Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The language of immigration

I won't rise to Milligoon's previous post on the AUT action, except to say that those interested in this should read the information supplied on the AUT website, which details the bad faith of the employers, before making a judgment, rather than just relying on the somewhat sensationalised reports in the press. Anyway, since Milligoon is clearly a comedian, no one is going to take him too seriously are they?

This post is intended to draw your attention to the serious debate now being joined as to whether or not the UK should impose transitional measures in relation to labour migration from Bulgaria and Romania, two countries which are expected to join the European Union on 1 January 2007, provided they get the green light from a Commission report, which is expected imminently. Since it seems likely that Ireland will not follow the line it took with the EU8 workers, and will impose transitional restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers, then it would indeed be likely to be the case that the UK would stand alone, or more or less alone, if it did not impose transitional measures. A Migrationwatch UK report warns of what it sees as the dire dangers of this, indicating to us by-the-by (and totally irrelevantly) that "Bulgaria has 700,000 ethnic Turks and there are 2.5 million Roma in these two countries." Well that's all we need to know, isn't it, about those countries? If there are Turks and Roma there...well for sure we won't be wanting them here...

The reason I picked this up to blog today, is that on Euractiv - a news site which is not normally given to hyperbolic language - this news was reported, with reference to the Migrationwatch materials, under the objectionable headline "Next enlargement round could flood UK labour market". I think responsibility newscasters should absolutely avoid the language of "flooding" and "swamping" when discussing labour markets and immigration. It is offensive language, and it leads to hostility towards foreigners which leads in turn to them being judged on their difference from "us" (the indigenous population), rather than their own qualities or societal contributions, whatever those may be. I don't know where the language of "flooding" stems from in this case. I couldn't find it in the Migrationwatch report, but of course it may have been in a press release which was what the Euractiv report was then based on. Or it may have been Euractiv's own invention, in which case, shame on them.

But the other point to make is the utter one-sidedness of the reporting of these questions. Both Bulgaria and Romania are desperate about the depopulation effects which have occurred alongside their transition to market economies and (developing) democracies under the rule of law. They have plunging birthrates and there has been mass emigration, including of many skilled workers. Wouldn't a fuller picture of migration patterns which have occurred even before EU accession be a better basis for discussing what might happen after accession than scaremongering about the UK's labour market, which seems to have done really well out of EU8 migration? What about mentioning the fact that there are already well over 200,000 Romanians in Spain, for example? Whatever decision is made about the free movement of workers, it seems that Romanians and Bulgarians will migrate. The only question is whether, when they migrate, they will receive proper protection, status and respect as "regular" migrants. Moreover, it seems clear that although certain political factors might point in the other direction, it is essential that Romanian and Bulgarian accession is completed without delay, in order to assist these countries in resisting harmful demographic effects in the context of transition, by giving a boost to their international standing and to the position of their economies within an increasingly globalised European single market.

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