Monthly Archives: November 2006

Digging for Truth

Yet another scare story about immigrants today. As I’m currently researching attitudes to race, asylum and immigration, and the rise of the BNP, I get to hear a lot of people complaining about Britain being a ‘soft touch’ and how ‘they’ are all here for state benefits and not to work, and of course how this money should be for the indigenous people.

The World’s Greatest Newspaper (!) published the article below on its front page. Especially when you read the stuff from the taxpayers’ alliance person, it seems to be saying that one in ten Poles are coming here and signing on, and getting all the state benefits possible as they arrive. This is exactly what people don’t like: people taking out without putting something in.

The first thing I’d like to quibble with is the headline figure of 55,000 migrants claiming benefits. It looks like they’ve just added up all the figures from each table in a Home Office report about the status of those coming from the A8 accession countries ( However, by far the biggest of the numbers for benefit claims are for child benefit and child tax credit. Now, I don’t know this for sure, but I’d guess that some of these people are probably claiming both. I am. That’s the deal when you’ve got kids. Therefore the total should be at least 17,500 people fewer.

More importantly, I want to know if they can just come here and sign on without working. So that was when I had to dig a little deeper.


It turns out that the whole point of the Worker Registration Scheme is to ‘restrict access to benefits’ as Mr. Taxpayers’ Alliance wants. Essentially, A8 nationals have to gain a right to reside here before they can claim income-related benefits, and for the first year they only have a right to reside while they are working. They can’t just come and claim JSA or income support, or for that matter child benefit or tax credits. They have to be in work, which means that there isn’t a 10% of these migrants sitting idle on taxpayers money. If they’ve been in work for a year (with less than a month out of work) then they then gain the right to reside like other EU citizens (actually EEA but most people haven’t heard of the European Economic Area). The details can be found at


What this means is that the only way East Europeans can take something out of the system is by putting something in, just like everyone else (remember, young Brits can claim income-based JSA or income support without ever putting anything in). This is just as the angry people of Britain want. In addition, almost all of these benefits were child benefit, something that even those earning £100,000 and more can claim. Do the people really think that fat cat city businessmen deserve child benefit more than Polish families that come here to work on the minimum wage?





From the Daily Express: the World’s Greatest Newspaper


55,000 migrants claiming benefits


By Tom Whitehead
Home Affairs Correspondent

AROUND 55,000 East Europeans who have flooded into Britain to work are getting millions of pounds a year in benefits.

More than one in 10 Lithuanians, Poles – like those pictured arriving at London’s Victoria coach station – and others are receiving state handouts.

These range from child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance and pension credits to even getting a roof over their heads. And with more and more pouring in, the strain on the welfare state is set to soar every month.

But the true number claiming benefits is likely to be nearer 70,000 because the self-employed are not included in the official statistics.

Taxpayers are already faced with an annual bill of at least £60million, while more than 650 migrants are being housed at public expense.

The figures were revealed yesterday as Tony Blair’s pledge to kick out failed asylum seekers lay in tatters after removals plummeted by more than a quarter.

Critics condemned the shambles, saying: “We are going backwards, not forwards.”

The numbers who have arrived from the former eastern bloc since 2004 topped the half-million mark yesterday, while the army of self-employed, who are not recorded, will lift that even higher.

It is a devastating blow to the Prime Minister. who threw wide open the door of the jobs market when the eight countries, including Poland, joined the EU two-and-a-half years ago.

Critics renewed calls to maintain tight restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria when they join the union in January.

It also comes a day after the Daily Express revealed that British police are looking at hiring Polish officers because of the surging number of migrants.

Blair Gibbs, a spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “For immigrants, Britain is the best of both worlds. It is easy to get a job and easy to live comfortably without one. No wonder so many have come. One in 10 EU migrants now claims benefits and this number is likely to grow.

“Taxpayers already pay a fortune for a bloated welfare system that creates dependency and discourages work.

“And they will have to pay even more in the future unless we control our borders, restrict access to benefits and reform the system.”

Home Office figures yesterday showed that 510,000 Eastern Europeans have now registered under the controversial Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) since it started in May 2004.

More than 307,000 are from Poland, although it is believed the size of the Polish influx is even greater. Others come from Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

But the amount claiming benefits has soared by 29 per cent since the last update in the summer, with 54,856 now in receipt of or claiming handouts.

