Thursday, October 18, 2007

London Chinatown to 'go on strike' over immigration arrests

Some businesses in Chinatown are expected to close for a 3 hour period today in protest at the arrests made by the Borders and Immigration Agency on October 11th.

Over 40 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested and taken from their places of work by the BIA.

Source: 'Diners stunned by Chinatown raids' (BBC)

The London Chinatown Chinese Association condemned what they called the heavy-handed methods used during the raids which took place during a busy lunchtime and involved some officers wearing bullet-proof vests.

For their part, the BIA has said that they are not targeting Chinese businesses in particular, and that they carry out around 60 raids every week, on different businesses all over London.

Source: 'Chinatown protest at police raid' (BBC).

Clearly Chinatown businesses are in a difficult position: It is true that an illegal immigrant is breaking the law and the authorities cannot really turn a blind eye to this.

Furthermore, illegal immigration from China is known to be closely linked to organized crime gangs and anything that can be done to break up this trade is a good thing, since it so often involves the exploitation and intimidation of workers.

However it is also true that Chinatown's busy restaurants need staff and if they want those staff to be Chinese, there simply aren't enough Chinese workers around who are both legally entitled to work and who want those particular jobs.

I think it's fair to say Chinese immigrants come here by and large with the sole intention of working and working hard, and not to take advantage of the UK's state benefits.

So whilst it is certainly a good thing that the authorities crack down on gang-related people smuggling, is there not some compromise that can be reached that would enable businesses to employ immigrant staff and still stay within the law?

The US has been examining the possibility of introducing a special 'guest worker program' to deal with situations just like this:

"Under the plan, foreign workers -- including the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States -- could apply to work for three years. Each would be matched with an employer, provided with a biometric identification card to help track his or her whereabouts, and released in the country.

"You see, we got people sneaking into our country to work. They want to provide for their families. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River," [President George W.] Bush said.

"People are coming to put food on the table. But because there is no legal way for them to do so, through a temporary worker program, they're putting pressure on our border."

Source: Washington Post.

Related: Borders and Immigration Agency
Related: London Chinese community figure named in DVD and people-smuggling investigation

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