Not only has the 2010 election campaign started in earnest, but the yellow press has also started a 'press ganging' campaign to try and push immigration to the top of the agenda, to force Dave™ to drop his 'oh-so-liberal' stance on social issue and emulate their hero Thatcher's barely concealed contempt for non-white foreigners.
On New Year's Day the thermal gloves came off with avengeance, kicked off needless to say by the Daily Hate, the self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™, in league with what now appears to be its front organisation, MigrationBotch [see below]. The piece, widely covered by the usual suspects in the paper's wake, was entitled 'Foreigners' visa appeals are costing us £1m every week, says report'. Based on a MigrationBotch 'report' Family Visitor Appeals (actually one of their numerous 'briefing papers'), it ended up conflating the so-called think tank's (really a one-man vanity effort) hyperbole into the usual Mail flight of immigration fancy.
For example, the report's summary contained a typical MigrationBotch-ism: "The definition of family visitor is so wide that it could include as many as 120 relatives of a middle aged person in Britain."(??!) In the mind of James Slack (by name, slack by nature), well known to readers of this blog, this became: "According to a report by Migrationwatch, there are as many as 120 relatives – including first cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces – who can claim the right to visit and then appeal if refused." Outstanding! And just in case you missed it, later in the article we had: "The report claims that the definition of a family member is so wide that someone from a country where families often have four or five children could have between 80 and 120 relatives who could apply to visit."
The crux of MigrationBotch's argument seems to be that "The number of family visitor appeals has increased eight fold, to over a thousand a week, since charges were abolished in 2002." [Remember these figures.] This is because "In October 2000, following disquiet, particularly in the Asian and Black communities, that family members were being refused visit visas without appropriate remedy, the Right of Appeal against refusal of visitors visas for "family visitors" was re-instated under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Fees were originally set at 500 (sic) for an oral hearing or 150 (sic) for an appeal without a hearing. In January 2001 these fees were reduced to 125 (sic) and 50 (sic) but in May 2002 the fees were abolished entirely."
So this means (and we apologise for repeating ourselves as the Mail and Alan Green also do on this particular issue) that (in the words of MigrationBotch i.e. Alan Green) "This definition of family visitor is so widely drawn that somebody from a third world country where the number of children per family is often four or five, could sponsor somewhere between 80 and 120 people under this scheme." [our emphasis] Therefore there are too many foreigners costing 'us' too much money because they are taking advantage of a free 'service' to appeal against what often (to them) seem like arbitrary refusals to be allowed to visit family members.
So is the Mail, MigrationBotch and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all saying that:
1] there should be no appeal unless you are willing to pay an exorbitant fee; or that
2] if you come from a large family you should only be allowed to see a strictly limited number of them or maybe none at all?
Of course they are, "the definition of family visitor should be substantially tightened, at least until embarkation controls are in place. In particular, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and first cousins should no longer be included."  "Fees should be re-instated at the original levels. There is no reason why the British tax payer should pay the costs of appeals by foreign visitors."
So, examining the figures given for the increase in appeals  we find that there was an increase of 32 times in the number of appeals in the year between 2000 and 2001 when the fee was initially cut.  This of course could be down to the fact that the large reduction in fees brought the option of appealing a decision into many more people's financial capabilities. Comparisons based around the subsequent abolition in mid 2002 are more difficult, as the figures are yearly and the reduction occurred mid-year. However, lets assume that the numbers of appeal in the first half of 2002 was the same as the average for 2001 (2183), then 5814 people possibly appealed during the second half of the year. Then for the next couple of years there is a rough doubling of numbers year-on-year until 2006/7 when the trend is bucked and numbers decrease only to show what amounts to a 10% increase in 2007/8 on the 2006/7 figures. So there was hardly a sudden mad rush to take advantage of the new situation.
Clearly the figure have increased over time and so many factors can have played their part in causing this increase, including the ease of appeal but also there has been a worldwide increase in mobility, especially via cheap air fairs. People have also lost to a certain extent their tugging-the-forelock attitude to authority and are not content with accepting what some faceless bureaucrat tells them. But what the real agenda here appears to be is one where 'these people' , rather than having their families coming over here where the lure of over-staying is too strong for people who are currently only too willing to take advantage of 'our generosity', they should be going to visit their family in their home countries. ("Given that there is no recording of visitors as they arrive and depart, there is no way of knowing whether those originally admitted as "family visitors" have left the UK." What about e-Borders?)
Interestingly this 'report' was not press released until the following day (2 Jan), when the usual suspects, the Telegraph and the Express, picked up on it and published their own takes on this vital piece of research. The Telegraph's take on the report included the following argument: "The number of appeals made by visitors refused entry to the UK on a “family visa” has increased eight-fold since 2002. Pressure group (sic) Migrationwatch disclosed that part of the reason for the rise is that the definition of a “family visitor” is so wide that it can include as many as 120 relatives of an average middle-aged immigrant in Britain – including first cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces." Except that the changes that allegedly resulted in the increase in the number of appeals were due to the fees not changes in the definition of who is and who is not a 'family member'.
