Carla Denyer speaking at a People's Assembly demonstration with a Bristol Trades Union Council banner behind her

Keir Starmer gave a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) this morning, in which he argued that the British economy was suffering as a result of what he described as ‘immigration dependency’. His speech has been condemned from key figures across the UK’s Green Parties.

Carla Denyer, the co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales accused Labour of engaging in ‘anti-migrant rhetoric’. She said, “When he stood for Labour leader, Keir Starmer said he would defend migrants’ rights. Fast forward to today’s CBI conference speech and it seems Labour are now trying to outflank the Tories on anti-migrant rhetoric.

“Migration is now viewed purely through an economic lens, where migrants are only welcome if they fill a skills gap. Completely absent is any suggestion that our immigration system should be based on compassion and dignity. Most people seeking asylum in the UK are doing so because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Or because they are pushed from their homes by war, poverty or climate change.

“That’s why Greens believe an asylum system must be grounded in compassion, not simply led by the economic needs of the host country. We’d introduce safe routes to claim asylum, scrap the hostile environment and reintroduce freedom of movement.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Green Party’s economics spokesperson Maggie Chapman accused Starmer of engaging in reactionary tropes on migration. She said, “Starmer may try to frame it as pragmatism, but he is repeating many of the same reactionary themes and tropes as the Tories when it comes to immigration. He is talking about human beings as if they are burdens or statistics that we need to be ‘weaned off’ rather than real people.

“The UK has benefited economically, culturally and socially from immigration. Immigrants from the UK have also sought to make homes for themselves around the world. The idea that migration is a problem is small-minded, insular and xenophobic.

“Migrant communities are not to blame for low wages and poor conditions, successive UK governments and exploitative employers are. Yet, in the last few weeks alone we have seen Starmer arguing that there are too many migrants working in the NHS while his Shadow Chancellor has criticised the Tories for not deporting enough people.

“It is part of a cynical dog whistle campaign. He is clearly too scared to deal with the real causes of our economic woes: the reckless, hard-right Brexit that he now pretends to support, or the major structural issues that are holding down wages and increasing inequality.

“It is the same strategy that we have seen from previous Labour governments, who were responsible for so much of the infrastructure and attitudes that the hostile environment was built upon. It was wrong when they brought out their “controls on immigration” mug in 2015, and it is wrong now.

“We should stand resolutely with our migrant communities. We should welcome immigration and support those who seek to make their lives here, to work, study and contribute to our communities in so many ways. Immigration is a profoundly human thing to do, and it enriches us all.”

The Green Party of England and Wales’ migration spokesperson Benali Hamdache tweeted, “Keir Starmer is blaming migrant workers here for low paid work. The reality is that the best solution is a £15 minimum wage & strong Trade Unions – not closing the door to migrants.”

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Image credit: Matthew Philip Long – Creative Commons