Wednesday, December 05, 2007 

Scum-watch: More thieving migrants and an eulogy for Andy Hayman.

It's been a few months since the last figures showed that immigrants from eastern Europe were supposedly bleeding the exchequer dry with benefit claims, so it must surely be time to resurrect them once again. After all, the Sun has to find non-news stories to fill the paper when it can't be bothered to report on small things like Iran being declared not to have a nuclear weapons program:

MIGRANTS claim £1.4million a month in child benefit for kids living ABROAD, shocking new figures show.

The cash is given to 18,000 workers from new EU countries, without any checks on if the children actually exist. The number of East Europeans pocketing the handout soared by almost a third in just three months, the latest figures show.

Happily, when the Sun last flagged up this heinous outrage, I emailed the child benefit office and despite them taking the best part of two months to reply, I did finally get a very helpful explanatory response. Here it is in full:

Thank you for your e-mail of 17 September about Child Benefit. Your e-mail has been forwarded to HM Revenue & Customs and I have been asked to reply. I apologise for the delay in doing so.

You ask if foreign workers are entitled to claim Child Benefit for their children, even if they do not reside with them in this country.

The main purpose of Child Benefit is to support families living in the United Kingdom. In this regard, the general rules for this benefit do not provide for them to be paid in respect of children who reside outside the United Kingdom. However, these general rules are supplemented by the co-ordinating rules in European Community Regulations which the United Kingdom has applied since it joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973.

The Regulations protect the acquired social security rights of European Economic Area (EEA) workers and their families moving within the Community.
The Regulations have detailed rules that determine which social security scheme a worker should contribute to, and which State has responsibility for the payment of family benefits. In general, it provides that the worker pays into the social security scheme where the work takes place and that State is responsible for the payment of family benefits. If entitlement to family benefits arises in more than one Member State, the Regulations contain priority rules to determine who has responsibility for paying. More detailed information relating to these Community rules can be found in leaflet SA 29 “Your social security insurance, benefits and healthcare rights in the European Economic Area”, published by the Department for Work and Pensions and available from its website at Similarly, the thousands of UK nationals who live in another EEA country also benefit from these rules in a wide number of areas.

The vast majority of Eastern European migrants, who were the subject of recent media publications, are in employment, paying UK taxes and National Insurance contributions and in many cases in hard-to-fill jobs in sectors with high levels of vacancies.

When a claim is made under the EC Regulations, there are long-standing checks in place to prevent fraud. For example, the relevant authorities in the family’s country of residence are required to confirm the identity and address of the children in the claim. In addition, the person claiming can be required to provide the original birth or adoption certificate of the child in support of their claim.

I hope that you will find this helpful.

This immediately demolishes the Scum's spurious claim that there are no checks that the children actually exist. Secondly, it makes clear that anyone living in any current EU member state while their children live in their "home" country can claim that country's equivalent of child benefit on the exact same basis, similarly without the children actually being present.

The Sun article accordingly doesn't deign to mention that only those paying national insurance are entitled to claim child benefit. They're contributing to the economy and are just as entitled to claim the benefits available to "us" as anyone else. The simple fact they're foreign automatically means this is "shocking".

Last time round the Sun introduced the notion that the fact that 200,000 more British children are living in poverty is somehow related in any way whatsoever to the fact that 14,000 migrants are claiming child benefit, with the disingenuous Tory Philip Hammond following up. This time Hammond just jumps straight in:

Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Philip Hammond said: “About 3.8million British children are living in poverty yet Gordon Brown is siphoning off more than £320,000 per week to children abroad.”

Shall we do some elementary maths? £320,000 x 52 weeks = £16,640,000. Divide £16,640,000 by 3,800,000 and you get 4.3789473684210526315789473684211. In other words, if we took all the money back from the Poles which they are legitimately claiming, and redistributed it between those children, each could look forward to having an early Christmas present of £4.37p. Don't spend it all at once kids!

Going on:

HM Revenues and Customs said: “Under EU rules, an EU national working and paying compulsory contributions in one EU country can claim child benefits for their family resident in another.”

Which is a more concise and dumbed-down version for the Sun readership of the email I received.

Naturally, the good burghers of MyScum are enraged by this insult to the English working man, although one or two do dare to suggest that this is actually only fair. JanJud is representative:

It's an absolute disgrace, the working man is being taxed to death to pay for children that have no right to anything from the British Taxpayer. This Government are totally incompetent & corrupt, this throwing money down the drain must stop. British families can't even get housing, yet immigrants can!!!!!

And where does JanJud hail from? Err, South Africa.

I read a far more interesting fact in one of today's Grauniad articles on the Nimrod crash. The cost of operations in Iraq, despite the draw down in troops, is estimated to come to £995m, a rise of 2%. You decide which is more of a burden on the humble British taxpayer.

Elsewhere, the Sun is mourning the loss of Andy Hayman. Says crime editor Mike Sullivan, previously featured here, here and here:

THE resignation of Andy Hayman is a sad day for British policing.


Unlike others, Hayman fell on his sword and for that he must be praised.

I obviously cannot condone any wrong doing but he was respected and admired by grassroots police officers.

Andy Hayman was one of the good guys and our police force is a weaker force without him.

One has to wonder if Sullivan's sadness might be related to the "unique" relationship between the Sun and the police. Rebekah Wade has previously admitted to paying officers for information, while the stories which were so horribly wrong about Rochelle Holness and Janet Hossain were likely sourced on information from the police. Last week, when Harry Redknapp was arrested, the photographers from a certain newspaper had turned up at the same time as the police did, which might just suggest the two were in cahoots. The newspaper? The Sun.

Finally, this. Fucking this:

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007 

Scum-watch: More page 3 idol and hysteria over projections.

