Sometimes facts are much more surprising than fiction. This week I came across two particularly fascinating examples of this. I discovered that earwigs can fly and are able to fold up their wings so wonderfully neatly on their bodies that few of us have ever noticed them. I also discovered that the British government shelled out a fortune on a knackered boat that was infected with a deadly disease because it was too busy telling migrants to “f*** off back to France” to bother to check that the goods they were purchasing with our money would work properly.
It is hard to think up a more dramatic example of incompetence – until you look at the recent track record of the British government. The examples are abundant because our country has been so comprehensively captured by fanatical believers in certain think-tanked theories that daft ideas and bizarre events have become a routine feature of government.
It took extreme arrogance for Liz Truss to believe that she could ignore economic realities and launch an unfunded rush for growth. It took an extraordinary level of blind faith in extreme right-wing political theories to separate Britain from free and easy access to its biggest market. Misplaced overconfidence in the mythical wonders of ‘getting Brexit done’ resulted in Britain going through a major pandemic with a prime minister in charge who had a casual disregard for the truth and thought rules were only meant to apply to little people.
Immigration policy is theatrical cruelty
Now a very similar blind conviction in simple cure-alls is being applied to the issue of immigration with equally damaging outcomes. Most issues are best tackled by looking at practicalities and trying to figure out what will work and what won’t. Instead of focusing on those practicalities, the British government has opted to rush enthusiastically towards any solution that will sound like it is taking a hard stance – regardless of whether that solution stands any chance of working or represents value for money.
The most effective way of managing migration is to do the unglamorous work of improving the existing system instead of seeking simplistic solutions that play well on the front cover of the Daily Mail.
The current law makes a clear distinction between people who are refugees and those who have chosen to move across borders. That is a very sensible dividing line. Much as many of us might like to live in a world where anyone could travel freely across the globe without any restrictions, the current levels of economic inequality in the world make it impractical to simply open up borders and welcome everyone who wishes to arrive.
Most of us want to do our bit to help provide refuge for a reasonable number of people who have fled from horrendous situations like those that exist in Afghanistan, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Somalia, and the Yemen.
It is currently taking over a year to make a distinction between which situation applies to any individual. In such circumstances, the most sensible approach is to focus on ways of reducing the time it takes to make decisions about what will happen to people and to make sure that those who are waiting for a decision occupy their time constructively without unnecessary expense.
Denial of the right to work
At the moment anyone awaiting the outcome of an asylum decision is effectively banned from doing any work for 12 months. Something that contrasts sharply with the rules in countries like France, Greece, Spain, Australia, Denmark, Canada, the USA and Germany. The British government’s policy may have made some kind of sense in the days when claims were processed in a few days or weeks. It makes no sense when it involves leaving people who want to work idle in the middle of a labour shortage.
There is simply no good reason to have care homes crying out for workers whilst fit and active people are banged up in ships akin to an open prison with nothing to do all day. Since Brexit we have been badly short of people to pick crops on farms and are wasting food as a result. Yet it is government policy to prevent people who want to work from taking up those jobs because they are waiting for a decision about their immigration status.
The moment that blockage is removed the vast bulk of any expense associated with asylum seekers disappears. Instead of the public purse covering the expense of poor-quality hotels or crumbling overpriced barges, most of those who are waiting for a decision could be working hard and paying taxes whilst they are housed by the care home or the farm where they are working.
If their case succeeds, then a year of working would enable the successful applicant to start out already significantly integrated into our society. If their case fails, they would be required to leave in exactly the same way that they currently are. I very much fear that the only reason this isn’t being done is the government is worried about the way it might look to some of the most bigoted people in our society.
A broken immigration system
The other straightforward solution to issues of immigration is to take action to reduce the time it takes to make a decision on the status of new arrivals. Waiting a year for a decision to be made simply increases the cost and the difficulties. So any sensible government would be seeking to streamline the system, putting more staff on the job of sorting out the claims and also increasing staffing in the legal system to help get those cases heard quickly.
This government is so obsessed with looking tough that it would rather squander money on barges and internment camps than put the resources into place to make the existing system more efficient and get those claims processed.
Political incorrectness gone mad
We hear a lot from this government about political correctness gone mad. That is something that genuinely does annoy a lot of people. Yet there is something a lot worse than that. It is political incorrectness gone mad. This failed government seems hell-bent on indulging in that instead of getting on with the hard work of solving the problem.
If the best they can offer is waste and incompetence on this scale then it is way past time for them to go. They can’t even manage to deal efficiently with pet projects on their chosen topic of immigration. What hope have we got that they will prove capable of handling the huge cost-of-living crisis that they have helped to create or the massive environmental challenges that we all now face?