I wrote to my MP, Jonathan Djanogly, recently: here is my email and his reply:
Dear Mr Djanogly,
I don’t really need a reply to this message; I just wanted to let you know how appalled I am at your colleague Mark Harper’s antics over immigration this summer.
First the posters, with words that would earn me 24 months in jail if I painted them on the side of my house, then the stop-and-question fiasco (‘Hmm, he looks a bit furtive’) which Mr Harper claims is non-racist (but as you will know if you heard him on Today, racism is a charge he cannot refute effectively).
I don’t usually agree with Mr Farage, but he’s right on this – the posters should have read ‘Don’t vote UKIP, vote Tory’.
Usually I’m proud to be British – but this sort of thing makes me ashamed, to be honest.
And here is his reply:
Dear Mr Cumberland
Thank you for contacting me about the illegal immigrant returns pilot scheme.
I appreciate your concern regarding this issue. However, I do not believe that it is racist to ask people who are here illegally to leave Britain. It is merely telling them to comply with the law. This pilot is about encouraging as many illegal migrants as possible to leave this country voluntarily, allowing them to do so without arrest or detention. Voluntary departures are also far less expensive for the taxpayer. With enforced removals costing up to £15,000 on average, maximising voluntary removals is clearly a sensible thing to do. This pilot builds on the Government’s ongoing work on voluntary returns, which saw more than 28,000 voluntary departures last year.
The Government is making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK. But there is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs; help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily.
This work is just another part of the Government’s reforms to fix the immigration system so that it’s fair to hardworking people who do the right thing and play by the rules. The Government’s measures have cut out abuse and seen net migration drop to its lowest levels in nearly a decade. I therefore also welcome the Immigration Bill being introduced later this year, which will build on this work by restricting illegal migrants’ access to benefits and services, get tough on those using illegal labour and make it easier to deport foreign criminals.
Thank you for contacting me on this issue.
I’m not sure any comment is necessary; but just for the record I should point out that this is, presumably, a cut-and-paste response as Mr Djanogly ignored some of my points and replied to suggestions I had not made.
It is disingenuous to claim that the nasty ‘Go Home’ campaign is nothing more than telling people to comply with the law; it is also creating a climate of suspicion and unease in the communities where the pilot has been run, and the adverts are being investigated by ASA, the advertising watchdog; they have been condemned by Liberty, Amnesty, Refugee Action and Freedom from Torture.
Mr Djanogly (or whoever wrote his reply) makes the silly mistake of conflating ‘immigration’ and ‘illegal immigration’; this has little to do with ‘net migration’ and ignores the benefits to the UK of having young, enthusiastic immigrants here. As I’ve pointed out before, the OECD found that immigrants have improved the UK’s public finances by contributing more to the state than they take out. We have a long history of tolerance in this country, and generations of immigrants have helped to make the UK great. Reducing immigration does little more than parade our new-found intolerance while reducing the prospect of future prosperity. We have an ageing population. Who will look after us when we are old? Who will staff our NHS? Who will run the businesses which will generate the wealth to pay our pensions?
(Just as a matter of interest, if migration is such a bad thing, when is the government going to stop British citizens going to work in Germany or retiring to live in Spain?)