Magazine article The Spectator

Be My Guest-Worker

Magazine article The Spectator

Be My Guest-Worker

Article excerpt

If you want your prejudices about refugees confirmed, read Stephen Schwartz's account this week of Midhat, the man from Kosovo who wants to emigrate to Western Europe. The man is clearly an infernal pest. He is pushy and mendacious. He is relentless in his manipulation of Mr Schwartz and, were he to arrive in Britain and claim `asylum', the entire British political establishment would denounce him as a fraud; and when he was deported - after months of haggling between legally-aided lawyers, with Midhat and his many dependants living at our expense in hostels -every politician from Ann Widdecombe to Jack Straw would be figuratively standing on the tarmac to cheer.

We know that he and his kind are bogus, in so far as they claim a well-founded fear of persecution. If anything, it is the Serbs who are the victims of persecution in Kosovo, now that we have turned the place into a KLA gangster fiefdom. It is absurd, too, that there are so many thousands of `asylum-seekers' in this country, from East European countries whose applications for EU membership are based on the assumption that those states are stable and pluralist democracies. And yes, all the evidence seems to be, as William Hague suggests, that Labour has been too lax in its interpretation of asylum. We are indeed a `soft touch', especially in comparison with, say, the more exuberantly racist Germans.

But before we kick them all out, we might define exactly what it is about them that makes us so resentful. Is it that they are swarthy, and speak in broken accents? Is it that they beg, or offer to wash our windscreens with their babies? Partly, perhaps; but the most popular way of expressing our outrage is to say that they are `scroungers'; they are a charge on the state; they are taking benefits meant for honest British layabouts, not layabouts from Kosovo. And, as soon as we see that our concerns are primarily financial, we open up a whole unexamined passage of the argument.

If a bogus asylum-seeker, an able-bodied man, should start to abuse the British benefits system, and start fraudulently drawing the dole, and incapacity benefit, and working family tax credit, while all the time selling T-shirts in Leicester Square, that is not just a comment on him and his ruthless venality. It also tells us something about the welfare system; namely that it is in itself corrupting.

The Labour government's vicious hostility to bogus asylum-seekers is the flipside of its devotion to the British welfare state, a benefits system which stands at well over 100 billion, and climbing, and which Gordon Brown is avowedly using not to help those in temporarily straitened circumstances - as Beveridge envisaged - but to redistribute cash. …

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