A speech by the UK Home Office Minister, Theresa May, has sparked outrage after she warned migration was a threat to social cohesion in Britain and announced plans to toughen laws on asylum.
Her speech was branded as dangerous, pandering to UKIP, factually incorrect and inciting hate, drawing criticism from across the country.
In her speech delivered to the Tory part conference yesterday, she said attacked current levels of migration and asylum policies, saying many people who try to come to the UK aren’t asylum seekers and promised harsh new policies.
May also said migration not only posed a threat to national cohesion, but blamed it for the difficulties the NHS, schools, housing and infrastructure face.
She also said that it puts people out of jobs: “when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society. It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope.
“And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.
She said that there was overwhelming evidence that “at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero,” and in fact it is negative.
May portrayed the few thousand asylum seekers who have made it to Calais or to Britain as the “wealthiest, fittest and strongest”, implying they are less deserving as refugees than the millions who are in refugees camps in the Middle East.
She added that she would “not in 1,000 years” agree to a common EU asylum system, to distribute refugees and allow more to enter the UK. Instead she promised a “new British approach”, including tougher treatment for people who have travelled to the UK from other safe countries. In fact, May threatened with “retaliatory measures” to fellow EU countries that do not cooperate with a new Britain’s asylum policy.
May also said the UK will change the policy to “safe return reviews”, asylum seekers won’t be allowed to stay in the UK once the situation in their country of origin improved.
In addition, she claimed “too many” students were not returning when their visas run out.
“So I don’t care what the university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students, yes. Over-stayers, no. And the universities must make this happen.”
Tim Fraser-Granados, a film maker who settled from Germany over eight years ago and made Scotland his home with his American husband told KaleidoScot that May’s speech was dangerous and hogwash: “Scotland needs immigrants; the country is underpopulated and many genuinely want to work and live here. Win-win for all involved.”
Uschi Rozmanith, a KaleidoScot reader from Edinburgh said: “Honestly, I didn’t expect anything else from her. But that she dared to formulate it so blatantly is just daft. Oh yeah, so I’m a threat to cohesion? Well, better not let me teach your kids in high schools! Words like hers don’t just pearl off on us, they hurt – I wonder if that woman ever travelled or has any immigrants friends. Stupid…”
Another reader, Máté H. Huszár, said “she probably doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She is trying to cover social issues by turning one against another. I am sad a wee bit. But at least it is another chance to start a conversation.”
Responding May’s, Scotland’s Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Contrary to the Home Secretary’s unhelpful comments, migrants are not a drain on our society. Migrants can contribute significantly to a society if they are given the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen. Migrants from the EU alone have contributed more than £20 billion to the UK economy since 2001.
“Ms May’s speech was divisive, misleading and likely to inflame tensions between migrant and non-migrant communities, posing a risk to community cohesion. This is unhelpful, particularly when we have a major humanitarian refugee crisis on our doorstep.
“From their economic contribution right through to their contribution to culture and academia, Scotland is stronger for our diversity and multiculturalism and long may it continue.”
Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s immigration spokesman, said:“This may have been a speech to the Tory conference but Theresa May’s dog-whistle rhetoric was clearly designed to pander to a UKIP audience in the increasingly bitter battle to succeed David Cameron.
“It was about as inflammatory and divisive a speech a Home Secretary could make. Theresa May’s whole approach to her job is to pull up the drawbridge and put her fingers in her ears – deliberately conflating immigration with asylum and completely ignoring the evidence.
“But worst of all, Ms May is deaf to any ideas about co-operating with our EU partners on the desperate plight of asylum seekers – at the very moment that seems more essential than ever.”
The leader of Scottish Labour, Kezia Dugdale was sharply critical: “What a contemptuous, cynical and clumsy speech from Theresa May. Immigration is a good thing. Make the case,” she said on twitter.
Maggie Chapman, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, told KaleidoScot: “The unseemly scramble to be the next leader of the Conservative Party is something best kept in the Conservative Party. Theresa May’s cynical intervention in the immigration debate would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. That the Home Secretary is prepared to stoke the flames of racism to pursue her own political ends is sickening. We must make sure that everyone who comes to our country is welcomed. Immigration makes our country a much better place. It’s time to celebrate that. It is not the time for opportunists to attack newcomers. Theresa May is a disgrace.”
Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats branded the speech as borderline xenophobic and demanded that Ruth Davidson “speak out against Theresa May’s outrageous speech or we must assume that she shares her views… that are borderline xenophobia.
“The Home Secretary’s comments fly in the face of everything that experts from business and higher education sectors have said on the dangers of pulling up the drawbridge.”
Leading business figures and civic society also sharply criticised the speech.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said he was “astonished by the irresponsible rhetoric and pandering to anti-immigration sentiment from the Home Secretary. It is yet another example of the Home Secretary turning away the world’s best and brightest, putting internal party politics ahead of the country, and helping our competitor economies instead of our own.
“The myth of the job-stealing-immigrant is nonsense. Immigrants do not steal jobs, they help fill vital skill shortages and, in doing so, create demand and more jobs. If they did steal jobs, we wouldn’t have the record levels of employment we currently do.”
Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The home secretary’s clear intention to close Britain’s border to refugees fleeing for their lives is thoroughly chilling, as is her bitter attack on the fundamental principle enshrined in international law that people fleeing persecution should be able to claim asylum in Britain.”
Many other human rights advocates and organisations, including Amnesty International condemned the speech. Even John Cridland, of the rather conservative CBI, said the government was penalising skilled workers who added too the economy.