Posts Tagged 'immigration'

Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders

Why have so many Polish families chosen to make the UK their home? In this blog post, Anne White discusses some of the motivations for and complexities of family migration to the UK, as explored in her book, Polish families and migration since EU accession, out today in paperback. 

Anne White

British society has been changed beyond recognition by the recent influx of people from Central and Eastern Europe, and particularly from Poland.

To everyone’s surprise, within a few years Poles have become the largest group of foreign nationals and the largest foreign-born population in the UK. The evidence suggests that many Polish people now consider themselves settled in Britain, at least for the medium term.

The fact that so many Poles are with their families does a great deal to explain why they feel at home in the UK, even if just ten years ago parents shared the general ‘wait and see’, ‘let’s give it a go’ attitude of the tens of thousands of other young Poles who experimented with migration to the West around the time their country joined the EU.

How did it happen?

The Brexit campaign centred on the slogan of ‘taking back control over our borders’, but migration research has demonstrated time and time again that controlling immigration in a democracy is an unrealisable ambition. As Castles and Miller (2009) famously observed, immigration cannot simply be ‘turned on and off like a tap’.

Continue reading ‘Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders’

Article 50: where we are now

Janice Morphet, author of Beyond Brexit, looks at what the future holds for the U.K. after the triggering of Article 50 and the formal beginning of the Brexit process. 

Janice Morphet

As the UK government faces its two-year roller coaster ride of negotiation, following the Prime Minister’s triggering of Article 50, many pressure points have already been revealed while some remain as haunting unknowns.

The first challenge that has emerged is how ill prepared the UK government finds itself. While the letter triggering Article 50 and the subsequent White Paper on the Great Reform Bill are full of words addressing internal political party agendas, any pretence of maintaining a united view across the UK has been abandoned.

No legal basis for devolution

Although stating in the White Paper that everything would remain the same until dismantled and changed through Parliamentary procedure, this is completely undermined in the chapter on devolution which confirmed the re-centralisation of returned powers on agriculture, environment and some transport issues.

Subsidiarity is based on principles laid down in the Treaty on European Union and there are no guarantees that it will survive Brexit as a principle of the UK state. Following Brexit all devolution within the UK, including to cities in England, will transfer to the whim of each five-year Westminster Parliament and cannot be agreed in perpetuity.

Continue reading ‘Article 50: where we are now’

What does the post-Brexit future look like?

Janice Morphet, author of Beyond Brexit, out today, warns that without due consideration of all the challenges that lie ahead, Brexit poses a real threat to UK economic and social stability.

In this article Professor Morphet looks ahead to what the coming months could bring, and suggests priorities going forward.


Janice Morphet

“As Brexit is a negotiation, it is a dynamic process.

The Prime Minister took this essential position last July and spent her first six months in an enigmatic ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mode.

This allowed some space for the machinery of government to be realigned and the new departments to lead on Brexit – International Trade and Exiting the EU – to be established. But what does the future hold?

The loss of economic security

In terms of economic security, the effects of Brexit on the UK economy have started to pile up – the loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.

“The loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.”

Deals have been offered to Nissan in Sunderland by the government which have appeared to transgress state aid rules, although more recently the company has suggested changing its mind about remaining in the UK. Asked about investment in the UK, a Chinese source commented that, before the referendum, the UK was a door to the EU and now it is only a door.

Continue reading ‘What does the post-Brexit future look like?’

Understanding the Trump Moment: Reality TV, Birtherism, the Alt Right and the White Women’s Vote

Jessie Daniels

Jessie Daniels

Policy Press author Jessie Daniels on understanding the Trump moment, and what led to it. Originally posted on Racism Review.

Many of us woke up to a November 9 that we never could have imagined. Donald J. Trump, real estate developer and reality TV celebrity, is president-elect of the United States.

Over the last 18 months of his campaign, he has engaged in explicitly racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim language that has both shocked and frightened people. The implications of what a Trump presidency could mean for ginning up racial and ethnic hatred are chilling.


But first, it’s important to understand the Trump moment, and what led to it. This is an election that will spawn a thousand hot-takes and reams of academic papers, but here’s a first draft on making sense of this victory. Continue reading ‘Understanding the Trump Moment: Reality TV, Birtherism, the Alt Right and the White Women’s Vote’

What is life like when you first get to the UK as an asylum seeker?

Whilst Syrian refugees continue to flee from their country in search of sanctuary and a better life, there’s still little sign of consensus in Europe in terms of a unified policy of aid and support, although the debate has at least become more compassionate in recent weeks.