One of the few things I forgot to mention in yesterday's meandering post about the return of the Scum's depressing, soft-pornographic, vile page 3 idol competition (nudity) is that as with all the other little boy wank mags that encourage their readers to send in photographs of themselves or their girlfriends, there are little to no safeguards involved in determining the actual age of those who send in the semi-naked images. The Press Complaints Commission recently found that FHM had published an image of a 14-year-old girl topless, sent in by someone other than herself. Despite the Scum's righteous anger against the hidden scourge of paedophilia, it failed to report the ruling, probably because it is leaving itself wide open to the same thing happening to it. The only two criteria for submitting your image in to the Scum's compo are that you're over 18 and haven't had your breasts enhanced by plastic. It really would be a tragedy of the Scum were to fall victim to history repeating, wouldn't it?

Elsewhere in today's Scum, it comments on the Office for National Statistics' projection that by 2016 the population of the UK will have increased to 65 million and by 2031 to 71 million, mainly due to the effects of immigration:

FIVE million more people will be crammed into Britain in less than TEN years, official figures showed last night.

The UK’s population will hit a staggering 65million by 2016. And the explosion will be driven by immigrants.

The growth will be the equivalent of half the population of Greater London.

The Government’s own prediction shows our overcrowded island swelling by at least 2.1million immigrants.

Within the first four sentences the article has abandoned any pretense of attempting to approach what are projections based on the current data available in a calm manner. Our island is "overcrowded" and the new arrivals will be "crammed" in. It gets even more alarmist:

It could mean London ending up having Third World-style shanty towns springing up in the shadows of the City’s gleaming skyscrapers.

Where do you go from such obviously offensive, insensitive and ridiculous claims? To contradicting the report on immigration from last week that showed that on the whole, the public services have been coping admirably with the rise in immigration from eastern Europe:

Britain’s NHS and education systems are already under huge pressure.

The words "prediction" and "projection" only feature twice in the entire report, the latter only in relation to Liam Byrne's comments. Nowhere is it made clear that this entire report could turn out to be complete hogwash: it's an extrapolation of what the population will be if the exact same level of immigration continues over the coming decades. The figure of 190,000 comes from the ONS' corrected figure (PDF) of the level of immigration in 2004 and 2005, when the numbers of those coming from Poland etc were at their height. The last two years, especially the figures from so far this year, suggest that the levels have already peaked. The political and economic factors that have led to so many coming to the UK also may have already started to turn: the defeat of Poland's Law and Justice party in the election on Sunday, widely loathed by the young Poles who disproportionately make up the numbers that have came here over the last couple of years, might help to signal a return.

The ONS' figures are really only any help as a guide to what might happen, and judging by the government's reaction, crackdowns on immigration are only likely to heighten thanks to the current turning of opinion against those whom other reports have already made clear have helped enormously with our continuing economic growth. It's quite true that we can't just constantly mention the economic argument when defending the current levels of immigration; while the reports have mostly showed that cohesion has not been affected, such a continued rise in immigration certainly does risk a rise both in frustration and tension between the communities. The answer though is not to play the fear and anxiety card, as the tabloids continuously have, or to pretend that there is nothing to worry about, but to set out the reasons why too harsh a response to the current levels of migration will if anything only bring even worse problems, both economically and socially.

The Scum's leader column is slightly calmer, but only just. Quoting from it is pretty pointless, as the only thing worth responding to is it's argument that the government are doing nothing to prepare for the consequences, which is absurd, as the response of Liam Byrne has already showed. It too only notes that the ONS' figures are a "forecast" once, before going on to treat its predictions as gospel. After years of fanning the flames of fear of outsiders and in some cases preaching open prejudice, it's ever so slightly rich for the Sun now to be so concerned about social cohesion. If it really was, it would be calm instead of the diametric opposite. Its constant hysterical stance only does damage to its at times more than legitimate arguments.

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Friday, September 28, 2007 

Even more immigrants are coming!

As Five Chinese Crackers has noted, there's been something of an upsurge again recently in the (scare) stories about immigration, with the Mail alone publishing an astonishing 24 in just 7 days. While he noted that there's a chance of an election and that the Labour conference has been on, with various members of not so new Labour literally falling over themselves to suck up to the Daily Mail, it might well be because next month sees the publishing of the first official comprehensive analysis of the impact of immigration. Prior to that though, the Office of National Statistics has helpfully given the tabloids something additional to shriek about:

Immigrants will swell the British population by almost two million in the next decade, according to official predictions.

Whitehall now believes the record immigration levels of the past few years are likely to continue.

The projection drew an immediate admission from the Government that it has "worries" over migration.

The new estimate by the Office for National Statistics - that numbers will grow by 190,000 a year - is 30 per cent higher than previous figures.

The ONS went back to the drawing board
(PDF) after it factored in the much higher rates of migration in 2004 and 2005 (although it also states that better ways of counting may have had a bigger impact), upping its estimate from earlier in the year from 145,000 to 190,000. This itself makes a nonsense of the Mail's claim on its front page that "the government has massively underestimated" immigration, as the ONS had actually underestimated the estimate, guesstimate, projection, prediction, whatever you want to call it, based on the current net figures, immigrants less emigrants. As any fule will know, you trust such estimates with extreme caution, especially this government's. It's quite possible, because this is a projection all the way up to 2031, which is not just a very, very long time in politics, but also in world events, that these figures will end up way out of whack, and not necessarily as an underestimate, but an overestimate. Due to the figures being based on 2004 and 2005, which were the first major years' of eastern European migration, they may well distort a pattern which could already be on the turn. Both of the sets of figures released so far this year suggest that migration from Poland, etc has reached its likely peak, and while the tabloids love to quote the 700,000 figure who have come so far, we simply don't know how many of those have since returned home: the vast majority state on their applications that they intend to stay less than a year, meaning we see them enter but we don't see them leave.