It includes 35,448 receiving child benefit at up to £17.45 a week and 17,512 getting tax credits which could be between £1,365 a year for a single worker and £5,300 a year for a couple with children.

There are also 353 in line for income support (at £57.45 a week), 859 in line for jobseeker’s allowance (also at £57.45 a week) and 32 in line for state pension credit (at £43.55 a week).

Council housing is being provided for 128 and local authorities are providing housing support for a further 524.

It means the taxpayer is likely to cough up at least £60million a year to support those who have been let into Britain to work.

Workers from Eastern Europe were partly blamed last week for unemployment hitting a seven-year high.

The total of jobless Britons jumped to 1.7million in the last three months, with the number of people working in manufacturing slumping to a 165-year low.
Mr Blair said between 5,000 and 13,000 a year would come from Eastern Europe when he announced an open door policy.

Those estimates are dwarfed ever more each time the Home Office issues the latest WRS figures. Another 59,365 came in between July and September this year.

It takes the total to 510,000, but the true number is likely to be
nearer 700,000 because the self-employed are not included in the official statistics.

Once again Poles account for the lion’s share and numbers are soaring, with 307,660 now here.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK said: “These figures show that there is still no sign of a slowdown in Eastern Europe immigration.

“With Romania and Bulgaria not just on the horizon but on the doorstep, the case for reducing immigration from elsewhere is now cast-iron.”

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis added: “This totally undermines the Government’s woeful assertion that only 5,000-13,000 EU migrants would come to the UK each year and shows that we are right to call for immediate restrictions on entrants from Bulgaria and Romania.”

* Should immigrants receive state handouts? Comment NOW at Have Your Say.



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Are there ghettos in the UK?

Recent news coverage leads me to ask ‘where are the UK ghettos?’. This is an oft asked question when discussing community relations / cohesion, racism, and more recently terrorism. The pessimistic tell us that we are becoming ever more segregated into ghettos, and others like to emphasise how integrated we are. Both seem to have statistics to back it up. However, one key problem that gets ignored is the choice of the unit of analysis.
As an example, the recent work by Nissa Finney and Ludi Simpson, when garbled by the journalists at least (,,1952282,00.html), says that terrorists are no more likely to come from ethnic or religious ghettos than places where people are integrated. The data quoted in the article, however, uses local authority areas as the unit of analysis. This is just crazy: you won’t find ghettos of this size (100,000 to 700,000 people). Ghettos are small places where lots of one kind of people are packed in and surrounded by another kind (by choice or force).
Indeed, if we were to choose the UK as the area of analysis, no-one could live in a ghetto. But if we were to choose a household, almost everyone would (4 white people only equals an all white ghetto, 2 black people equals an all black ghetto).
I point this out in a letter to the Guardian (will it be published?):

Ludi Simpson’s finding that those living in areas with a high number of Muslims are ‘no more likely to become involved in terrorism (Study rejects claim that Muslim areas harbour terrorists, November 20) is entirely expected and in no way refutes Trevor Phillips assertion that maximising integration minimises extremism.
By choosing areas as large as cities, some with populations nearing a million people (e.g. Leeds), he mistakes high numbers of Muslim people for ghettoes. Newham may have a large number of Muslims, but the sheer numbers mean they are spread out: the highest concentrations of Muslims will be surrounded by areas with reasonably high numbers of Muslims. Ghettoes are more likely to occur where there are low numbers of ethnic others, not vice versa, where they are concentrated into a small area, which is surrounded by white areas.
It is true that Beeston, where three of the London bombers lived, has a low number of Muslims (the ward has 6.5% not the 3% mentioned in the article). However, Beeston has neighbourhoods that are a third Muslim (and one small area where 54.5% of the population are Muslim), while others nearby have next to none. It is in these circumstances in which prejudice and intolerance are likely to breed, not highly diverse areas such as Newham, Hackney and Lambeth.

Given that people live their lives around a fairly small locality it makes sense to look at it at this scale. Cities like Leeds, and Stoke where I work, have small numbers of BME people, and they are concentrated in a few small neighbourhoods. It is unlikely that those living in Beeston will look for friends at the other end of the city. In Stoke, the people of the all white estates in the north of the city won’t have friends at the other end. So this local ghettoisation does create divides.
In a very diverse area like Newham (24% Muslim, 34% white, etc. etc.) you are never that far from someone who isn’t like yourself. Yes, there may be pockets of concentrated groups, but these are less out of place because the rest of the borough is mixed. Just by dint of spread, there are no all white areas. In the northern cities however, the rest of the borough is white all over.

