The Home Office is drawing up contingency plans to cope with a possible big increase in immigration from Greece if the euro collapses.
EU nationals are largely entitled to work anywhere in the single market.
But Home Secretary Theresa May told the Daily Telegraph “work is ongoing” to restrict European immigration in the event of a financial collapse.
Labour MP Denis Macshane said Mrs May was “stoking up tension”, and restrictions were impractical.
The Home Secretary said “trends” were being examined to see whether immigration was rising from countries with stricken economies.
She said if the single currency broke up, people looking for work abroad may see Britain as an attractive alternative as it is a non-eurozone country.
Asked whether emergency immigration controls were being considered, Mrs May said: “It is right that we do some contingency planning on this [and] that is work that is ongoing.”
She said there was no evidence that migration was on the rise, but it was “difficult to say how it is going to develop in coming weeks”.
BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said the government had some room for manoeuvre because there are rules in place for extreme situations which allow for some temporary restrictions on immigration.
Details of the contingency plans followed yet more turmoil in the single currency after Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia, asked the government for a bailout worth 19bns euros ($24bn; £15bn).
European markets fell again as the value of the euro slid.
But in January, a report from the government’s official advisers on migration, the Migration Advisory Committee, said EU migration had had “little or no impact” on the native employment rate.
Former Labour Europe Minister, Denis MacShane, says he was worried by Mrs May’s comments.
“Every government department has contingency plans for most things. It does frighten me a bit because Mrs May is stoking up tension and of course, if we ban every Greek from coming into Britain, the Greeks will ban every Brit from going into Greece – that’s a great start to the holiday season.”
Mrs May also told the Telegraph work is under way to deny illegal immigrants access to work, housing, services and even bank accounts.
“The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration,” she said.
“What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they’re able to access everything they need.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said last week the eurozone must decide soon whether it wants to stay together or break-up.
He told MPs: “If it wants to carry on as it is it has to build a proper firewall, it has to take steps to secure the weakest members or it has to work out it has to go in a different direction.
“It either has to make-up or it is looking at a potential break-up. That is the choice they have to make and it is a choice they can not long put off.”
Source: BBC News UK
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Allegations of institutional neglect surround the deaths of two migrants within weeks of a report calling for the centres’ closure.
In the early hours of 5 January, a 21-year-old man from Guinea-Conraky, died in Barcelona’s immigration detention centre after complaining of chest pains or (according to another report) breathing problems. The age of the deceased, who has not been named, is enough to sound alarm bells. Friends who were with him allege that the guards delayed in seeking medical help for the young man. Police claim they were on hand immediately and that within fifteen minutes an ambulance had arrived and medical personnel were trying to revive him. Detainees staged a hunger strike to protest the death, pointing out that there are no 24-hour medical facilities at the centre and that doctors only visit twice a week. The authorities responded to the protest by deploying riot police.
The young man was the second person to die in a Spanish migrant detention centre in less than three weeks. On 19 December 2011, an unnamed woman, aged 41, believed to be from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, died of meningitis hours after her admission to hospital from the Aluche detention centre, in the suburbs of Madrid. A ruling on the death from the Madrid court which monitors the centre was highly critical of the ‘manifest overcrowding’ suffered by inmates, who are held six or eight to a cell, the lack of washing and toilet facilities or an infirmary, all of which facilitate the spread of infectious diseases. The court, which described conditions at Aluche as ‘particularly serious’, ordered the centre staff to segregate those who had had contact with the deceased and to ensure appropriate hospital treatment for anyone needing it. A month earlier, the court had to order centre staff to put a stop to the practice of locking cells and denying access to toilets (which are in the corridors), which was forcing women to relieve themselves in plastic bags, bottles or the small sinks in the cells.
The detention centres which house Spain’s undocumented migrants for up to two months pending their deportation were already attracting condemnation and demands for their closure before these latest events. A report by Migreurop released on 15 December, based on in-depth inspections of four centres (in Málaga, Algeciras, Madrid and Barcelona) documented ‘systematic violations of fundamental rights’ including rights to privacy, to legal help, to moral integrity and to dignity, and called for the centres’ urgent legal regulation, pending their eventual closure. Its campaign for regulation of the centres and the imposition of minimum standards has attracted 40,000 signatures and the support of 400 organisations.
Another report by the NGO Pueblos Unidos (Peoples Together), released the day after the death of the Congolese woman and based on over a thousand visits to the Aluche centre where she died, described ‘widespread ill-treatment’, including collective punishments and deprivation of access to fresh air as well as the ‘humiliating and degrading’ denial of access to toilets. This organisation, like the Episcopal Commission on Migrants in Spain, warns of migrants’ exclusion from the general body of legal rights and norms, in a state of ‘juridical exceptionality’ in the centres.
Source: Institute of Race Relations.