Last week, the United Kingdom now free from the norms set by the European Union announced its new immigration policy. Loosely based on the points system that is in vogue in Australia, it is aimed at ensuring that individuals with skills and those who will not burden the welfare system are accorded priority.
One of the features of the new policy is the importance attached to a potential immigrant being familiar with the English language. Inevitably, this insistence on a knowledge of English has drawn criticism from those who feel it is culturally biased. However, it is a policy that has been formulated by a democratically elected government that had a new immigration policy in its election manifesto.
The right of a sovereign nation to determine who to allow to settle and work has never been seriously contested. Last week, for example, Israel facilitated the entry of a packed plane load of Ethiopian Jews as part of its right of return policy for all Jews throughout the world. The right of return is a foundational doctrine of Israel. UK, Ireland and Germany too have conceded the rights of individuals who can demonstrate national ancestry to settle in these countries. Indeed, after Brexit there has been a rush of people of Irish origin living in the UK to acquire Irish passports.
Conversely, the right to select immigrants has also extended to determining who not to allow into the country. Hungary has consistently defied all EU directives and refused to settle any refugees from Iraq, Syria and North Africa on the grounds that such people wouldn't fit in. Other East European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also made their displeasure at having to accommodate these refugees quite apparent.
Although in 2015, Germany out of an exaggerated sense of historical guilt quite indiscriminately accepted some 8,00,000 alleged victims of war from countries that it doesn't even share borders with, most countries have insisted on the principle of selectivity. This includes the United States which has an impressive track record of telling other countries how to conduct their affairs of state. In 1990, the US Senate passed an amendment moved by Frank Lautenberg that fast-tracked the immigration of Jews and certain Christian denominations from the erstwhile Soviet Union. Individuals from these communities were not required to individually demonstrate that they were victims of religious persecution. Subsequently, in 2004, this law was extended to include members of the Bahai community in Iran.
What prompted senator Lautenberg to press for special rights for some communities, to the exclusion of others, was the bitter experience of Jews in Germany under Hitler. In the 1930s, this exceptionally targeted community, millions of whom were subsequently to perish in the gas chambers, had to wait in a normal queue to be given the right to emigrate to the US. Their desperation to get away from Nazi-held Europe wasn't factored in.
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