Talking Politics: The problem with getting tough on migrants

A migrant sits under the trailer of a lorry as he attempts to cross the English Channel, in Calais. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A migrant sits under the trailer of a lorry as he attempts to cross the English Channel, in Calais. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

A new salary threshold now in force means foreign workers from outside the EU will have to leave the country after six years unless they’re earning £35,000 a year. It’s one of those rules dreamed up by politicians who you suspect haven’t a clue of how the world outside Westminster works.

Maybe £35,000 is a modest wage in London, where it might just about cover a month’s rent on an asbestos shack in a drainage ditch, but for millions across the country it’s in the realms of fantasy, a dream salary that many diligent workers will never attain even by the end of their career.

So in essence this is a way of ensuring that the vast majority of foreigners who come here to work can’t hope to settle - a state of affairs that will hardly promote integration and good community relations. And if the UK votes to leave the EU, you can bet it won’t be long before EU citizens fall under the same rules. It is the first step on the road to mass resettlement by the back door.

Not to mention the effect on the health service.

Thousands of nurses will be forced off the NHS payroll at a time when they’re desperately needed - 7,000 of them by the end of the decade, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

This will further increase the reliance on overpriced nursing agencies - which is where anyone approaching their sixth year will surely end up, as it’s the only way they can hope to reach the magic £35,000 mark.

And these are just the skilled workers. The root problem of migrant labour being paid a pittance to do the jobs nobody else wants will remain unaddressed. There’ll just be a higher turnover of staff.

Not to mention that anyone who makes their way into the country illegally, by definition, can’t be held to any of these draconian rules in the first place.

In light of all this, the amazing thing is that so many people are still so desperate to come to the UK. This week’s scenes in Calais, where thousands of migrants are now camped, breaking into lorries in broad daylight in a bid to stow away, hammer home just how bad things must be elsewhere.

How desperate would you have to be to risk life, limb and liberty trying to sneak into a country that is doing its level best to make you feel unwelcome? Worldwide, there are an estimated 60 million people classed as ‘displaced’ – forced to leave their country and looking to settle in another. The problem won’t just go away if we close our eyes, or indeed our borders.