Sunday, 23 March 2008

The Servant Class and The Criminal Class

So we have the peasant, the slum dweller, the pitiful immigrant and the pitiless landlord. We are carefully reconstructing a labouring class from the people who have migrated here from the EU, and who work under restrictions. Romanians and Bulgarians can do only labouring work, no matter what their qualifications. ‘You keep the good jobs for the people from the rich countries,’ scowls Tavi, ‘You want people from the poor countries to do your shit work for you.’ We seem to have created a whole new ‘servant class’ from the Eastern European countries. These are the ‘respectable working class’ now. Those from outside the EU, with slightly darker skins and dodgy religious practices, like Jamal and Mehmet are the criminal classes. They’re the lucky ones though, relatively speaking. They have family here, and can avoid the worst excesses of Home Office Enforcement.

Consider Hasan, 20 years old, from Uzbekistan, here on his own, and without proper legal representation. Now electronically tagged, (a form of post modern leg-iron), he and his housemates are subject to relentless ‘visits’ from the Home Office at strange times of the night. Yet they wont deport him, or Samira, from Iran, who has so far managed to avoid the tagging, but only because she does have a good lawyer and a very politically aware brother to defend her. They both work the endless hours, and they’re both stuck forever in the Eternal Waiting Room while the HO also waits- to see who’ll blink first. Utterly guileless, Jamal is mystified by the refusal of his asylum claim: ‘I think the Home Office just don’t understand,’ he puzzles, trying to defend this institution of the democracy he loves. They understand alright, that’s why they make no active attempt to detain or deport him. They’re just trying to starve him out along with the others. I do sometimes wonder if ‘the workhouse’ is really the right word for this, in bleaker moments it seems more like a ghastly parody of the Gulag.

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