Why is an ice cream brand lecturing Britain on the morality of its immigration policy? Ben and Jerry’s, otherwise known for flogging overpriced junk food, has weighed in on the government’s new policy of sending mostly single men dodging Britain’s border control to Rwanda. The plan is 'cruel and morally bankrupt', 'racist and abhorrent', according to the ice cream company, which says sending people 'to a country they’ve never been to, and have no connection with' could 'put people’s lives at risk'.
Setting aside the source of these allegations, let’s evaluate these statements. Despite being depicted by some as a rainy hellhole, Britain remains an attractive country where a large segment of the world’s population desperately wants to live. It is so attractive that some people leaving Afghanistan will travel through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, and France for a chance to climb into a small boat and make the dangerous journey across the Channel. Some 10,000 people have undertaken this journey in the first five months of this year.
Once they arrive in Britain, it can be difficult for the government to deport those who have no right to be here. Between the wide network of lawyers, and charities who foul up the system by exhausting every possible spurious grounds for appeal, and the hard-left activists who, when all else fails block planes and vans, deportations are at a record low even as the numbers arriving soar.
The core problem is that the various laws and conventions that govern the treatment of refugees were not designed for a world where travel is cheap and easy, where there are such big disparities in income between nations, and where the bar for seeking asylum lowers year by year. Outside of the West, there is a vast population which would desperately like to be inside, and in a large enough group there will be enough people with sufficient risk appetite to try it.
Even those in favour of relatively liberal immigration policies should oppose this state of affairs. High levels of irregular migration undermines support for legitimate and legal flows through the accurate impression that Britain can’t control its borders.
It is not 'racist' for the people who currently live in Britain – no matter their ethnicity – to demand a say over who their new countrymen are. A country is not a shopping mall interchangeable with one in any other city in the world. It has a distinct social and political character, one that inevitably changes with immigration at scale. Controlling this process means controlling the borders. Similarly, British taxpayers are already fiscally subsidising non-European migrants even when we demand they jump through the hoops set out by the Home Office and immigration regime. They have a vested interest in making sure the composition of migration works for them and not just for the new arrivals.
It’s not even necessarily the case that the plan works against the interest of migrants. Limiting the demand for their services reduces the ability of people smugglers to extort those who could already have settled in any number of safe countries. Far from putting 'lives at risk', preventing dangerous Channel crossings would keep them safe.
And, of course, for Rwanda, the scheme is a win-win; Kigali, its capital, will reap the rich economic rewards of taking in the asylum seekers we are constantly told are 'innovators, entrepreneurs, taxpayers'. And the British government will even pay them to do it. If you believe in these arguments, the programme must surely rank among the most generous development aid schemes ever devised.
But whatever else it is, it is clearly a massively controversial and highly political topic. Which makes it all the more startling that Ben and Jerry’s – which, again, exists to sell ice cream – has made strong views on British immigration policy a major part of its online presence.