End all immigration controls now

The No One is Illegal Group responds to Red Pepper's invitation for alternative proposals to government asylum policy.

April 1, 2004 · 3 min read

In January, Red Pepper initiated a debate on immigration controls and how to oppose them (“Taking the asylum war to Blunkett‘). In the spirit of constructive debate we at the No One is Illegal Group would like to respond.

There was much in Nigel Rose’s original article with which we agree. We agree, for example, that New Labour’s “managed migration’ policy should be opposed. Immigration control has never been about absolute exclusion; it has been about excluding the unchosen and allowing in the necessary – necessary for the British economy. This is achieved by redefining who is “legal’ and who is “illegal’. Politically, it is vital to proceed from the slogan “no one is illegal’. And this is where we diverge from Rose.

He did not demand an end to immigration control. Instead, he said: “The radical alternative, and the one that many of us feel in our hearts is the right one, is the idea of “no borders”: people should be free to go wherever they please.’ We agree with this. But why just keep to the heart? Why not say it publicly? Why not fight for no immigration controls?

Rose’s reluctance, in spite of his heart, to help build a movement for no controls is political self-censorship. People sometimes say that though they personally support a “no control’ position it is too “advanced’ to be argued publicly. It seems there is a real fear about confronting racism.

Six months ago the No One is Illegal Group wrote a manifesto with the aim, like Red Pepper, of stimulating debate. The manifesto ends with a programme of action that advocates the following:

  • To support every single campaign against deportation, and to do this on the basis of solidarity not compassion. No one needs to justify their presence.
  • To support and build every campaign against detention and removal centres, since these are among the most brutal and unjust consequences of immigration controls. No refugees or migrants should be detained simply because they want to be in this country.
  • To fight against all forms of collusion with immigration control and the Home Office. This means local authorities and voluntary sector organisations refusing to implement the government’s new poor laws: break the links between welfare entitlement and immigration status.
  • For workers within the welfare system to refuse to comply with the denial of benefits because of immigration status. Most welfare workers want to provide some form of socially useful service, but now find themselves denying services and part of the apparatus of immigration control.
  • For trade unions to embrace a position of no immigration controls. It is important to form rank and file groupings within unions of workers who are being obliged to enforce immigration controls. Non-compliance by individual workers would leave them vulnerable to victimisation and dismissal.
  • For a massive trade union campaign of recruitment of undocumented workers. This would facilitate a campaign against sweated labour and for migrant rights (eg, to a fair wage, to good working conditions and to work itself). Right now it is unlawful to work without the correct immigration documentation. It would also provide further basis for the undocumented to resist deportation and to fight for the regularisation of their status.

    Could we suggest that Red Pepper organises a debate with speakers for and against the issue of no immigration controls?

    No One Is Illegal Group


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