Tag Archives: migrant

Lunatic House

The British immigration office in Croydon, just outside London, is called Lunar House, but anyone who has had to deal with them knows the place better as Lunatic House.

But even the machinations of the British Home Office look slick and efficient when compared to the federal police, who handle immigration in Brazil.

I have spent hours at the police office in Lapa, São Paulo, arranging my permanent resident visa. It’s annoying, but it is just one of those things that has to be done.

Given the amount of time and effort that I have expended so far on them, I was excited to find that my visa application had been approved. On the website it said I just need to arrive at the police office within 30 days to collect my visa.

I turned up there today with my passport, having paid the processing fee in advance, and expected to be collecting the visa. I was told that I should have booked an appointment in advance for collection. I showed them the website on my phone – there was nowhere stating that I had to book an appointment, just a request to come within 30 days of approval.

They said I should have called to check.

When I suggested that I was there, I had my papers ready, why can’t we just process it now, they said it was impossible without the booking form, and if I had a problem I would have to complain to the people in Brasilia.

Sometimes this bureaucracy is positively Kafkaesque. I know that immigration requires a fair amount of bureaucracy, but I just wasted hours today because they don’t put the required information on their website – and then they cast me aside when I complain, suggesting that it was my own fault for not calling them to check.

Thankfully my visa is approved. I just need to collect it. I’ll book an appointment and fetch it soon, but I made sure that I got a receipt for my taxi today. When I return to the police office, I am going to file a complaint and ask them to cover my expenses… let’s see how far that goes.

IMAG5061

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Don’t start blaming foreign students…

The immigration minister Damian Green has announced a crackdown on students entering the UK from overseas. The intention is to only allow the best and brightest students access to higher education in the UK.
What’s a shame is that this reform of the foreign student entry requirements is being dragged into a nationalistic debate over immigration – the focus being on the thousands of people who remain in the UK long after their course has finished.
Green said: “Why are they staying on? What are they staying on to do? This is part of a wider look we need to take at the immigration system.”
Why are they staying on indeed? Why doesn’t he ask some students to see what they say even as they being their course?
The UK is an attractive place to study. English is the language used for study and daily life, and even though the universities charge non-EU students a lot more than Europeans, a British education remains good value compared to American colleges.
Many students will come to the UK for all these reasons, plus they have a desire to find a job in the UK once they graduate. That doesn’t always happen, but by studying in the UK and having access to employers locally, it can be a strong possibility.
I can understand Green’s desire to control immigration – it’s a populist move – but I don’t think we should be frightened of graduates coming through the university system. Most graduates struggle to find decent work anyway because they have very little work experience, imagine adding the requirement for a work visa to that and you can see that it’s not an automatic gravy train for immigrants.
If Green really wants to target bogus immigration then he should steer clear of the universities and focus on the so-called ‘colleges’ that teach basic IT or English. The teaching quality of many of these colleges is highly dubious, yet a student can enrol on a course and get a visa to stay in the UK – allowing limited working hours.
It doesn’t help the student who might expect a decent level of education, or the UK job seekers who claim that migrants have displaced their jobs. Seek out the bogus colleges, but don’t tar all universities with the same brush – the UK reaps huge rewards from foreign students bringing their skills over here.

Lse library

Foreigners get 77% of new jobs

The Daily Express screamed on the front page today that 77% of jobs in the UK are going to foreigners. It’s a rather typical scare story and I’ve already heard of people waving the paper around today and shouting that all those pesky foreigners are coming to steal our jobs.

But the situation is far more subtle and complex. Even thinking about this for just a few minutes typing this blog I can surmise:

  • We live in the European Union. There is a free movement of labour within the union, meaning we as British people can freely go and live and work in other EU member nations. There are more Brits overseas in the other 26 member states (working, or with family, or retired) than this ‘flood’ of immigrants coming to the UK. So, if the UK decided to suddenly pull up the drawbridge, then what do you think would happen to all those pensioners in Spain or Brits working in France and Germany?
  • Many of the Europeans coming to the UK for work are extremely mobile, which works in their favour. Not many Brits living in Newcastle, and suffering a life on benefits, would jump at the chance of a job in Bristol, or Reading, or even London, if they were only slightly better off. We are not a very mobile society in the UK and this creates structural unemployment where hundreds of thousands of jobs are available, but nobody locally wants to take them.
  • And, in that kind of environment what do you expect will happen? Britain does have a lot of employment available, but it’s not always where people want to work or live. That’s not a problem for someone coming in from overseas who can arrange their accommodation close to their work.