Continuing to focus on the personal, today’s interview is an excerpt from a piece first published in full in Critical and Radical Social Work in which campaigner Amal Azzudin talks about her experience of coming to the UK and the ongoing fight against racism.

Original interview by Laura Penketh, Liverpool Hope University, UK.

The policy of detaining children for immigration purposes ended in 2010. The ‘Glasgow Girls’ campaign played an important part in the decision to change the law, and also contributed to the implementation of a more child-friendly asylum process. These were a group of smart and feisty teenage girls and school friends, who took on the might of the system when, in 2005, their friend Agnesa Murselaj, aged 15, and a pupil with them at Drumchapel High School in Glasgow, was dawn-raided and detained with her family.

AmalAzzudin_University of Glasgow

Amal Azzudin Photo: University of Glasgow

What follows is an interview with one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’ – Amal Azzudin – who campaigned alongside her friends, Roza Salih, Ewelina Siwak, Toni-Lee Hendeson, Jennifer McCann and Emma Clifford, to fight for the release of their friend Agnesa.

Can you tell me a little about when you arrived in Glasgow, where you came from, and your first impressions of the city?

I came to Britain from Somalia and we left the country due to the civil war that is still ongoing. There are tribes who fight amongst each other, which caused, and still causes, much unrest and danger to civilians. My mum and I left because it was getting too dangerous for us. My mum, my baby sister and I initially lived in London for 18 months but we were living in crowded accommodation and then found out we were going to be dispersed.

We thought that meant to somewhere in the local area but we were dispersed to Glasgow. We were on a really big coach with loads of other families and they were all gradually dropped off. I asked the coach driver if we were going to be the last ones being dropped off and he told us yes, because we were going to Scotland. We had never heard of Scotland or Glasgow. When we found out, one of the women on the coach said she felt sorry for us going to Glasgow as “everyone is racist and it snows all the time”. But they were so wrong and it is my home now as I have lived here most of my life.

What were your early experiences of life in Glasgow around issues of ‘race’ and racism?

At the beginning there was a lot of racism and the biggest mistake the council made was not to prepare local people for asylum seekers. The community was not prepared for our arrival and there was a lot of ignorance around. One of my friends from Algeria got stabbed and nearly died trying to stop a fight. There was a large police presence outside the school at the time and it was very scary. I got my headscarf pulled off by boys and stuff like that. It got so frightening that my mum said that we should not leave the house after 6pm.

We stayed in the high rises, which was really bad and it was not safe for us to go out in the evening. I think my mum experienced more problems as I had Drumchapel High School and my teacher Mr Girvan, which made it much easier for me. My mum had little support and she found it difficult finding her way around the area. Her English was not good initially but she went to college and took some courses and then we got granted leave to remain. Now she is a community worker and is very well known and she works with asylum-seeking women around female genital mutilation. She is part of society now and is very busy work-wise.

Can you tell me how the ‘Glasgow Girls’ campaign began?

In 2005, one of my friends from Kosova, Agnesa, was arrested and detained and our campaign started when we fought to get her back. I was the first to go to our teacher, Mr Girvan, when we found out she had been taken away. I said I was not going to attend classes because I did not understand why she had been removed and was being treated like a criminal. She had done nothing wrong and had been living in Glasgow for five years.

Obviously they couldn’t force me to go to classes and the other girls joined me because we were all very upset and distressed. Roza and Ewelina were in the same situation as Agnesa and did not have leave to remain so they were very scared they might be next. For me it was horrible knowing I had the right to remain, and it was also a worrying time for my mum. She did not want me to threaten our situation and wanted me to keep out of it. But Agnesa was just a child like me and I had to do something – my conscience would not let me leave it. I did not know if I was going to achieve anything but I knew I had to try.

How did the campaign progress and what strategies did you adopt?

Mr Girvan asked us what we wanted to do, so Emma came up with the idea of a petition. We went round the whole school and got people to sign a petition to get Agnesa back and I think that was the first step in combating racism in the school too. Other pupils were like “well, we don’t like you and we don’t know why you are here but Agnesa is one of us now”. This gave us the chance to talk and explain why we were in Glasgow and once people heard our stories it made a huge difference.

Obviously we knew we couldn’t change everyone’s mind and there were some pupils who did not want to understand, no matter what, but we did start to change things. It was really important that the school supported us. The head teacher and most of the other teachers were great. Anyway, almost everyone at school signed our petition and we took it to our local Member of the Scottish Parliament and he invited us to Parliament to sit in on debates. We were also invited to meet the First Minister at that time and it just took off from there. We were on news programmes regularly and Agnesa was released three weeks later.

