialist perspective to a conservative – liberal one. ‘Openness’ is not synonymous with liberal or anarchic markets. Socialism involves planning, social responsibility, duty and commitment, with obligations to migrants and to hosts. To adopt an ‘open’ market is irresponsibly negligent and much more consistent with Thatcherism or the individualist culture of many post – communist Eastern Europeans. Vilification of migrants is a consequence of the comfortable, lazy thinking of such ‘neo-liberals’.
    The main criticism of Diane’s position though, is that it is static and sloganising, communicating nothing to help. It has not advanced in 40 odd years from the time of someone called Enoch Powell who seemingly had views before I was born or entered the EU. To help, Diane could contribute by moving forward instead of repeating the obsessions of her own past.
    There are several truths about migration that Socialists need to address. Firstly, the savaging of medical professions amongst others services, from Africa, India and the Far East as a result of liberal attitude e.g. ‘making a positive contribution’ to the UK, with its associated dereliction of contributions to home overseas communities. Secondly, the immense comfort of the liberal – Labourites with this imported training subsidy arising from absence years of training investments in Britain. Thirdly, the comfort of Labour’s liberals with low – wage state subsidies which reinforce EU objectives in showing former East European communists how much greater it is to be in ‘our’ club (keep looking Ukraine – you have a future too!). Fourthly, comfort with the serious damage done to number constraint on non Eastern European asylum – seeking refugees by effective displacement from the influx of individualism, get a easier buck, and anti trade union culture from some post communist Eastern Europeans.

  5. swatantra says:

    Unfortunately Di Abbott doesn’t offer any solutions to the Sub Saharan Boat people,
    Its no good saying that we should accept them, without even attempting to tackle the underlying cause for Refugees and Asylum Seekers and that is War, Civil Wars not really of our making, apart from the fact that Imperialists loved drawing straight lines on maps regardless of tribal history culture and ethnicities. But most of these failed States have been independent for 50 years and more, And its about time they got their act together and stopped blaming the World and started blaming themselves for their corruption dictatorships and monarchies. And I’ve stopped believing that famine has any thing to do with their desparate situation. The fault lies in their corrupt leaders, and ultimately on their own heads.
    What can we do, well if whenever we give Aid then it must be conditional with strings attached. Change your systems, otherwise no Aid.

    1. John p Reid says:


      Article on Thurrock, place near us

    2. Robert says:

      No aid and more will come.

  6. David Pavett says:

    Having opened a discussion about immigration with her article, it is disappointing that Diane Abbott cannot find the time to respond to some of the questions posed by the responses above. She has a better track record in terms of responding to discussion than most Left Futures writers so it is a real shame that she has not done so in this case.

  7. David Pavett says:

    Still no response from Diane Abbott. It is possible that her election duties are too intense for that right now. I propose therefore that Left Futures invites her to write another piece in which she deals with some of the problems raised above.

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