We should think critically about our attitude to migrants that means that we do not see them as people, but as economic unitsby Charlotte Lydia Riley / December 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
How much is a “skilled” worker worth? The latest government white paper on immigration continues many of the principles of the hostile environment—unsurprisingly, given that many of those principles were established and underlined while Theresa May was in charge of the Home Office. One of the key areas that has attracted attention is the proposed £30,000 salary threshold for workers wishing to come to the UK.
Those earning under this threshold—dubbed “low skilled workers”—would only have the right to enter the UK to work for a maximum of twelve months, with no access to public funds and no right to family reunion.
In many ways, the document is a response to the imagined realities of a post-Brexit world. It ends freedom of movement as a principle, sets targets for immigration figures and will require EU citizens to apply for settled status if they want to live in the UK (although visitors from the EU will not need to apply for visas, with the hope that the EU will reciprocate for UK citizens). The document is intended to be implemented in January 2021, the current date for the end of the transition period.
But this document is not only shaped by Brexit, but also by much longer discourses around rights, migration and borders in the UK. British border policy has been increasingly hostile to migrants since the 1960s; the language around immigration has become increasingly febrile and violent and hysterical for at least a decade. It was not the Brexit referendum that created this hostility to migrants, whatever commentators might like to believe: the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony did not mark a moment when the British embraced multiculturalism with open arms. Hostility to migration, racism and xenophobia have been embedded in British politics as legacies of imperial policies; in many ways, they created a context in which the referendum could take place, not the other way around.
The £30,000 salary threshold has provoked outrage from a variety of sources. Apparently, even the Treasury thinks this is set too high; it is, after all, higher than the average family income in the UK. Lots of organisations—businesses, but also museums, universities, architectural firms, care providers, hospitals and schools—have pointed out that starting salaries in their professions…