One of their few political trump cards was the controversial issue of immigration. However, in recent days, they had been bitten on the bum over the status of people who arrived in the United Kingdom from the West Indies on the Empire Windrush ship after World War II.
Many of them had lived and worked for many years, paid taxes and had settled in the country, only to be told by the Home Office that they were illegal immigrants, and threatened with deportation. As a result, those affected were sacked from their jobs, lost benefits and denied healthcare.
The outcry over the scandal rightly led to Amber Rudd’s resignation as home secretary, to be replaced by Sajid Javid, who vowed to tackle the crisis. Yet campaigners who have to continually deal with the damaging effects of the UK’s immigration policies say it isn’t enough.
The scandal goes much wider than the current situation. The UK has never, throughout history, made any real effort to either welcome or integrate foreigners into the country (unless if they are considerably wealthy, of course). Public hostility and newsaper panic over the numbers of foreigners living in the country (particularly non-white ones) have intensified with successive governments moving the goalposts in passing new laws aimed at creating an intolerable environment for those people who may want to live, work and study in the UK. Others trying to escape persecution and war elsewhere who come face restrictions on their movement and often have to wait months, or even years to have their asylum claims processed, some are forced to go underground. The very bureaucratic administration is designed to fail at the very first hurdle almost every time.
This environment has already hit the economy and our public services already (many of them rely on the recruitment of foreign-born staff, most recently from the European Union), partly as a result of the political fallout of the 2016 referendum. Many people who are fearful about what life in the country would be like after the UK’s departure from the EU in march next year have decided to leave… at least they can, voluntarily.
Meanwhile, others will continue to be detained against their will and forcibly removed from the country and deported, even though they may have the right to stay… all to ensure that net long-term migration to the UK is reduced to managable levels.