But let’s be clear, these non-British Europeans are not coming in and ‘stealing’ jobs. I’m sure most businesses advertising jobs would be only too delighted to be hiring and supporting local people. But what do the companies do when no locals respond to the job adverts? Go bust because they have no staff? Of course they take the search further afield, and if Brits are not prepared to move 50 miles for a job, then it’s easy to find others within Europe who are happy to work hard, pay their taxes, and add something to the community they move into.

This is not so much a story of foreigners stealing jobs, it’s a story of British people failing to adapt to the international nature of work in the twenty-first century and the DWP not offering enough incentives for those already on benefits to cast the net a bit wider when seeking work.

Election reaction

Please help the Migrant Tales book project!

The Migrant Tales group on Facebook is starting to get some serious interest. Soon after being set up there are already 120 fans of the book and many ideas starting to flow. But we need more.

I’m starting to contact the editors of various diaspora magazines. You know the free magazines you see scattered around London, mainly outside stations, all focused on a specific migrant community. Where I live in Ealing there are several magazines catering to the local Polish community, nearby in Shepherd’s Bush there are mags for the Kiwi and Aussies.

I need your help to reach out to as many of these diaspora publications as possible. I need to reach their editors to tell them about the book project so they can tell their readers – so we can draw more stories and experiences from these people.

Please get in touch with me if you have a copy of any of these magazines to hand and you can send me the contact email for the title – either leave a comment here on this blog or get in touch with me directly…

Thanks for your help in advance!

Migrant Tales – the book

Migrant Tales is a book project being developed by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary and Angelica Mari which will capture real-life stories from the migrant community living in the UK. The aim is to reach out to migrants from all sections of society, wealthy or poor, legal or illegal, successful or struggling.

The media and political parties, with both using populism to gain votes or sales, have simplified the immigration debate. We want to hear the voice, fears, and expectations of the migrant community – along with the experts and policy makers.

The final goal is to paint a picture of how migrants contribute to British life in the twenty-first century, raising awareness of the realities of migration

We are using Facebook to gather real stories from real people. Take a look at the page here. Please also tell your friends and family about this project and the Facebook page.

if you can’t post information to the wall or if you would prefer to speak to us, get in touch with us on:
migranttales@gmail.com

The book takes this as a starting point for the debate:

1. The idea of a “job for life” is dead.
2. You are now competing with people from all over the world for your job.
3. Companies are using the Internet to send work to countries where labour is cheaper.
4. Companies can produce more because of better technology. This efficiency means they need fewer people.
5. Across the UK, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
6. But, if you have the skills, you can migrate and find work in any country.
7. The media and the public complain about immigrants. Experts say immigrants are essential for economic growth.
8. Politicians of all parties want to restrict or ban immigration.
9. Immigration was the most controversial and discussed subject during the 2010 UK general election.
10. If you are not British, but living and working in the UK, what is your contribution to the country?

Please do go and check out the book information on Facebook and contribute if you can.

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is an author, blogger, and advisor on technology, globalisation and corporate change. He has written several successful management books, including ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’, ‘Who Moved My Job?’, and ‘Building a Future with BRICs’. He is a regular contributor to the British magazines silicon.com and Computer Weekly and blogs about the politics of globalisation for Reuters. Mark is a board member of the UK National Outsourcing Association and a committee member of the British Computer Society ELITE group. He has advised the United Nations on the development of the IT industry in Africa, the Indian government on service exports, and the British government on developing a hi-tech economy. Mark is a visiting lecturer on the MBA programme at London South Bank University.

www.markhillary.com

Angelica Mari is an Italo-Brazilian journalist specialising in business, technology and socioeconomic change. Since the beginning of her career in the late 90s, she held various editorial positions in publications in Brazil until she emigrated to London in 2002.In the UK, Angelica was editor of newswire Unquote, responsible for news on private equity and venture capital in Southern Europe. She also collaborated in the creation of Cleantech – the leading international business magazine in the area of renewable energy launched in 2003 – where she remains as associate editor. Since then, she has positioned itself as one of the leading journalists specialising in management and outsourcing for three years as chief reporter at Computing, the second largest British business technology magazine.
With a solid history of exclusive reporting featuring several FTSE 100 companies, in March 2010 Angelica was invited to join the team at Computer Weekly, the largest enterprise technology publication in the country, as the editor responsible for management and leadership coverage. Angelica also collaborates frequently for publications aimed at the Brazilian community in the UK, such as the magazine Jungle Drums.

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/angelicamari


Who Moved My Job?

Is immigration ‘a good thing’?

