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Wednesday, September 27, 2006 

Casual xenophobia.

The decision to allow Bulgaria and Romania to join the European Union on the 1st of January has been reported with a predictable venom and casual xenophobia which is the typical reaction of the tabloid press. While the Sun often leaves its poisonous discourse on immigration to the inside pages, the Mail and Express embrace it, with the use of war-like language and distorted, misleading images. Today's front pages are no exception.
The Mail uses an image that could well of been a queue from anywhere, ignores the fact that some of those in the photograph would be applying for visas for business visits or holidays, and also that they wouldn't even need to have visas to come and work in Britain once they do join, as long as Britain doesn't impose restrictions, which it appears likely to do. While 384,000 East Europeans, mostly Poles have come to work in Britain in the last 18 months, it's assumed around half of those have since returned home. The implication of course though is still there: that these are foreigners who want to come here. How dare they!
The Express, which gets worse by the day, goes even further, describing the potential influx of Romanian and Bulgarian workers as "invaders", as though they're medieval warriors coming armed with clubs and maces to despoil our cities and rape our women, when in fact they're more likely to come, do low-paid work which is still better than what there is back home, then return.

The hysteria which has built up over the months, with numerous claims that because the number of Poles coming to Britain was vastly underestimated that a similar number of Bulgarians and Romanians will do the same. This ignores how Poland has always had an small but strong community in Britain, among those who fled the Nazis and then the Soviets. It also rejects the results of a survey conducted by BBSS Gallup, which showed only 46,000 in Bulgaria were seriously considering working abroad, and then their favoured destinations were Spain, Germany, Italy or Greece, not poor full, overstretched and unwelcoming Britain. Other studies have suggested that less than 100,000 are likely to leave within 18 months. It's also humourous how the mid-market middle-class tabloids are the ones so obsessed with migrant workers, when their readers are the ones that are least likely to be affected. No, the attitude of the Mail and Express is rooted in a far simpler, base emotion: the fear of the outside, the hatred of the unknown, the hostility towards the less than noble savage. It's xenophobia, bordering on racism, pure and simple.

It's tempting simply to oppose the imposing of restrictions on the grounds that it would annoy the disgusted of Tunbridge Wellses, but it's true that more does need to be done to ascertain whether the influx of migrants is pushing down wages as a whole. Even so, the laughable claims of the CBI, whose members are the ones who benefit most from the opening up of borders, that not to do so would threaten the country's social fabric, deserve to be exposed for what they are: a pandering to the pathetic little Englander attitude which is still prevalent throughout the gutter press. For now, we should welcome the Bulgarians and Romanians who want to work in this country and do work that many of the indigenous population don't want to, while recognising that migration is not the answer to all of the current business and workforce woes.

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Shorter Daily Mail & Express:

"Bloody foreigners! Come over here! Take our jobs! Take our women! Send 'em back where they come from!"

The idea that economic migrants are the cause of low wages is laughable - Polly Toynbee tried to argue that, but that idea lets the Labour movement and Trade Unions completely off the hook. It is because British Trade Unions are so rubbish at their jobs, is the real reason why British workers wages are so low.

Toynbee argued the cheap imported labour helps to keep wages down, so in order to raise wages we must apparently put a halt to this type of migration. But as you quite rightly allude to, such arguements are nothing but a 'pathetic little Englander attitude'.

I very much agree with you that Bulgarians and Romanians should be allowed to come and work in the UK if they wish, and opening the door to them should be the right thing to do.

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