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What John Oliver and Cookie Monster get wrong about UK immigration policy

Biscuit Monster.
Biscuit Monster.
Screenshot via Sesame Street

Here at Vox.com, we are noted connoisseurs of John Oliver rhetorically destroying things. So much so that we made a John Oliver headline generator to satisfy our John Oliver ultraviolence needs.

So we would be remiss if we didn't show you this recent John Oliver appearance promoting the British Sesame Street offshoot, The Furchester Hotel, in which John Oliver smashes Cookie Monster's heart into tiny crumbs of sadness, and then puts it back together again with the power of his speech (and chocolate chips). The video's also a cute kid-level introduction to the differences between American and British English: both countries say "hello," but only one says "cookie."

Cookie Monster has clearly caught John Oliver on a benevolent day. If Oliver were feeling more characteristically violent, he would have pounced early in the video — when Cookie Monster says he has a UK work permit.

Putting aside the fact that Cookie Monster is a Muppet (another word with a different meaning in British English) and not a person, this is actually pretty implausible: the British government has made it incredibly difficult for low-wage workers to migrate into the country.

According to the BBC description of The Furchester Hotel (which basically sounds like a Muppet remake of the 1970s John Cleese sitcom Fawlty Towers), Cookie Monster "has landed his dream job as room service and dining-room waiter." That makes him a low-skilled worker. And thanks to the UK's anti-immigration turn over the last half decade or so, there's actually no way for low-skilled workers from outside the European Union to get work permits to come to the UK. According to a government report from July 2014, there are currently about 1.2 million low-skilled workers in the UK who come from non-EU countries, but most of those have been in the country for over a decade; less than 120,000 low-skilled immigrants have arrived in the UK over the last ten years. And presumably, most of those came before the ban on low-skilled work permits came in 2008.

But the ban on new work permits for non-European immigrants wasn't enough to soothe Brits' anxieties about foreign workers. The far-right UK Independence Party, or UKIP, which is "known for its extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric" (in the words of Vox's Amanda Taub), is on the rise. And even the center-left Labour Party has been calling for new restrictions on low-skilled workers from elsewhere in the European Union, like Poland.

None of that, of course, is to mention the UK's recent refusal to help the EU on rescue missions to rescue migrant ships crossing the Mediterranean, a crossing that's killed thousands of people this year.

So the UK doesn't seem like it would be a terribly welcoming place for an American monster, especially a monster of color (blue). Or rather, as Oliver would spell it, a monster of colour.