The most radical Labour Party 2019 manifesto since the war was launched yesterday – the one Jeremy Corby apparently wanted, so what did it announce in relation to the vexed question of immigration? In the forward by Jeremy Corbyn – it was silent – he perhaps could be forgiven not highlighting the issue due to its sensitivity within the party in relation to Free Movement and on immigration generally with its potential voters.
Labour proposed the following:
- Review border controls to make them ‘more effective.’ It cited failures to deal with child abduction, people trafficking, smuggling, terrorism and slavery by the Conservatives linking it with jobs cuts and a failure to provide exit checks leaving landlords, teachers and medical staff to act as ‘unpaid immigration officers - which suggests a Labour will look to increase staff and introduce exit checks at the border
- ‘Early’ Legal Aid advice – which implies initial advice and assistance - to be restored to immigration – previously removed on account of austerity
- Enable the ‘immigration system to recruit the people we need’ – implying flexibility, so that migration will be allowed as required
- Regulate the labour market to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers – perhaps harsher penalties on those who do this
- End the ‘hostile environment’ created under the Conservatives – which the Johnson Government has distanced itself from
- The Immigration Act 2014 to be scrapped – this controversially imposed a duty on landlords to check the immigration status of renters and allowed the authorities more power to enter premises where illegal migrants reside, introduced the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) and restricted appeal rights for bail to immigrants – it remains to be seen whether Labour will remove IHS fees
- End the Windrush scandal and introduce compensation for victims
- End indefinite detention and review alternatives to detention centres – this will probably mean more powers to set bail conditions, reporting and electronic tagging
- Ensure justice for domestic workers and reintroduce the overseas domestic workers visa, which Labour seems so fond of – this affair with the visa seems curious, one could argue it most benefits the wealthy given the costs involved, although one has to acknowledge the argument has been that it prevents exploitation of migrants. There have been notable cases involving domestic workers - Baroness Scotland anyone?
- End the minimum income thresholds with partner type visas – this will assist those with lower incomes trying to bring their partners to the UK and are unable to comply with the current financial requirements
- End deportation of family members entitled to be in the UK – which family members will this apply to? And will it cover those with criminal records?
- Freedom of Movement to continue if the UK remains in the EU and a commitment to re-evaluate this if we leave, but to protect rights for EU nationals and family members – the compromise reached within the party for this election
- Commitment to family life
- Uphold international obligations to refugees and those displaced.
The message appears to be that Labour does not want immigration to be centre stage and to focus on other priorities. However, history suggests otherwise – successive governments including labour cannot keep away. The manifesto contains enough to allow significant intervention by a labour government. Presumably, more will be required depending on Brexit.