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Does race exist?

As promised, some thoughts about the existence of race. Now as I’m asking this question, I’m sure the reader knows where I’m heading. No, races are not real (in terms of being an objective category that has any more meaning than eye colour, hair colour or shoe size). However, society seems to accept race as real, and thus even anti-racists have to employ the language of race in order to get anything done. This is somewhat a bind which I can’t see how we get out of.

So, what’s this about race not being real? It seems blindingly obvious that people have different skin colours. Not only that, but people living in Africa are largely dark brown in hue, and most people in Scandinavia are a pale pink (sort of). Does this not show there are different races?

Clearly I can’t say we’ve all got the same skin tone. But, the question remains: what does this actually signify. For me, the only thing that it fully signifies is that people have different sets of genes coding for different skin colours. Anything else is history and coincidence. Two thought experiments will be sufficient to show this:

Firstly, think about non-identical twins. Their dad has pale skin, their mum darker skin. When they are born, one has skin like their dad’s the other like their mum’s. Are they of different races? Other than skin colour their genes could be exactly the same (unlikely but possible… almost identical twins), and they’ll have the same upbringing in the same house with the same people in the same culture. Again, are they of different races?

Secondly, we may be able to genetically engineer skin colour (and sometimes genes from past generations may re-express themselves). If a child with two pale parents is born with dark skin. What race is he or she?

As someone said to me yesterday, ‘this black skin is an accident just because my mum and dad had black skin’. And this is that this is as far as it goes. There are other circumstances (genetic, cultural, familial, etc. ‘nature and nurture’) that determine who and what a person is.

Of course, there could be many such circumstances that coincide with skin colour. If at any point in time all dark skinned people live in a place where they speak English, and all pale skinned people live in a place where they speak French, guess what? If they then spend millennia as relatively isolated populations they may even develop some other genetic and cultural traits that are different. But so what? The ruddy complexioned upper class of the UK also tend to be tall. Are they a race?

Furthermore, even where there are coincidental traits, they are never absolute and essential. The nature of human ‘nature and nurture’ is variation. If skin tone and some other traits together help to mark out a race (a more nuanced version of race theory) then how many of these are needed to ascribe someone to a particular race. All of them? Most of them? Just one? What if you have all of them except the skin colour?

And this brings us to what race theory would describe as ‘mixed race’. How mixed is necessary to be mixed? If we go back far enough, wouldn’t we all be mixed? Indeed, what counts as a race? If my mum was from Germany and dad from France, does this count?

This may sound a bit flippant, but I was recently in a seminar where I ended up thinking exactly this. One of the papers was examining racial categories with regards to the UK census. Essentially the presenter said that, as the BME population in a standard survey is small, we need to treat them as all one group. However, another presenter was talking about people of Indian decent in the UK and how we need to see the Goans as a distinct group (due to a Catholic heritage mainly). This begs the question of where and how we draw the lines. The first presenter said that we lump people together until we have good reason to do so. But, if as the second presenter showed, there are differences, then lumping them together only because we haven’t yet found any differences is absurd. The very act of choosing which groups are relevant may problematise all our analysis: if ‘Indian’ incomes are average is this because they are average, or because the Goans are highly paid, and Punjabis are badly paid.

But, as you’ll have noticed, I myself have used racial categories. But how can I not? Firstly, all the data comes like that. Secondly, I could only use class, gender and so on (nationality being just as arbitrary as race), but then how could I examine the effects of racism. Although I want to deny the existence of race as a truly relevant category, I can’t write about racism without invoking its reality.

‘This must step away from the pious ritual in which we always agree that “race” is invented but are then required to defer to its embeddedness in the world and to accept that the demand for justice requires us nevertheless innocently to enter the political arenas it helps to mark out.’ (Paul Gilroy, Beyond Camps p.52). Paul wants us to get away from any determinism and essentialism, whether biological, national, cultural or anything else. But if the common and governmental understanding of society sees us all in categories of black, white, male, female, gay, and straight, how can I analyse society in a way that people will understand, unless I use the categories too? I guess that’s the point of this whole project. To find ways of showing that the categories are themselves part of the problem.

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