Gordon Brown is in trouble today. A woman complained to him about the number of immigrants coming into the UK… a familiar complaint he has heard many times before, but this time he made a private comment about her in his car just after the event – calling her a ‘bigoted woman’ – and Sky News had left their radio microphone on his suit… so the private comments were recorded and replayed to the world.

It was a private comment, and many would credit Brown with telling the frank truth, but Sky can’t be blamed for using the material – any broadcaster would love to have an indiscretion like this on record.

But is the woman just reflecting what the majority think, and is the Prime Minister reacting in a liberal left way – horrified that someone might criticise those from another country, or race, or faith?

The immigration question is one of the hardest for our politicians to deal with because they never seem to quite get it right. The Labour party at present has made it almost impossible for unskilled workers to enter the UK, encouraged people with specific skills to come using the Highly Skilled Migrant Worker programme, simplified visa approvals using a points-based system, and made it far harder for foreign students to work and overstay their visa.

When you list the measures Gordon Brown has presided over, it looks quite tough on immigrants, but the public perception is that Johnny Foreigner continues to flood into the country. The reality is that immigration is reducing – mainly because of the economic downturn and fragile recovery – but again, why ruin perception with reality?

So, is the problem just that nobody trusts politicians anyway?

This is really the power of the BNP and UKIP. They don’t behave like ‘normal’ politicians and they focus on the immigration and ‘foreigner’ issues. UKIP has pledged to ban immigration for five years if they had any power over legislation, the BNP has been watering down the racist content of their manifesto, but they still appear to actively favour repatriation of migrant workers.

These parties are getting considerable support with their extreme views, and that’s really because of a failing by the major three parties to be seen to be doing something. Brown has argued this point on all the genuine changes he has made to the system. Clegg has argued that we need a better understanding of who is here illegally – potentially leading to an amnesty because that would not change the number of people working, but it would mean they pay tax. Cameron has argued for an absolute cap on immigration numbers by skills.

All three of the major parties have ideas on immigration, but they are all essentially failing to communicate the positive values of welcoming people – with skills – to Britain. The skills that help the British economy to succeed – and therefore allows us to live in a prosperous nation far richer than a population of 60m would suggest.

They are also failing to explain the different types of immigration; what is a refugee, what is an asylum seeker, what is a highly-skilled migrant… and the freedom of labour movement within the 27-nation European Union. All these issues are entirely confused in the arguments of the ‘bigot’… that’s not implying that those who oppose immigration are stupid, but any debate on immigration has to focus on the real issue that concerns them: Are people coming in and taking work from locals?

If that is what people perceive then the mainstream parties need to show that it is not the case, or what they intend to do about it, and they need to do this in a way that people believe. The Prime Minister has a good grasp of facts, but when he reels off stats about this and that, the public switch off and ask why the corner shop sells Polish food. Without once realising that the Polish shop down the road was a Punjabi shop twenty years ago.

The major politicians need to explore why normal people are so attracted by the BNP on this issue, why normal people don’t see any value from the European Union – they just see it as Eastern European workers coming to take jobs, and why a caring and tolerant society like the UK should close the shutters to those not born here.

BNP Leader, Nick Griffin, on Question Time

So it finally happened. Griffin faced the BBC audience.

David Dimbleby was well briefed and quoted several of Griffin’s more outrageous remarks at him. The panel raged and gave their all. But somehow at the end of it all I felt disappointed.

I was keen to see Griffin on Question Time. I felt that the only way to show how odious he really is, would be to get him up there on the BBC and to repeat back some of his own lines. Yet, when it actually happened it looked like gang of bullies beating a feckless child. He responded to every claim; he repeated untruths and half-truths.

But at the end of the day, although the panel was right to attack him, it just looked like a bunch of liberal bullies beating up on the racist.

I don’t personally feel any sympathy for Griffin because of this. He deserved every verbal attack the panel gave him, but it demonstrated the fatal flaw of the mainstream parties. Every mainstream party representative argued on racism as a moral issue. It’s just not right to be racist. Griffin argued his own racist views on practical issues such as jobs, housing, and benefits – and his concept of ‘indigenous’ rights.

There are a huge number of myths perpetrated about the number of migrants to the UK that actually “steal jobs” or “go top of the list for housing”, but if Griffin continues to perpetuate the image that he is the only one prepared to do something about it, and the other parties just stutter on about how racism is nasty and wrong, then he will pick up support. The mainsteam parties need to offer better information, not just indignation.

I think the net result of Question Time was that the people who always hated the BNP, hate them just as much as before. Those who were undecided, unsure, or just don’t really trust or engage with politicians – they probably like Griffin a lot more after seeing the mainstream parties attack him on BBC1 tonight.