On 17 May 2012, the Daily Mail hailed the fact that 100,000 calls had been made reporting ‘illegal’ immigrants (one call every 6 minutes) to the UK’s National Allegations Database, despite the system not being publicly launched until 30 September 2012. Conveniently forgotten has been the fact that less than 3% of allegations led to arrest.
These Government campaigns urging citizens to report neighbours and work colleagues as illegal immigrants and the latest campaign to “go home or be arrested” are coming very close to two campaigns run by Europe’s right wing parties.
In February 2012 the far right Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) set up an internet hotline to collect complaints about people from Central and Eastern Europe residing in the Netherlands.
While EU2 and national officials and bodies criticised the hotline, the PVV declared it a success, with more than 40,000 complaints registered against EU citizens from Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. The most common complaints related to the perception that these nationals were taking away housing and jobs from Dutch citizens.
The far-right Belgian Flemish party Vlaams Belang followed suit and, as reported by the Huffington Post, launched a hotline that allowed citizens to report "problems and nuisances" caused by undocumented immigrants. Vlaams Belang reportedly established the hotline in order to collect testimonies of "illegality" and transfer the information to police and security services. Defending the hotline on Flemish radio, Vlaams Belang MP, Filip Dewinter said the website wanted to focus on situations of illegality, not on undocumented immigrants. Yet in the same interview he said, "It is about undocumented immigrants. It is about illegal situations created by undocumented immigrants."
Jozef De Witte of Belgium's Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism called the website "illegal," the Flemish Radio and Television Network Organization (VRT) reported. "It reminds me of the Nazi regime in the thirties, or the Stasi in the former DDR," De Witte said. "Mr. Dewinter knows it's illegal, but he just wants to provoke and to shock people," he told VRT.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, FRA, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted: “Europe’s history demonstrates how economic depression can tragically lead to increasing social exclusion and persecution. We are concerned that in times of crisis, migrants, minorities and other vulnerable groups become ‘scapegoats”.
Despite widespread condemnation from all sides of the political divide, UK Government spokespeople have today (29 July 2013) said the ‘racist van’ scheme is a success and may be rolled out nationwide.
Surely it’s time for UK political parties to step away from this anti-immigrant war of words