Andrew Green has as usual been sticking his nose in:

Migrationwatch chief Sir Andrew Green said yesterday: "This new assumption at last recognises that the present very high levels of immigration are likely to continue unless the Government moves from rhetoric to really effective measures."

He said the figures mean the population will have increased by 8.7million between 2004 and 2031, of which 7.2million will be due to immigration, including the children of migrants.

What Green has done here is... well, I don't know what he's done here, because none of the calculations I've done (and I'll admit maths isn't my strong point) involving the updated figures have managed to add up to 7.2 million. He seems to have taken the estimate that the net migration will total 145,000 each year (from 2004), then multiplied that by the new figure included for the long-term average number of children per woman, which is 1.84. 145,000 x 27 = 3,915,000 x 1.84 = 7,203,600. I can't tell if this is his actual working, even though it seems to be, as it isn't even explained properly on the Migration Watch website. If this is his calculation, it's completely up the spout, as it's firstly using the outdated figures, then treating every single net migrant as a woman, who's going to have the exactly average number of children. This seems to have been where the Express has got its front page splash that "Immigration will add 7 million to our population", which of course is completely out of any context whatsoever, but makes for a nice little frightener. I may quite easily have got the figures completely wrong, so if you see any obvious mistakes, let me know. I've emailed Migration Watch and asked for Green's working in any case.

Perhaps more interesting though is that the Mail is showing signs of being wooed, not just by the new Dear Leader, but also by Liam Byrne's explanation that this may well require action:

In a sign that the open-door era of Mr Blair is over, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "This shows what could happen unless we take action now.

"Frankly it underlines the need for swift and sweeping changes to the immigration system in the next 12 months."

He admitted: "Migration is bringing new wealth but also new worries to Britain."

The statement contrasted sharply with the past attitude of Labour ministers, who have stressed the benefits of immigration and cast doubt on the motives of those who warned it was too high.

Home Office officials said the action promised by Mr Byrne refers to policies already announced.

These include the points-based immigration system for migrants from outside the EU beginning next year.

Christ, if Brown's managed to sate even the Daily Mail, it really must be nearing election time.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007 

Pretty tough on immigrants.

There's not really that much to add to Five Chinese Crackers' skilled dissection of the Daily Mail's take on the comments of Cambridgeshire's chief constable Julie Spence's measured call for more resources from the government to deal with the challenges of the influx of eastern European migrants, although Jon Cruddas also makes a number of salient points on CiF.

It's interesting though to note, especially in the aftermath of the mini-tremor caused by Sunny's post on CiF (which I'll come to tomorrow, blame Tiscali for my connection being down most of today) that the BBC, apparently a television version of the Guardian which seeks to brainwash the general public into becoming politically correct gay loving limp-wristed liberals (I may paraphrase slightly, but that seems to be what some of the commenters' on Iain Dale's post on Sunny's CiF piece are suggesting) has given almost blanket coverage to Spence's comments and the ramifications of them. BBC Radio 2 and Five Live have been running the story either as the first or second report on their news bulletins all day; the 10 O'Clock News had it third; and Newsnight gave it top billing, complete with discussion afterwards with Sir Andrew Green spouting his usual bilious nonsense. Not bad for an organisation that has ignored immigration and is meant to be unquestionably in favour of it.

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Monday, September 17, 2007 

Scum-watch: More benefit bullshit and other stories.

Proving that you can never have enough of a good thing, today's Scum returns to Saturday's theme of the Polish stealing all our benefits:

MIGRANTS from the new EU countries are claiming at least £250,000 A WEEK in UK child benefit — even though their kids still live abroad.

Sounds a lot on the face of it, doesn't it? Let's delve in further:

Child benefit — designed to help out parents with food and clothing bills — is worth £18.10 a week for the eldest child and £12.10 for each other child.

Tories last night calculated that if each migrant claims for just one child the annual bill to UK taxpayers would reach £13million — or around £250,000 a week.

Right, so in other words we're talking about peanuts in relation to the annual sum that is paid out in benefits as a whole, not to even begin bringing in the annual government expenditure as a whole.

Skipping backwards for a second:

Around 14,000 workers, mainly from Eastern Europe, are legitimately receiving the handouts, official figures reveal.

And there is NO requirement for them to send the money home to their families.

Oh, so instead of sending the money back as most eastern European migrants do, which is nearly universally the reason they come here to work in the first place (either that or to make enough to take home at the end of their stay) they're instead presumably going to be spending it on the lash or waste it in other ways. Completely unlike our own citizens, of course. Nice inference there, Michael Lea.

But the true cost is likely to be far higher depending on how many children each claimant has. The findings come after separate figures showed that 200,000 more British children are living in poverty than a year ago.

Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Philip Hammond, who uncovered the figures, said: “Child benefit is a vital weapon in the fight against child poverty. So why is Gordon Brown sending thousands of pounds every week to children who don’t live here and who may never have visited the UK?”

Way to connect together two completely unconnected things. Presumably those 200,000 more children who are living in poverty already have parents' claiming child benefit; if not, then they ought to be made more aware of their right to it. What both the Scum and Mr Hammond are trying to construe is that it's somehow the fault of the relatively tiny amount of migrants who are claiming child benefit that our own citizens are becoming destitute. This isn't just nonsense, it's potentially dangerous nonsense. The tabloids in all these articles scaremongering about the benefits that temporary migrants are claiming never so much as mention the inconvenient truth that the amounts they're claiming back are far, far outweighed by the tax they're paying to the exchequer.

Thing is, I agree with the basic premise of the article. I don't think that migrants who haven't brought their children with them to live here shouldn't be able to claim benefit for them. It's a loophole that ought to be closed. The article doesn't just provide the relative context though, it uses it as an excuse to further bash migrants, and even if it doesn't do it completely openly, its inference by comparing the increasing poverty among children in here, as if the sum of £13 million would go anywhere near tackling the 200,000 increase is that they're taking
our money at the expense of our people. It may be more subtle than usual, but it's still the same familiar poison.

