Diane Abbott has commented on the Conservatives’ latest planned changes to immigration policy. And she didn’t pull any punches.
In a devastating critique published in the Morning Star, she accused the government of pushing a plan that would lead to a:
recipe for workplace exploitation of the worst kind.
The immigration bill
The government first announced its new plans in December 2018, setting out immigration policy after Brexit.
Among other measures, it proposed new rules for ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers. This would see ‘low-skilled’ workers from overseas only able to access a 12-month, non-extendable visa. People on these visas would be unable to claim benefits, and would also be restricted from settling in the UK.
The post-Brexit immigration plan will also likely include a minimum income threshold for ‘skilled’ migrants. Prior to the first announcement, the government was considering requiring “skilled” migrants to earn at least £30,000 a year.
At the time of the announcement, home secretary Sajid Javid claimed:
Today’s proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation. We are taking a skills-based approach to ensure we can attract the brightest and best migrants to the UK. These measures will boost our economy and benefit the British people.
But the proposals don’t convince Abbott. In fact, she argues they will lead to greater exploitation of workers. In her Morning Star article, she wrote:
The risk of super-exploitation will be built into the legal system. The new Immigration Bill introduces an entirely new work visa of just 12 months, for those who Tory ministers persist in calling “low-skilled” workers, who are in reality underpaid workers.
She then explained how this exploitation would emerge:
The real difference is that under the new scheme, many migrant workers who come here will in effect have virtually no rights — to employment protection, health and safety, sickness pay, maternity leave and so on — simply because they will be temporary workers and under threat of deportation in 12 months’ time… These workers will be almost impossible to organise, or find it very difficult to organise themselves. They will have no legal right to bring family members here, in breach of the UN’s right to a family life. They will be prey to the most unscrupulous employers.
And she argued the plan is part of an attempt by the Conservatives to attack migration:
the government’s policy amounts to a permanent campaign against migration and migrants as a scapegoat for the effects of their own austerity policy.
Abbott isn’t the only one who has hit out at the government’s plans. Last year, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) slammed the policy, declaring it a “disaster for every worker”. In a blog, TUC policy officer Rosa Crawford said:
It’s official: Theresa May’s vision for a post-Brexit immigration system is a danger to all workers – wherever they’re from.
The TUC shared Abbott’s analysis that the policy will make migrant workers more vulnerable and lead to increased exploitation. And the plans were further criticised by The Canary’s
Abbott’s voice joining the criticism is important. With Labour’s shadow home secretary now openly condemning the proposed changes, pressure is mounting on the government to change tack.
Featured image via PaulNUK – Wikimedia
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