A month ago, a BBC News investigation team uncovered a criminal network in West London, involved in smuggling poor, male farmers from Punjab in India into the UK. These illegal immigrants, known as faujis were given fake documents, poorly paid manual work and stationed in squalid housing. Yes, it was totally wrong to provide them with fake passports, driving licenses and Home Office registration cards. But there are other aspects of this activity where the illegality is not so obvious, and they should be further contemplated before being branded so quickly as inhumane.
Take their accommodation - the faujis are packed into houses living in poor conditions all over Southall. And their pay - they are often employed for 12-hour days, six days a week at £150, which is just over £2 an hour. In the exposé, the undercover reporter Mohammed‚ managed to work in a chip shop and on a building site flouting all safety regulations. But aren't all these circumstances better than the alternative? As rural workers in India pay, rights and living and working conditions are even worse. This is evident from the lengths they are willing to go to in order to enter Britain illegally. All the while, poverty in India is improved by the remittances of faujis to their families back home.
The UK also profits. In keeping within the laws of supply and demand, abundant labour brings down the costs of goods and services for the consumer. And with the need for manual labour taken care of, the UK can focus on becoming a knowledge-based economy.
Evidently, we need a pro-immigration policy, bringing non-zero sum consequences where both immigrants and the British benefit. The entry of 600,000 eastern Europeans since 2004 is testament to this; their role as workers and consumers has been vital to this country's growth over the last 4 years. Indeed, the Labour government's decision to open its borders when the remainder of Europe (save Ireland and Sweden) refused to, is something to be commended. Let‚s just hope it doesn‚t stop there.