The figures will embarrass ministers, who had claimed migrants were likely to be young men with no interest in handouts.

Seeing as 84% of migrants from the eastern European countries are claiming no benefits whatsoever, it would seem that the ministers are in fact overwhelming correct.

Sir Andrew Green, of think tank Migrationwatch, said a Pole claiming for three children would earn more in UK benefits than the minimum wage in his homeland. He said: “It is ridiculous that the taxpayer should finance child benefit for children that have never set foot in this country.”

Seeing as "Sir" Andrew Green has more than a tendency to talk out of his nether regions, I decided to check. The Polish monthly minimum wage is 936 Polish zlotys, which works out at roughly £171. Child benefit for 3 children works out at £169 a month (
1 GBP = 5.44506 PLN, from, so no, a Pole claiming for 3 children wouldn't quite earn the Polish minimum wage for simply coming here and working while claiming child benefit. Remember the figures we're talking about here. Just how many of those 14,000 claiming child benefit are going to have 3 children? For argument's sake, let's say a third of those have 3 children and are claiming child benefit at £169 a month or £2,030 a year. The cost to the taxpayer would be £9,471,980 a year for those roughly 4,666 claimants. If we then say that another third have two children and the last have just one, that would be at a cost of £7,327,486 (£1,570 a year) and £4,391,639 (£941) respectively, adding up as a total to £21,119,100. Say we close the loophole, and seeing how the Tories are suddenly so concerned about child poverty, redistribute the money saved directly to those 200,000 children. They'd get £105 each, which sounds reasonable, until you also cut it down to a rise in child benefit per week. That'd be a real rise of slightly over £2 a week. I'll say again: this is a loophole that must be closed, but this is a relative drop in the ocean compared not just to government expenditure as a whole, but also to the amount paid out in benefits every year. It doesn't make it any less wasteful, but it's also worth getting it into perspective.

Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This makes a mockery of our welfare system.”

Much like Matthew Elliot's organisation makes a mockery out of all of us actual taxpayers.

Moving on to the Scum's leader:

HUMAN rights laws are endangering millions of lives. They make it impossible to fight terrorists on our own soil.

That’s the startling confession by John Reid.

Oh yes, that's right, because the 21/7 plotters haven't been imprisoned for life, have they? Neither have those who were arrested during Operation Crevice, or indeed those arrested for last year's alleged "liquid bombs" plot, or even the student today convicted for threatening to blow himself up, amongst other offences. Reid would instead love to have been able to have locked up "terrorist suspects" indefinitely without charge in our version of Guantanamo Bay, struck down by the law lords (although their decision was not actually binding), and to have imposed round the clock control orders, also ruled to be unlawful as they amounted to house arrest, but neither would have done anything to prevent any of the plots which have been either broken up or in the case of 7/7, succeeded, as none of those involved had been targeted by either.

This Sun's argument is so ridiculous that it could only have came from either John Reid or a Murdoch tabloid newspaper hack, which is unsurprisingly where this came from; Reid's laughable but despicable call for the very piece of legislation which protects us from numerous abuses of power, not to mention the one that is likely to help the survivors of 7/7 to seek an independent inquiry into what went wrong on that day, was in yesterday's News of the Screws. The Screws' website is hopeless, and doesn't appear to have it up anyway, so we'll have to rely on a BBC report that suggests Reid's article said the following:

"Too often we are fighting crime and terrorism with one hand behind our back."

Where have I heard that before?

The 28-day detention limit has left them working with one hand tied behind their backs, cops’ leader Ken Jones warned yesterday.

Would you believe it was in a Scum leader column?

Today's continues:

For years, The Sun has demanded the Human Rights Act be torn up.

When Mr Reid was Home Secretary he defended it. Yet all the time he knew it was putting the nation in peril.

Why didn’t he act when he had the power, and the Prime Minister’s ear?

How many more ministers are hiding the facts — and waiting until they quit to tell the truth?

In actual fact, this is unfair to Reid. Back in May he threatened to derogate from the European Convention of Human Rights after three men who had been on lighter control orders had fled, presumably to join the insurgency in Iraq. Why Reid has gone the whole hog now though is obvious - if he even wrote the article in yesterday's Screws, he most certainly got paid for it - and by the very "news organisation" that is now why oh whying over his previous reticence.

Finally, there's nothing like some good old fashioned Scum humbug:

A 12-YEAR-OLD girl has caused a storm by modelling at one of the world’s largest fashion shows.

Maddison Gabriel wore a string of revealing outfits after being crowned the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week in Australia.

And for all those paedo-pervs out there that are the scourge of modern life, the Sun has kindly reproduced a photograph of Maddison wearing one of those revealing outfits: a bikini. No real surprise though: the Scum, where hardly a day goes by without a sex offender's wicked deeds being reported to the outraged nation, failed to report last week's news that FHM had published a photograph of a 14-year-old girl topless without her permission. As Peter Wilby suggests, it may just have something to do with the fact the Sun too fears being caught out in a similar fashion.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007 

Scum-watch: Those thieving migrant scrounging sponging scum...

Horror of horrors! You know what those Poles are doing now? Only writing in their newspapers about how easy it is to claim benefits!

THE biggest Polish newspaper in Britain has run a special edition bragging how easy it is to claim benefits.

And it describes the simple ways immigrants can grab a cheap home with free furniture and child benefits.

The piece in this week’s edition of The Polish Express is even illustrated with a picture of a couple with a pushchair being showered in bank notes.

It takes quite something for the king of gutter journalism to turn its sights on others, but the Scum is nothing if not brazen.

The front-page article, headlined Benefit Hunters, reads: “The longer we are in Great Britain, the more rights to social security we are given and the better we are at taking advantage of them.”

