What Cameron and Brown have taken from the far right

Despite repeated calls for an “open and frank discussion” on immigration, the leaders are glossing o

Perhaps unsurprisingly, immigration was raised again at last night's second televised debate. But the discussion failed to address the nuances of a very complicated subject.

Nick Clegg -- who made the most effort to engage with some of the issues -- suggested that the estimated 500,000 people currently living here illegally should be given some kind of status so that they can be brought into the taxation system

Cameron warned that this could lead to "more claims for asylum", a worrying conflation of economic migrants and asylum-seekers.

Immigrants who come to the UK seeking work are very different from those fleeing conflict in their home countries. It is misleading to suggest that humane treatment of the latter group of individuals would lead to a flood of people seeking asylum (which, it must be noted, is a legal right).

Excluding economic migrants (a completely separate group), the numbers of people seeking asylum clearly correlates with human rights abuses in their home countries. In 2007, it was estimated that 50 per cent of asylum-seekers remaining in this country came from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. There was a steep rise of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in 2000, in line with increased human rights abuses.

People fleeing conflict come here because they are seeking protection and remain because they cannot return home. Before coming, they are generally unaware of the situation they will face upon arrival.

Both Brown and Cameron refused to engage with the fact that, however you look at it, there are many people living here illegally, off the radar. Brown rejected Clegg's idea (also endorsed by Boris Johnson) outright, saying that the solution was to "deport them". This hardline rhetoric betrays another gross oversimplification: after all, how exactly do you deport people when there is no official record of them? And what about the many asylum-seekers who are unable to return to their home country because it is unsafe, or logistically impossible?

Immigration is clearly an important issue in this election. But, for all the calls for an "open and frank discussion", what we have seen is a frighteningly narrow debate, pandering to the ill-informed framework established by the far right. Populist talk of immigration caps and deportation is a dangerously simplistic answer to a very complicated problem.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.



In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.