What was the significance of your actions in terms of changes to attitudes?

I always say that the biggest thing we achieved to this day is raising awareness. I think what was really successful about the campaign was that we were a group of seven girls who were not politicians. We had no agenda and we were children. That was very powerful.

There is a common stereotype that young people cannot be involved in politics and stick up for their rights and we broke those myths. People saw how passionate and determined we were. I was increasingly recognised and was always being photographed, and I did not fit the common stereotype of a Muslim woman because I was opinionated and outspoken. I felt I needed to take advantage of my growing status to influence change. In Somalia I would have been oppressed and silenced very quickly if I spoke out and I could even have been killed. It was as extreme as that. Looking back, we have come a long way. Of course, there is still a lot of racism out there, but I think there is also more understanding too.

Are conditions today any better for asylum seekers seeking leave to remain?

Well, families cannot be placed in detention centres now in Scotland. This is not supposed to happen across the UK but I know that in England this is not the case. There are not as many dawn raids now either, but what happens is when people go to sign on at the Home Office they just keep them and deport them.

One woman I know has been seeking asylum for 20 years. She came here when she was 13 and she is now 33. She cannot go to university despite being really clever and although she has so much to contribute to society and the economy, she can’t. She has to sign on each month and she is absolutely terrified the night before. Sometimes I go with her and wait outside and she can be in there for an hour or more. We are the only country in Europe that has indefinite detention.

What are your thoughts on rising levels of Islamophobia in society?

It is an extremely tough time for Muslims in the West at the moment due to the rise in Islamophobia. I have heard and read so many stories about how Muslim men and women have been verbally abused and physically attacked. The horrific acts committed by a few people who ‘claim’ to be Muslims are being used to ‘tar everyone with the same brush’.

According to the 2011 Census, Islam has been practised in the UK for 300 years yet somehow it is now that we see the rise of anti-Islamic views and attacks on Muslims. Islamophobia is being used by certain groups such as the far right to divide communities and incite hatred. The media has a huge role to play in promoting the rise of anti-Muslim hatred. The continuous double standards of some sections of the media only feed into the rise of segregating Muslim communities from the rest of society.

There is an issue regarding some people’s lack of understanding regarding what Islamophobia is and that it a worry because if people do not recognise it then how can we challenge it? Muslim women may be an easy target for Islamophobic attacks, especially if they are wearing the headscarf and are visibly recognised as a Muslim. There was an old man who was murdered when he was going home from his local mosque and a pregnant woman was attacked because she was wearing a headscarf. These sorts of attacks spread fear among communities and should not happen to anyone, regardless of race, religion and gender and so on.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future?

Well, my name Amal means ‘hope’ in Arabic so I am always hopeful and I try to stay positive. We are facing very difficult times and the issues that we have to confront are huge. I think future debates are going to be interesting. I am so proud of the city of Glasgow and how people stand up against injustice, which is not the case everywhere. Despite many challenges, when I look at the UK as a whole and compare it with France, I think we are in a much better position. For example, we have not banned the hijab here and I hope we never do.

I think we have to educate and communicate with people from all backgrounds and break down barriers. Schools could be very important in educating young people and raising awareness, and I think leadership in schools is crucial. There could be input from primary school onwards. We have been invited into schools to talk about our campaign, which has been very successful.

A couple of weeks ago, we spoke to Primary Seven pupils in a local school who wanted to start their own campaign for the right for every child to have an education. There was an assembly, which we were invited to attend along with parents, and the children had made placards and put together a petition, which they were getting people to sign. The local newspaper did a big piece about it and their teacher said they were going to come to the city centre to hold a mini-demonstration. In school they had pictures of Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai on the walls and one of the pupils went home and wrote about me. It was overwhelming. Imagine if all schools promoted active citizenship in this way!

CRSW 203 [FC]

Interview reproduced courtesty of Critical and Radical Social Work. For more information about the journal and to find out how to subscribe please click here.