Other pictures show a woman holding a set of keys and a model of a house, and a child clutching coins.

Another photo shows a man entering a Jobcentre with the caption: “Poles are visiting the Jobcentre more and more often — not to find a job, but in order to get benefit.”

It says: “You can apply for benefits as soon you take up a job in Great Britain.

“You can apply for the remaining benefits after working in the UK for a few months or a year.

“The formalities concerning an application for social security are extremely simple. Do not delay in submitting an application.”

In other words then, all the Polish Express is doing is informing its readers of their rights as they currently stand. Still, with a helpful coating of Sun hyperbole you can soon turn such a story into a migrants stealing our benefits extravangaza.

The paper features a case study of “Pete”, a Pole who came to Britain two years ago and settled in a Welsh seaside town. Unlike the 1.6million Brits waiting for homes on council housing lists, he was given a two-bedroom house with a garden straightaway.

Pete is quoted as saying: “The house in which I rented a room was falling apart.” When he went to a housing association he was told to register with the Home Office as a person working in the UK to get a National Insurance number.

He says: “Never in my life did I expect the whole process to last such a short time.

“They just gave me the keys and told me to move in. They did not even want any deposit.”

He adds: “They asked me if I had furniture. I didn’t, so they sent a lorry with a brand new bed, table, chairs and a cooker. They even brought it all in!”

The paper explains he pays £60 rent a week for a two-bedroom house with a garden.

After living there for two years, he will be able to buy the property at a discount on its market value.

What's that I smell? It couldn't be bullshit, could it? Considering earlier in the year, after Margaret Hodge's outburst about migrants taking all the houses the government came up with figures that showed actually only 2% of all lettings last year had gone to foreign nationals (around 2,200 houses in total), it might just be that "Pete" or the Express have rather embellished their account.

It is estimated around 112,000 migrants who came to the UK to work are currently claiming state benefits — up from 46,620 last year.

The Scum naturally doesn't bother to present a breakdown of those figures. Thankfully, a slightly less egregious newspaper but one which is still wholly disingenuous has previously done the job for us:

If you bother to do the working out, it actually works out that 84% of eastern European migrants aren't claiming any benefits; and those that are are almost universally taking advantage of benefits that as taxpayers' every other person in the United Kingdom is automatically entitled to. The £125 million figure though is complete bollocks, as is most of the article other than the stats, as Five Chinese Crackers pointed out.

Next up we have the usual rent-a-quote suspects spouting out their indignation at how appalling this all is:

Shadow home secretary Mr Davis said: “Statistics like these show why the Government’s claims that numbers coming here would be low — and restrictions would be placed on benefits — were just more spin. The public will want to know what action Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is taking.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, attacked the newspaper article last night.

He said: “It’s appalling that Polish immigrants should be encouraged to live off our taxes even if they have to work for a year before the whole system is wide open to them.

“The Government claimed to close off the welfare system to ‘benefit shoppers’.

“But it looks as though some people are finding their way through these checks at our expense.

“The money employers save on lower salaries will be paid out by taxpayers funding benefits.”

Which only just goes to show that the supposed head of an anti-immigration thinktank hasn't got the slightest clue what he's talking about. If he had even browsed the recent figures he'd know that what he's saying simply isn't true, meaning that he's either lying or doesn't have the adequate knowledge to be able to comment on the Scum's article. Not that that usually stops anyone else.

But Polish Express editor Adam Skorupinski was unrepentant.

He said: “It was not our intention to encourage Polish people to seek benefits. We definitely think there’s a problem with benefit hunters from Poland and Eastern Europe — but it’s not such a big problem that it’s hurting the British public.”

As the figures for those claiming out-of-work benefits more than bear out.

The Scum couldn't resist commenting this in its editorial column:

IT’S bad enough that Britain has turned into a haven for Europe’s scroungers.

Yes, of course it has Rebekah my dear, keep taking the medicine.

Now a Polish immigrant newspaper adds insult to injury by cheerily telling its readers how best to squeeze handouts from British taxpayers.

Or, err, considering that they're also paying tax, how to claim benefits they're entitled to.
It cites one extraordinary case of a Pole given a two-bedroom house and a truckload of new furniture with practically no questions asked.

Extraordinary in its lack of truthfulness, one suspects.

Its front page pictures a couple pushing a pram while being showered in British bank notes.

Less painful than being hit with pound coins I suppose - although if that was the case the Scum could have made a joke about golden showers.

Many immigrants, Poles especially, do enrich our country through hard work.

Really? Reading the Sun you would have thought they'd come here to do everything but, seeing as we're the haven for Europe's scroungers.

But others have come here solely to milk the over-generous benefits system which is the talk of Europe’s spongers.

As the figures bear out. Oh, wait...

The Polish newspaper has a right to free speech, however disgraceful its message.

Quite right too. The Sun can just direct its hatred at the Polish themselves instead.

The fault lies with the Government that allows this gravy train to roll on and on.

Who could possibly disagree?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007 

Taking our women, jobs and benefits!

Last night, faced with the latest statistics that showed that immigration from the eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004 has likely peaked, I wondered just how the tabloids were going to be able to spin the figures into showing that the Poles etc and now the Romanians and Bulgarians are still flooding in. Rather than making a big thing of them as usual, would they simply drop them back onto page 94? Would they blatantly lie, as the Mail has previously done? Or would they come up with a new statistic to be outraged about?

They decided upon the latter. The Express, in full crusader battle cry, screams 92,000 EASTERN EUROPEANS MILK OUR BENEFITS. For once, they're telling the truth but as usual they're being wholly disingenuous. What the Express (and the Mail) have done is taken all the number of benefits claims made by migrants, for jobseeker's allowance, income support, state pension credit, child benefit and tax credits, and added them all together. The Mail has kindly provided the table below which shows what's being claimed and what it isn't.