The Telegraph also had their own Green quotes, including: “Obviously, family members should be able to visit relatives in Britain but such visits need to be properly regulated. There is a clear risk that, once here, some of these visitors will stay on illegally knowing that the chance of being removed is remote." Just a very select and limited number of those family members. "Furthermore, in current financial circumstances, it is no longer acceptable that taxpayers should pay the appeal costs for foreign nationals wishing to visit Britain." So the UK could afford it in the past, it is only just due to the downturn that the charges have to be reintroduced?
In the Express piece we have yet another re-jig of the same tired rhetoric: "In the current recession it is no longer acceptable that taxpayers should pay the appeal costs for foreign nationals wishing to visit Britain. The definition of a family visitor is so wide that it could include as many as 120 relatives of a middle-aged person. The definition should be narrowed and charges which the Government abolished in 2002 should be re-introduced."
The Express the same day also have a comment piece 'Labour is Still Shamefully Lax On Immigration Laws' pointing up that the government's claim that its 'points-based' system "will sort out Britain’s immigration chaos is already being shown up as a sham" and tying in student visas to the family visa situation.
"Ever since then the Government has facilitated so-called “chain migration” with the result that many young British Asians who would prefer to integrate are put under massive pressure to marry non-English speakers from the sub-continent. This has led to ghettoisation, fostered extremism and deprived many young women of self-determination and freedom of expression. With the population of Britain heading towards 70 million and precious little that can be done to stop immigration from within the EU, it is absolutely essential that all routes of entry from outside it are strictly controlled. Otherwise Britain will continue on the path to becoming the most overcrowded and Balkanised society in the free world." Utter bollox. Devious bollox mind you, tying forced marriage into the immigration issue, 'ghettoisation', 'extremism', the myth of the 70 million and the old canard of becoming "the most overcrowded and Balkanised (!?) society in the free world." So that obviously doesn't include China, but what about India?
The same day the Mail once again led the line with fresh attack. 'Jobs for illegals at Home Office as dozens of NHS and public bodies ignore immigration laws' bellowed the particularly nonsensical title of a Mail piece covering the results of their latest immigration-dirt digging Freedom of Information Act application.  Apparently the Mail on Sunday had contacted every Government department, council and hospital in Britain for details of their employees since 2006 who had subsequently been found to be 'illegal' immigrants. The on-line version was also helpfully accompanied by a full listing of all 349 admitted cases. Top of the list came the Home Office which the Mail claimed "admitted employing a dozen illegal foreign staff over the past four years - 11 Nigerians and a Ghanaian."
"Ten of them secured cleaning jobs at Becket House, the headquarters of the UK Border Agency, which vets immigrants. The building in Croydon, South London, also serves as an immigration detention centre, holding up to 270 people awaiting deportation. Two other illegal immigrants worked at the Whitehall headquarters of the Home Office, which houses the office of Home Secretary Alan Johnson. One was a chef in the canteen, while the other worked as a security guard on the front door for 19 months."
Then, just in case you had not fully grasped the shocking implications of this, they helpfully stated "The Home Office headquarters is regarded as one of Britain's most high-profile terrorist targets and receives round-the-clock police protection."
Other juicy quotes from this drivel were: "Three Government departments, 34 local authorities and 54 NHS trusts admitted hiring a total of 349 unlawful (sic) foreign workers. The list featured 37 nationalities, including migrants from Kazakhstan, Zambia and Venezuela." And "The Mail on Sunday asked each of the 91 public bodies who admitted employing illegal foreign workers (sic) to provide details of any penalties they received. Not one of them had received a fine, which can be as high as £10,000."
The latter served as a drum-roll to introduce Chris Grayling, Tory  Home Secretary-in-waiting: "This is an absolute scandal. The Government has taken tough action against private companies over the employment of illegal immigrants, yet on this evidence it is quite clear the public sector has taken on bogus workers and escaped any form of censure." "We have Ministers constantly telling us they have got to grips with the chaos in our immigration system, yet the Home Office itself has been employing illegal workers. It is completely unacceptable and we need an urgent explanation from Ministers," he blustered further.
However our favourite piece of outrage is the "It is breathtaking that procedures and checks at the Home Office are so lax that an illegal immigrant could cook food for the Home Secretary himself. This is a huge security breach. We cannot go on like this" quote. Obviously he'll be bringing his own chef with him come June.
So what did the Home Office have to say about this, as even the Mail could not get away without giving them the 'right' to reply? Tucked away at the bottom of the piece (before it went on to lay into the Attorney General Patricia Scotland yet again and after Alan Green's two sentences ) a spokesman is quoted as saying: "The 12 illegal workers identified were all sub-contractors. None of them were directly employed by the Home Office. It was our checks and the strict regime we operate on illegal working in the UK that brought these cases to light. We are doing more than ever before to crack down on illegal working, with raids taking place up and down the country every week and thousands of rule-breakers deported."
The Telegraph and Express also chipped in with their own rehashes of the Mail's story in the following days.