To read the interview ‘Asylum, immigration and anti-racism – an interview with Amal Azzudin’ in full please click here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Racism, anti-racism and social work

by Iain Ferguson and Michael Lavalette

A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the spectre of racism, xenophobia, and in some countries, outright Nazism. For Golden Dawn in Greece and the Jobbik Party in Hungary, there is little attempt to hide the associations with 1930s German National Socialism. These include overt anti-semitism, paramilitary marches, and the encouragement of violence against asylum seekers, immigrants and left-wing activists. At the time of writing, a member of Golden Dawn is being held in custody for the murder in September 2013 of Pavlos Fyssas, a rap singer and well-known anti-fascist activist in Greece. Elsewhere in Europe, racism wears a more respectable face. Parties such as the UK Independence Party in Britain or the various People’s Parties in Scandinavia have gained a degree of electoral support by playing on popular fears about waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe coming to the West solely in order to live off the benefits system. It is a rhetoric which, shamefully, is increasingly echoed by the leaders of mainstream political parties, both Conservative and social democratic.

In reality of course, the vast majority of immigrants are young, hard-working, ambitious, make less use of health services than the rest of the population and do the jobs that the local population refuse to do. The residential social care sector in Britain, for example, would collapse without the labour of people from the Philippines, South Africa and Poland. But that truth is lost in the deluge of anti-Roma, anti-Muslim and anti-asylum seeker propaganda pumped out on a daily basis by the tabloid press. In early October 2013, the bitter fruits of that propaganda, and of the increasingly restrictive immigration policies adopted by governments across Europe, were only too graphically demonstrated. Then, some 274 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia drowned when their overcrowded boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. These were ordinary men, women and children fleeing war, torture and hunger in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But as a letter in the Guardian newspaper in the UK pointed out, responsibility for their deaths lies not just with the people smugglers but also with the exclusionary policies of Fortress Europe: ‘People-smuggling is the symptom and not the cause of migration. Tougher border controls, higher fences and more expensive surveillance systems won’t deal with the causes either. They will make things worse by driving more people into the perilous embrace of the smugglers. The causes of migration are overwhelmingly poverty, inequality and conflict’.

The main challenge to racism and fascism has come, and will continue to come, from parties of the Left, social movements and trade unions. In Greece, for example, following the murder of Pavlos, some ten thousand people demonstrated against Golden Dawn in the streets of Athens. In Britain, the anti-Muslim English Defence League is currently in crisis following the resignation of its two founders, a crisis provoked in large part by the fact that every time its supporters appeared on the streets they were physically challenged by much larger anti-fascist protests.

As individuals, social workers from Glasgow to Athens and all points between have participated in many of these demonstrations. But we also need to explore the implications of the growth of these new forms of racism for our social work practice. And here, it is important to learn the lessons of the past, both negative and positive.

Discussing the role of social work during the Nazi period, Walter Lorenz has commented on the use of social workers’ diagnostic skills to sort out the ‘deserving’ from the unworthy, the latter referring to those with mental illness or learning disabilities who would then be deemed eligible for compulsory sterilisation or worse. As Lorenz (2006) describes it:

Sticking to their professional task with the air of value neutrality and scientific detachment (especially after the ‘non-conforming’, ‘politically active’ social workers had been sacked or imprisoned) they did not feel responsible for the consequences of their assessments and may indeed not have been conscious of the full implications their work had in the national context (pp 34-35).

As Lorenz argues, the issue here was not only State coercion or lack of discretion but rather the understanding of their role which informed the practice of these workers:

The evil of a fascist approach to welfare had not emanated primarily from its collectivism and from the imposition of ideologically determined forms of practice (which social workers usually knew how to get round) but rather from the disjuncture of the political and professional discourse that prevented the ‘ordinary welfare workers’ from fully facing up to the consequences of their actions (p35).

If there is a lesson for today, it is surely that social work cannot respond to the growing tide of racism and xenophobia by hiding behind a mask of ‘professionalism’ which seeks to deny the political nature of our profession or pretend that somehow we are above the struggle.

A very different response to racism developed in the late 1980s. In that period, social workers and social work academics in the UK and elsewhere sought to develop forms of anti-racist theory and practice which challenged the ways in which racism shaped the mind-set of many white social workers on the one hand and blighted the lives of black and minority ethnic clients and communities on the other. The limitations of these approaches, above all their focus on personal racism at the expense of State and institutional racism, have been well-documented. Nevertheless, they were important in putting issues of racism and anti-racism on the social work education agenda in a way they had not been previously.

Race, racism and social work

Race, racism and social work

Recent publications have sought to develop new forms of social work theory and practice that can challenge the forms of racism that have emerged over the past decade and can defend multiculturalism (Lavalette and Penketh, 2013; see also Mahamdallie, 2011; Richardson, 2013). This is a very positive development. Critical and Radical Social Work welcomes papers on all aspects of racism and anti-racism in social work. These can include both analyses of current developments and also historical pieces which critically evaluate the role of mainstream social work in oppressive and racist regimes such as Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa as well as those highlighting examples of social work resistance which have until now been’ hidden from history’.