As you can see, the numbers claiming benefits for being out of work are still so minuscule as to be almost entirely negligible. The Express and Mail have instead thrown their toys out of the pram about the numbers claiming child benefit and tax credits, which on the surface do look large, leading the papers to claim that this is adding up to around £100m in benefits going to migrants. What neither paper bothers to tell you though is that the accession statistics (PDF) also tell you how many national insurance numbers have been allocated since 2004 for employment purposes, through which they'll be paying tax. These stand at 610,751. That means that over 500,000 migrants are taking nothing out while putting far, far more back in than the others are claiming back. And anyway, why shouldn't those 90,000 migrants that are paying tax just the same as the rest of us are not be allowed to claim the same benefits that we're entitled to?

Both papers, trying desperately to keep their readers believing that nothing has changed, quote "Sir" Andrew Green of Migration Watch:

"These figures confirm that massive levels of immigration from Eastern Europe continue un­abated. It is even more vital to reduce immigration from the rest of the world if our public services are to be able to cope."

Really? Here's the applicants by quarter of application from January 2005 to March 2007:

As the graph shows, the numbers applying to come here from the countries which joined the EU in 2004 for was in actual fact at one of its lowest levels in the last two years last quarter. It's true that the numbers might yet go up in the next two quarters, with students and others coming here in the summer months mainly to help in the agriculture sector, but otherwise the figures look to be broadly in line with what's been the case since 2004. Nowhere in either of the Mail or Express articles is the very legitimate point made that many of those who have come here since 2004 will have long returned home; both prefer to perpetuate the myth that the 630,000 that have registered since then are all still here. Even that isn't good enough for the Mail, which adds the following qualifier:

But officials admit this could be the tip of the iceberg, as the figures do not include the self-employed, spouses, children or those who do not bother to register.

The Express, always trying to out do the Mail, even pulls a figure out of its ass to make the same point:

But the figure is likely to be closer to 840,000 once the self-employed are included.

Strangely, neither the Mail or Express dwells long on the number that have applied to come here from Bulgaria and Romania (PDF with statistics in full here.). The Mail instead focuses bizarrely on the fact that some have specified that they're "circus artistes", something which FCC goes into further detail on. The Express does much the same. Could this possibly be something to do with the fact that, as the Guardian reports, Migration Watch confidently predicted, with the Express and Mail repeating the claim, that 300,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would come here within 20 months? If the numbers continue at around the current rate, it will be much closer to 60,000, and seeing as the government has pledged to limit numbers to 20,000 a year, it's unlikely to even be that high. As for the Scum, which recklessly scaremongered and lied last year about Romanians and Bulgarians bringing HIV/AIDS with them, for which it was reprimanded by the PCC, it either printed yesterday's online report in today's paper or simply didn't bother.

The tactics of the Mail and Express are, much like Blair, to obfuscate rather than tell the truth. When reporting the actuality means contradicting their own prejudices and potentially informing their readers that the sky isn't about to fall in, they instead have to shift the truth around a bit. When the government does this, it's rightly called spin, and confidence in politicians has plummeted as a result. The difference is that the right-wing tabloids do this every day, and while public confidence in them is also low, they still have the same impact on government policy and on the public mindset that they've always had, and unlike our politicians, we can't vote these bastards out.

Update: Madeleine Bunting, in one of her rare decent pieces, makes much the same points.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

Taking our women and taking our jobs.

At the weekend the Mail on Sunday found itself facing the full ire of bloggers after it printed a hatchet job on Owen Barder, a Labour blogger who has since taken up a £100,000 job in the civil service. While that article was full of lies and distortions, nothing in it even comes close to two recent articles about immigration.

On the 25th of April, the Mail claimed that the number of migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania, who joined the EU at the beginning of the year, had tripled compared to the same number who had came here in the same time period in the previous year. The Mail's figure was that 60,000 had came in the three months to February. As Five Chinese Crackers pointed out at the time:

What the paper has done is take the number of visitors from EU25 countries (pre-January EU countries) and subtract it from the number from EU27 countries (post-January EU countries) to find out the total from the two new EU countries. So, the number of people visiting has trebled.

It got the figures in the first place from the Overseas Travel and Tourism First Release (PDF). Yes, that's right, these numbers weren't from any sort of official statistics but in fact from data collected on the numbers of tourists, making them completely and utterly meaningless. That didn't stop them from starting the article with "[T]he number of migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania in the UK has tripled since they joined the European Union" though, which was a blatant lie.

The Mail wasn't satisfied with just 20,000 a month, which still seems relatively paltry compared to the number of Poles who've came here to work. A further sexing up of the figures was necessary. On the 10th of May, the Mail's social affairs correspondent Steve Doughty breathlessly reported:

The number of visitors from Eastern Europe has risen by a quarter since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, a Government survey has revealed.

The first count taken since the beginning of the year shows there were around 50,000 arrivals each month from the two new members.

The count, at ports and airports, suggests that warnings of a new flood of immigrants could be coming true.

Again, Five Chinese Crackers took the Mail to task:

The actual number of extra visitors from the two new EU countries so far since accession in January compared to last year is just 29,000. Yes, the Mail's original 'Migrant numbers triple' story claimed a rise from 23,000 in three months of 2006 to 60,000 in 2007, but it was using the figures of December 2006 to February 2007, including one month before accession. The more recent figures show that the number of visitors from January to March 2006 was 31,000, and in the same period of 2007, the figure is 60,000. So, the actual number of extra visitors from the two new EU countries in March 2007 is around 10,000. The Mail implies that the accession of the two new countries is responsible for a rise of 50,000. Does the Mail lie much?

Do bears keep Andrex handy in case they get caught short in the woods?

Today the official quarterly migration figures were released by the Home Office. Have we indeed been flooded by vampires and gypsies?