Next up we have a Telegraph article that shows just how far the yellow press fears the Tories have moved away from the reactionary and racist 'middle ground', 'Conservatives accuse Labour of raising immigration issue in marginal constituencies'. "Senior Conservatives have accused Nu Labour of a "below the radar" campaign to raise the issue of immigration in marginal constituencies, especially where the BNP is eating into its core vote." Obviously piqued that New Labour got there ahead of them and in particular that Labour's "double standards by raising the issue in constituencies whilst avoiding debate on it at Westminster."
The paper then goes on to detail a whole list of Nu Labour hypocrisy, including Margaret Hodge, facing an election challenge from BNP fuhrer Nick Griffin, who told a constituent that the change from her Barking seat being a "predominantly white area populated with traditional East End families" had been "very unsettling for many people" and that she respected their "concerns about the pace of change". Er, yes? Clearly she IS a politician and a such she was just stating the bleedin' obvious without saying she agreed with his concerns. Ed Balls apparently also put out a letter to constituents headed "Let's talk about immigration. An opportunity to let me know what you think." Wow. And the list goes on. A particularly good example of a non-story this one.
The same day we had the News of the World (can a paper ever have had a less apt title than that?) with 'Good Dole Blighty' - "Migrants who flock in ‘to work’ collect benefits costing millions." "TENS of thousands of immigrants are claiming the DOLE - just months after arriving in Britain supposedly to WORK," screamed the following line.
Basically the piece seeks to paint a picture of 'hoards' of scrounging foreigners coming 'over here' to 'ponce off the country', completely ignoring the fact that access to benefits in the UK is severely restricted and not all migrants to the UK are here to WORK. The two groups that are able to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), which is what we understand they mean when they claim that "In the last six years a staggering 169,000 immigrant workers claimed unemployment benefit within six months of getting a National Insurance number", are EEA national exercising Treaty rights and person with indefinite leave to enter / remain in the country. [See: Benefits for non-UK nationals]
The first group are covered by reciprocal EU welfare benefits legislation which we're sure even the NoW would not decry. The second are those people given asylum under international treaties and must therfore also be given the right to the full protection of UK law (something which the NoW doesn't appear to agree with however given the editorial line followed in this and other articles about anything to do with things foreign). All other groups including third country national (nationals of a non-EU country) with limited leave to remain and those so-called A8 and A2 nationals (unless registered under the Worker Registration and Worker Authorisation Schemes respectively and have been in 1 year continuous employment) are not eligible for JSA.
MigrationBotch of course got a quote in this too: "This is appalling. The government should explain who these people are and why they're able to claim benefits without having paid a penny into the system." Er, but there are numerous people who claim benefits without ever having worked. Child benefit is paid to parents on behalf of their children, the physically and mentally 'disabled' who may have never worked in their life of course are also entitled to state benefits. Yet then again, the reactionary 'libertarian' minimal state right wish people to stand (or fall) on their own with little or no state aid. Survival of the fittest and all that (completely misunderstanding Darwin).
Addition: We forgot to include another James Slack (by name, slack by nature) piece from 1 Jan entitled 'Foreign workers take 22,000 jobs amid recession', which covered the Mail's favourite current Tory shadow minister, Damien Green, attempting to prove that "Gordon Brown's promise to deliver 'British jobs for British workers' was a sham" by playing up the numbers of non-EEA workers in the UK.
"The number of foreign-born workers has rocketed by 22,000 during the worst recession on record. At the same time, the number of British-born employees slumped by 625,000."
"It found that while the number of British-born workers slumped to 25,104,000 in the year to June, those born outside the UK increased to 3,730,000. This was fuelled in part by a 12,000 leap in number of Eastern Europeans, to 518,000."
So this means that 2.4% of 'British-born' workers lost their jobs, whilst at the same time the number of non-EEA workers increased by 0.27%, equivalent to 3.5% of those 'British-born' workers who lost their jobs. Hardly a breath-taking set of statistics Mr Slack.
 Help is at hand for those of you slightly confused by how tightening the definition of who is and who isn't family would help: "In particular, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and first cousins should no longer be included. This would reduce the number of eligible relatives by up to 68." But that's not even a 50% reduction.
 In 2000 there were 137 appeals, 2001 4,366, 2002 7,997. Then there was a change in counting procedure; 2003/4 16,884, 2004/5 30,643, 2005/6 58,495, 2006/7 50,065 & 2007/8 64,669.
 Remember the claim earlier that since the abolition in 2002 the figure had increased 8 times i.e. in 8 years, equivalent to a doubling year-on-year.
 The piece of course came replete with the compulsory photograph of Calais migrants, with the accompanying legend "Alert: These illegal immigrants were caught by police at Calais but some of those who have reached Britain have worked for official bodies" just in case you hadn't noticed the reference, and a particularly scarey picture of MigrationBotch's Alan Green looking like an extremely constipated frog.
 Interestingly, the Mail do not appear particularly happy with New Tory Dave and his gang, especially when it comes to the immigration issue, and are not banging the Tory Party drum too forcefully. Add to that the fact that almost every person on their on-line readers' comment pages sounds like either a UKIP or BNP voter, it is not hard to understand why.
 One of which was repeated almost verbatim beneath his constipated frog photo. The other was a repeat of his tired old claim that there are nearly one million 'illegal' immigrants in the UK.