When Racism Is Not Racism

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
A critique of the discriminatory nature of British immigration policy on A2 nationals.

Submitted: February 19, 2015

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Submitted: February 19, 2015

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When Racism is not Racism:

The shocking attacks on Romanian immigrants in Northern Ireland this week have again raised the inexhaustibly contentious issue of immigration in 21st century Britain. The issue made me instantly think of Slavoj Zizek’s excellent book Violence, in which he propounds the thesis that such acts of violence with a clearly identifiable agent are generated by a hidden violence; namely the one which sustains our political and economic system.

Have a good think about the new Points Based System of immigration, which was launched last year. What is the official government line on the PBS? The introduction and application of the Points Based System of immigration to non-EEA nationals is apparently justified on the basis that because the UK is legally required not to close its borders to EU nationals, it has to apply stricter controls to immigrants from outside of Europe. Whether or not one agrees with the need for this type of immigration control, it is hard to contest that this is good law or indeed that it is not inconsistent with the principles of equality and non-discrimination that the government claims to abide by.

The legal position of the UK is reducible to saying, because EU law means that we can’t discriminate against Eastern Europeans, we have to discriminate against non-European workers instead.

Whether or not this shift in tack by the British government was guided at least in part by fears that the population of this country is becoming worryingly heterogeneous is debatable (although I am sure that the government appreciated the political potential the PBS would have to placate such fears which were heightened by the race riots in the North West of the UK and at the start of this century and the terrorist atrocities). One thing which is not up for debate is that the guiding principles of immigration in this country and much of Western Europe have shifted from towards egotistical economic ones: the fundamental divide now being between those included in the sphere of (relative) economic prosperity and those excluded from it.

Is the violence we saw against Romanians this week really so out of line with our public sensibility? Ministers placed restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers in January 2007 citing pressures on public services as part of the reason. Again the restrictions upon the free movement on these two countries means, in effect, that Romanian and Bulgarian workers are being discriminated against by virtue of their nationality. The differential in the treatment of A2 nationals as compared to A8 ones has the result that a girl born in Romania will in 2009 have less right to come to the UK to work than a girl born in Lithuania - simply because they joined the EU a few years after the A8 countries.

If the British government is capable of discriminating against Romanian people, it perhaps isn’t surprising that a few thugs are too.

 


© Copyright 2018 Elliot Borges. All rights reserved.

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