Err, no:

Only 8,000 Romanians and Bulgarians came to work in Britain in the first three months after their countries joined the European Union on January 1, according to official figures published today.

The Home Office figures show that 10,418 Romanians and Bulgarians applied for permission to work in Britain between January and March this year, of which 7,935 were granted. The figures include 2,660 who registered as self-employed and 200 who described themselves as "self-sufficient". About two-thirds were Romanian.

In other words, the Mail was either out by 52,000, going by its first report, or by 142,000, if you believed Steve Doughty. This isn't just being slightly out; these are massively erroneous articles that will have only encouraged the belief that we're being "swamped" by migrants when this is clearly not the case. The other figures released today also show that the number of migrants coming from the other eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004 dropped by 16,000 compared to the same time last year.

How then does the Mail spin getting it so completely and utterly wrong? Why, by implying that the figures themselves are hiding the reality, of course!

10,000 Bulgarians and Romanians come to work in UK in three months - but that's just the official ones


Today's figures, which do not detail the numbers of Romanians or Bulgarians who have come to live rather than work, show that 5,075 have had applications to work here approved.

Quite why Romanians and Bulgarians would come here to live if they hadn't got a job (the numbers of self-employed are unlikely to be that high. Correction: the self-employed are included in the R/B figures, but not in the data from the other eastern European countries) or family sadly isn't explained, but that doesn't matter. The doubt has been sown; you can't trust this government, after all. If our media were honest, it would use these figures to show that the worst case scenario predicted by the likes of Migration Watch has not come to pass. Instead, the Mail has done the absolute opposite, as has the Scum. It might be glib to say so, but while Margaret Hodge helps the BNP one day a year, the right-wing tabloids do it every day.

Update: the Mail article has since been changed. See Five Chinese Crackers (again) for more, and above once I post later.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007 

Scum-watch: Well, that lasted all of, err, a day...

As could have been expected, the Sun's short-lived outrage against ignorance didn't last very long. Taking advantage of a report by the Audit Commission titled Crossing Borders, responding to the local challenges posed by the influx of migrant workers, the Sun is completely breathless in its attack on what the East European migrants have done to our sanctified country:

ROCKETING immigration has left schools, hospitals, police and housing at full stretch, watchdogs warned yesterday.

Towns have been hit by racial tension, street crime and binge drinking as foreign arrivals flood in.

The report says:

There is little evidence that the increased numbers of migrant workers have caused significant or systematic problems in respect of community safety or cohesion. Despite this, community perceptions about migrant workers can be inappropriately negative. They are often confused with asylum seekers and refugees, and the tone of some national and local papers can encourage hostility. While British papers worry about the number of people coming to Britain, Polish papers blame their government for allowing so many skilled youngsters to leave.

On schools the report says:
99 Few migrant workers are accompanied by their families, at least initially. When they do bring dependants, the main impact on education services is related to language, though in a few cases the numbers involved have affected the planning of places. Language barriers and shift hours often mean face-to-face contact between schools and parents can be limited.

100 The need to teach English as an additional language (EAL) is an issue in an increasing number of schools and local education authorities (LEAs). Recent pupil censuses show that over 10 per cent of all maintained school pupils (and over 50 per cent in Inner London) have a first language other than English. Teachers may lack the necessary experience and expertise, schools may be unaccustomed to change or lack the capacity to manage the numbers effectively, and LEAs can find that their central support for schools is too small and inexperienced at dealing with the current numbers and rate of turnover.

101 Schools receive additional funding per pupil, and new arrivals without English count towards extra funding under the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG). This grant is distributed to authorities by a formula, with locally determined formulae devolving at least 85 per cent to schools. The grant was £174 million in 2006/07. Grant levels were fixed for three years on the basis of the 2004 pupil census, to give more security for funding decisions, meaning that it does not reflect the large increases in some areas since then. The DfES has allocated some additional short-term funding for in-service teacher training and materials, and will consult with authorities and schools on future arrangements during 2007.

On hospitals:
103 Most migrant workers are relatively young and healthy, and move frequently. Many go to accident and emergency (A&E) departments if they need medical care, as they would in their home countries, and see little benefit in signing up with GPs. Footnote 4 There is no evidence that migrant workers attending A&E cause a specific problem for hospitals.

104 When dependants join migrant workers there are likely to be issues for health services from doctors’ practices, pharmacists and acute care providers, as pregnant women, children and older people are more likely to use health services. Issues include differing expectations, for example around maternity care; the impact of particular social trends, such as higher levels of smoking by some nationalities; and a need for interpretation to ensure diagnoses are accurate and patients understand when and how to take medicines.

On the police:
70 Some migrant workers may not trust the police in their home countries and so treat British police with suspicion. Differing assumptions can include expecting the police to require bribes. Such expectations hinder crime reporting and intelligence gathering, making prevention and cohesion activities harder.

71 Local police, especially diversity officers, are striving to make links, understand migrant workers’ needs and improve trust, often alongside more trusted groups:

* In Cornwall and Cumbria police attend some employer induction talks and work alongside union representatives.
* Police may collaborate with local authorities and others to set up and support local migrant worker groups.
* Some forces use ESOL classes as an opportunity to meet migrant workers and talk about issues such as personal protection and road safety.

72 Police-led work to educate migrant workers about life in the UK includes providing small cards with visual reminders about road safety and simple leaflets covering basic laws and regulations (Ref. 37). Some are promoting additional driving training for those recruited abroad as heavy goods vehicle drivers.

On housing:
61 Few recent migrant workers are offered social housing tenancies, since many come on special schemes, visas and permits and have no rights to it. Communities and Local Government (CLG) figures show that only 110 accession state nationals have been offered social tenancies since 2004. However, once EU citizens gain residency rights, they become eligible for assistance under homelessness legislation. They will also be eligible to join other local tenants and residents on waiting lists, increasing demand for affordable housing.