Lavalette, M. and Penketh, L. (eds.) (2013) Race, Racism and Social Work: Contemporary Issues and Debates, Bristol: Policy Press
Lorenz, W. (1993) Social Work in a Changing Europe, London: Routledge
Mahamdallie, H. (ed.) (2011) Defending Multiculturalism: a guide for the movement, London: Bookmarks
Richardson, B. (ed.) (2013) Say It Loud: Marxism and the Fight Against Racism, London: Bookmarks

Race, racism and social work, edited by Michael Lavalette and Laura Penketh, is available to buy with 20% discount from

The only real alternative to the exploitation of migrants is genuine grassroot organising

Vittorio Longhi

Vittorio Longhi

To mark International Migrants Day (18th December), Vittorio Longhi, author of The immigrant war, discusses the exploitation of migrants and how to overcome this.

Every day an average of two coffins arrive at the international airport of Kathmandu.

They are bringing back the corpses of Nepali migrants who went to work in the Middle East or in the Persian Gulf.  According to the authorities they die in accidents, particularly on building sites or in road accidents. But many are murdered by traffickers, and many others, especially women, commit suicide because of sexual abuse and harassment.

In the Americas in the last ten years, about 2,000 people have died trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. These deaths are usually due to exposure or dehydration – as the migrants cross the deserts of Arizona – but also drowning, in the case of those trying to cross the rivers. The most striking number, however, refers to Latino migrants who are kidnapped by criminal gangs and killed because they fail to pay a ransom.

As for those who have tried to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean, it is estimated that since 1990 at least 20,000 people have died.

These are not the numbers of mere accidents, these are the numbers of an actual war: a war against immigrants.

And the conflict does not relate only to the undocumented nor does it stop at the borders. Even when migrants succeed in obtaining a legal work permit, pulled by the labour demand of richer countries, they are still faced with violation of core rights. Historically, the worst jobs with the hardest working conditions and the least pay are reserved for migrants. In addition to this, they often face discrimination and exploitation,  and even  xenophobic and racist attacks.

This happens even more frequently in times of economic crisis, when migrants are seen as competitors in the local labour market and therefore a target and an easy scapegoat for public anger against widespread unemployment.

How sustainable is the current migration system in the long term? What is the international community doing about it? How can we manage migration realistically, giving people both dignity and safety?

The migration question has certainly not been resolved by militarising borders further or by reducing visas and permits, often following domestic political agendas, instead of a realistic evaluation of actual social, labour demand and development needs.

The global phenomenon of contemporary migration cannot be left to the decisions and solutions of individual states.

There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to develop effective cooperation through regional agreements within the scope of multilateral relationships between industrialised countries and developing countries.

However, the governments of receiving countries are reluctant about the possibility of global migration governance. They are unwilling to transfer the power over border control and the conditions under which migrants stay on their territories to some supranational body.

Oddly, the governments of sending countries also do not seem keen on enforcing a binding regulatory system that would interfere with their ability to supply cheap labour to richer countries and benefit from their remittances.

As for the international community, none of the UN agencies and other international bodies that deal with migration issues, from the ILO to the IOM, now has the role of coordinating national or regional policies, let alone carrying out a function that is binding on individual states.

The existing international treaties that try to regulate labour migration and ensure safety and dignity along the whole migration route, have been ratified and implemented by a relatively small number of states, and rarely from richer receiving countries.

Therefore, the only concrete, immediate, alternative to further exploitation and violation of human rights is genuine grassroots organising by migrants.

This phenomenon has come to the surface in the last few years, and this has happened in different manners and places. A new generation of migrant workers is revealing all its potential for conflict, as migrants change from being passive victims of exploitation to become new, conscious social agents, capable of fighting for their own rights and contributing to the revival of a wider protest.

Whether it is the struggles of Asian workers in the building sites of Dubai, of the Mexican farm labourers in the fields of California, of the undocumented African cooks in the restaurants of Paris or of the Moroccan metalworkers in Italian factories, migrants are more and more determined to bring labour back to the centre of contemporary societies.

These struggles, although spontaneous and uncoordinated, are connected to the multitudes of the Occupy movement and the Arab uprisings; all show people wanting to restore dignity to labour, social justice and a future to new generations – of migrants and locals together.

Vittorio Longhi is the author of The immigrant war, available to order with 20% discount from the Policy Press website.

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