Migrants’ Rights Network: Viral migrant-bashing

by , under Ruth Grove-White

Comment: This blog entry by Ruth Grove-White of the Migrants’ Rights Network, reminds me of the same arguments that anti-immigration groups use in Finland.  


By Ruth Grove-White

Chain emails spreading misinformation about migrants have been circulating far and wide – so what’s the secret of their long-life and how can we respond?

I was contacted this week by someone who had had a nasty chain message about pensioners, migrants and the benefits system posted on his Facebook wall. This was a viral message which we have heard about before as it, or a version of it, has been circulating over the past few years. The text he received read like this:

Dear Prime Minister The RT. Hon. David Cameron, MP.

I wish to ask you a Question:- “Is This True?”. I refer to the Pension Reality Check. Are you aware of the following?

The British Government provides the following financial assistance:-

(bearing in mind they worked hard and paid their Income Tax and National Insurance contributions to the British Government all their working life)
Weekly allowance: £106.00?
(No Income Tax and National Insurance contribution whatsoever)
Weekly allowance: £250.00

Weekly Spouse Allowance: £25.00?
Weekly Spouse Allowance: £225.00

Additional Weekly Hardship Allowance: £0.00?
Additional Weekly Hardship Allowance: £100.00

A British old age pensioner is no less hard up than an illegal immigrant/refugee yet receives nothing


Please read all and then forward to all your contacts so that we can lobby for a decent state pension. After all, the average pensioner has paid taxes and contributed to the growth of this country for the last 40 to 60 years.  Sad isn’t it? Surely it’s about time we put our own people first.

Please share this, I JUST DID!


So how much of the information about migrants in this message is based on facts? Unsurprisingly, the answer is very little. Most migrants pay taxes if they are in employment like anyone else. Overall,analysis suggests that migrants make a small positive contribution to the UK economy and in particular to key growth sectors like healthcare, education, financial services and many more.

Refugees have the same right to access benefits and to work in the UK as a British citizen – no more and no less. Irregular migrants do not have the right to work in the UK and have no right to access benefits – but it is thought that many end up paying tax and NI as their ability to work depends on use of false National Insurance cards.

Both the ‘Weekly Spouse Allowance’ of £225 and the ‘Weekly Hardship Allowance’ that ‘illegal immigrants and refugees’ receive according to this email seem to be works of fiction.

Despite containing such confused information, this email, or a version of it, has been widely shared across the internet – so much so that it was the subject of a Parliamentary briefing paper in April this year. According to this, the email has a long and chequered history:

The House of Commons Library first became aware of the email in early 2010 but it has a much longer pedigree. It contains text from a protest email which has been circulating in Australia for some time now, but which may have originated in Canada. Versions also circulate in the United States, and elements even appear in protest emails as far afield as India. The UK version has been adapted, somewhat crudely, for a domestic audience by someone or some organisation unknown. The figures quoted bear no relation whatsoever to the situation in the United Kingdom.

Given this background, it seems that it is the sentiment behind the message that keeps it in circulation rather than accurate facts. This message pits one group experiencing hardship (pensioners) against another (refugees and migrants), suggesting that compassionate policies for these groups operate according to the rules of a zero sum game. As one benefits, the other suffers. True? No. But it seems to be intuitively persuasive, and especially at a time when austerity measures mean that there is a widespread sense of unfairness among people who are feeling the pinch of conracting state support. Pensioners are undoubtedly facing serious challenges at the moment, facing cuts to tax allowances and other benefits. It is right to raise awareness of their plight – but not at the expense of other vulnerable groups.

If you receive emails of this sort, please take the time to set the sender straight about some of the facts – and to point out that this approach will never have the effect of building compassion and understanding but instead encourages the opposite.

Read original story here.

This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.

  1. Mark

    This message pits one group experiencing hardship (pensioners) against another (refugees and migrants), suggesting that compassionate policies for these groups operate according to the rules of a zero sum game. As one benefits, the other suffers. True? No.

    That’s it in a nutshell. And the same false argument is bandied around in the comments here regular as clockwork. In fact, ‘Honrigue’ was posting exactly this kind of argument yesterday.

    Honrigue wrote:

    Are you aware how the poor elderly, due to lack of money, are being treated? But yeah, let’s not care about them. After all, they’re just people who were born here. We have much more important things to do, like e.g. get as many as possible people [immigrants] to move here

    However, these muppets never show more than a casual understanding of the problems facing older people, with a few barely related media stories to try to make their argument appear stronger than it is.

    Most of these folks are naive, impressionable young men, looking for a ’cause’ to prove themselves as heroes. What fools they will realise they have been when later they understand they have been unquestioning puppets of the Far Right. Or maybe not. Maybe they just grow more bitter and cynical as they get older to anything that smacks of reminding them that there are other cultures and peoples in this world.

  2. tp1

    We need to keep in mind that if elder people are not treated properly, it is not the fault of immigrants. When someone does that kind of comparisons between benefits, they should remember that immigrants haven’t made the decisions.

    If they feel that elder people are not treated properly, they should address their concerns to the people who are responsible of the budget.

    • Mark

      True enough. But it’s not simply about re-allocating resources. The job of government is to set appropriate benefit levels that match people’s needs in particular economic conditions, and then to raise the necessary funds through taxation and insurance contributions.

      The problem we have in regard to the costs of migration policies is a lack of data. When data is produced, it’s often of poor quality and might only consider a few factors, such as government income transfers and tax contributions, without looking at the wider picture of economic gains to the private companies, or alternatively, the cost of not having any kind of worker in the roles that immigrants take on. Likewise, a cost-analysis done over a period of two years does is unlikely to show a benefit, in much the same way considering the cost benefit to society of babies after two years will reap an obvious deficit.

      Even after useful data is compiled, the question does not automatically become ‘stop immigration’ if there are clear costs involved. The question is how to make the system more effective so that immigrants can achieve professional and social integration quicker.

  3. Marco

    in fact if Migrant Tales had to verify something it could be hard, perhaps impossible.

    Have you missed it all? The somali community who has an employment rate according Tessieri is suggested to be sent home.

    Have you missed this all? Howcome? Does the truth sting?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Marco, even if I had difficulty understanding your logic, I will give your advice: Don’t bet your luck too much on person like Jussi Halla-aho. It’s interesting to note how he become known (attacking Muslims and Somalis) and how he got his fingers burned (hate speech for attacking Muslims and Somalis).