There are some problems here however, but certainly not worthy of describing housing as at "full stretch" due purely to migrants:

56 In areas of housing shortage, such as East Anglia and London, migrant workers add to the demand for affordable rented property. Councils in East Anglia report particularly rapid growth in HMOs. For example, in 2002 Breckland District Council regularly inspected around 40 HMOs; by summer 2006 they had a database of 480. In London 10 per cent of all privately rented households are now overcrowded and this is rising rapidly; on present trends the sector will overtake the social rented sector as the most overcrowded by 2007 (Ref. 32). There have been examples of gross overcrowding, including the use of illegally converted attics, sheds and outbuildings. Figures on HMOs are difficult to compare nationally since the data are unreliable, though some authorities have locally comparable records.

58 Poor management and maintenance of privately rented properties can adversely affect the appearance of a neighbourhood, leading to complaints from other local residents. Concerns about the impact of privately rented housing are not new, but where the number of such properties occupied by migrant workers is increasing, problems can become more obvious and may be blamed on tenants rather than landlords.

The term "racial tension" isn't mentioned in the report. Nor is the word "racism". Racist appears twice:

69 There is also evidence of racist views and hostility towards migrant workers in some areas (Ref. 36), and some migrant workers hold racist views too. Police report isolated examples of hate crimes, but there is no regular or widespread disorder.

Street crime also doesn't make an appearance. Crime is mentioned thusly:

68 Migrant workers can be victims of crime, with much reported crime internal to new communities. Overcrowded and physically insecure rented accommodation, where individuals are sharing with others they may not know, makes theft easier and increases tensions between individuals, which can in turn lead to assaults. Poor English makes some particularly vulnerable. Some of the individuals involved in the worst exploitation of new workers are also involved in criminal activity.

From the case study of Crewe council's response:

Mediation was used to resolve neighbour tensions. Community wardens spoke to new arrivals about refuse collection if complaints were made. The Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership identified potential flashpoints. For example, when England played Poland at football, CCTV was installed in relevant pubs and funding was provided for interpreters in the local A&E department.

The police force has had to build trust within the community. A part-time interpreter has been employed and a hate crime answer machine has been set up, to encourage more crime reporting. Concern over training for commercial heavy goods vehicle drivers prompted police to offer sessions on English driving regulations at local depots. The force has invested in 15 hand-held speech devices to improve immediate communication.

Likewise, "binge" also isn't mentioned in the report. The main mention on drinking is here:

73 Cohesion cannot be taken for granted and small tensions can develop, which can fuel local resentment. These include noise and disruption when large numbers of migrant workers leave for work early in the morning, noise linked to increases in the numbers living in individual properties, street drinking, failures to understand local refuse and recycling systems, tensions over other residents’ parking spaces if HMOs do not have adequate parking, and migrant workers appearing to monopolise the internet in libraries.

74 A number of local authorities and their partners have moved quickly to address such minor local frictions as part of wider work to promote locally cohesive communities. Concentrations of poorly managed HMOs are a particular concern, making work with landlords (including enforcement if necessary) important for cohesion as well as tenant safety. Responses include targeted information leaflets for basic issues such as refuse collection arrangements, and adding new languages to recycling bank signs. Informal and often personal initial contact, using community wardens, mediators, environmental health officers and refuse staff can deal with many concerns. Library services have provided more terminals and introduced pre-booking systems. There may be a continual need to repeat and reinforce messages because of high turnover.

75 Policy changes and appropriate enforcement may be necessary for some complaints, for example badly sited caravans or increases in street drinking and rough sleeping. Local dispersal orders were used in Hammersmith to control the large crowds of accession state nationals who had taken over pavements outside a particular newsagent, where cards in the shop window had offered employment and housing. Concentrations of street drinkers and rough sleeping in parks are understandably unpopular with local communities. The City of Westminster works with its local police to manage the particular problems associated with the number of people who arrive every day at Victoria coach station.

Other mentions come in the chapter on destitution:

62 Many migrant workers have limited entitlement to public funds. The few who fail to find accommodation or work, are made redundant, or become the victims of domestic violence and leave their homes, may not be entitled to housing benefit. Because hostels often depend on this, they may not be able to accept such people. Voluntary day centres and church-run night shelters can provide support since these are not as dependent on public funds, but individuals can drift into squatting, rough sleeping and street drinking. There is also a small, but growing, incidence of substance abuse (Ref. 35).

63 While destitution and rough sleeping can occur anywhere, they have been most noticeable in London. Accession state nationals now comprise up to half the recognised street drinkers in Hammersmith and Fulham and one in five of the rough sleepers in Westminster. Half the beds at the rolling night shelters run by central London churches in the winter of 2005/06 were taken up by accession state nationals.

64 Westminster City Council has used a government Invest to Save grant of £297,000 and a DWP secondee to help some accession state workers into employment, and to work with the police to repatriate others who lack the resources to be self-sufficient. CLG provided an extra £140,000 in homelessness grant in 2005/06 to London boroughs facing particular pressures. It is providing Westminster with an additional £100,000 through the homelessness budget for 2007/08 and is in discussions with DWP regarding future Jobcentre Plus involvement. However, rough sleeper numbers at the June 2006 count had increased compared with 2005 and numbers using available night and day shelters remain high. Responses in London will need to be coordinated across boroughs.

The situation then is not entirely rosy, but it's a lot better than it's being made to look in both the Mail (as shown here in a similar post by FCC) and the Sun. While I don't want to dwell on the point of the Sun possibly being responsible for the very ignorance it railed against yesterday (and which is today lauded by Damilola Taylor's father) you can't help but think the views of the article's own responders may have been influenced by the Sun's own misleading reports:

Get rid of all the immigrants and those taking up our prisons too, and maybe the homeless people could get given jobs to help searching the lorries coming in to the country etc.


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