Sunday, March 24, 2013

You know what the immigration debate really needs? Minor celebrities

As if the world wasn't already knee-deep in people who don't know what they're talking about, talking about immigration, we're now being blessed with The Cheeky Girls sharing their insight.

Shall we see what they have to say?

“It’s too easy to claim child benefit and send the money to children back in Romania,” says Monica. “That’s wrong.”
No, Monica. You're wrong.

At the moment, if your child lives in Romania then the most you could claim for would be eight weeks of child benefit, assuming they'd just returned to Romania, although there are some ways to claim a portion beyond eight weeks. But not what I'd describe as being "easy" ways to make a claim beyond that time.
Gabriela adds: “No one should be allowed to claim benefits unless they have worked here for a year.”
It's an interesting idea. And one of those things that doesn't sound unreasonable, until you ask how Gabriela ended up at this 'one year' cut off point. Is that a meaningful, reasoned point she's come up with, or has she just plucked a period of time out of the air?
Monica chips in: “And then they should only be allowed to claim benefits for a year before being asked to go home."
Hang about... someone has worked for a year in the UK, and then - I'd say 'struggled', I suspect the Cheeky Girls would say 'lived large' - been on benefits for a year. That's two years. How do you then decide that 'home' is somewhere else? If you're twenty, and spent ten percent of your life - all your adult life - in one country, how can a Cheeky Girl decide where that person should believe their home is.

Unless what Monica means is that people should go back where they came from. Now, where have I heard sentiments like that before?

Monica then undercuts her own outrage:
“Even during the bad times when our record label went bust we never considered claiming benefits."
Yes. And you know what, Girls, most people are like that. Most people are like you. They're not rushing about to cadge a few quid for doing nothing here and there. They might want to come to and work here; they might want to come to Britain to go on one of our talent shows and build some sort of career popping up on chat shows and the crueller panel games. Why do you think anyone else from Romania would be any different to you?

(Is it wrong to suggest that applying for benefits might be a more honest way to feed yourself than, say, just helping yourself from Sainsburys, by the way?)

But you know what? If you needed help from the state - from the rest of us - you should have asked. Because we're happy to help out. Because we're clever enough to understand that while today you might need a bit of assistance with paying the bills or covering the rent, yesterday you were sharing some of your earnings from The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year through the tax system, and tomorrow, when you find some more work, you'll become a contributor again.

Because it's called sharing. And because even if you didn't claim benefits directly, you benefitted from the way we work together in this country - to provide broadcasting infrastructure and make Never Mind The Buzzcocks; to keep trains running to take fans to signings; to build hospitals and a legal system where someone can make a mistake stealing groceries from a shop but still get treated with even-handed fairness. It's all part of the same thing.

And for two people who have done really rather well out of the State we've all created in the UK to suddenly suggest we change the way behave to anyone who might come later really reeks of hypocrisy.

1 comment:

Chris Brown said...

Were the Cheeky Girls not themselves briefly "illegal" immigrants? They overstayed their initial visa to come here, although Romania joined the EU before any legal action could be taken to remove them. Personally, I'm not bothered by that but I would guess that by their own logic they should have been frogmarched out of the country and kept away for the relevant few months.

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