Socialists want to see the end of border regimes and immigration controls that kill

It is taken for granted by politicians and the media that we need to control immigration.

Even many of those against the brutality and hypocrisy of anti-immigrant measures feel it’s impossible not to call for some kind of control on immigration.

But immigration controls only exist to police working class people and spread racist division. They are a tool of our enemies—the bosses and the state.

Immigration controls also legitimise a very wrong and dangerous idea—that workers have to compete with each other for a limited set of resources. The Tories and Labour are happy for ordinary people to put their anger over the lack of housing, the rundown of health and welfare, job insecurity and pay down to immigrants.

It’s a line even parroted by those who claim to be on the left. But immigrants are not to blame. The system of raids, detention centres and deportation that hangs over migrants is an attack on all workers, wherever they are from.

So is Britain at risk of being “full”?  No.

First, there is a golf course in Britain for every 37,000 people but only less than 1 percent of the population play golf. The courses take up as much space as all residential property currently does. In London golf courses take up more space than the entire borough of Brent.

And according to the Local Government Association, there are over a million unoccupied “dwellings” in England alone. But this is not really about space.

Some of the world’s poorest countries have much lower population density than Britain, while Monaco, with a far higher population density, is flooded with rich people.

Second, a focus on numbers is a way to hide the human truths of migration and ill-treatment. Wealth is not shared out either fairly nor rationally. 

The level of public services available also shifts. Do we spend money on weapons or healthcare? It is a choice that our ruling class makes. Surely we can’t let everyone in.

But why not? Workers have always moved around the world. As the world becomes more unequal and crisis-ridden, the rate of movement rises. People do not wander the globe simply on a whim. They do not tear up all their roots, leave their families and travel thousands of miles because Britain is such an amazing place.

They are either fleeing persecution or seeking work. Immigration has always ebbed and flowed with the availability of work. 

The capitalist system spans the entire globe. But it has not developed across every part of the world evenly. Sometimes, one area is in a boom while another is in a deep recession. 

So workers have always been forced to move to where the demand for their labour was greatest. In the 19th century immigrants left behind deprivation and famine in Ireland to work on the boom industries in Britain. 

Before the First World War, there were no passports, and virtually anyone could come to Britain. Yet people only moved when there was work available.

In the 1930s there was virtually no immigration into Britain, yet there was mass unemployment. In the 1950s and 1960s British government ministers including racists such as Enoch Powell—actively recruited migrants from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent because there was a labour shortage here.

Migrations do not cause economic crises. More often than note it is the opposite. The bosses can move billions of pounds around the world at the flick of a switch, and the poor are supposed to stay put. Finally it suits governments and employers to divide the workforce into “legal” and “illegal”.

Despite the importance of immigration governments everywhere still impose immigration restrictions which encourage racist scapegoating. The motive is divide and rule.

They hope that playing the race card means ordinary people will direct their anger and frustration on “foreigners” rather than focus on the real enemy—the government and big business.

For socialists, the only possible policy is opposition to all laws restricting immigration and asylum.

This is the eleventh part of a series of columns that discuss What We Stand For, the Socialist Workers Party statement of principles, printed every week in Socialist Worker (see page 12). For the full series go to

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