Immigration

The debate in Britain surrounding immigration has been one of disparaging sensationalism. From Enoch Powell to Michael Howard and Nigel Farage, it would appear that the debate has been stagnating with the only conclusion: Immigration is bad.

There have been legitimate concerns in the past about an influx of non-natives coming to Britain, and more to the point, the effect that would have on society. The period following the Second World War saw many immigrants arrive in the UK, sanctioned by the Citizens of the United Kingdom Colonies Act. This wave of new culture was cause for concern to some quarters of British society, and perhaps justly so due to the scale.

There current world, however, is markedly different. We live in a very interconnected world. Both the rise in global trade and international labour markets mean that no country, so to speak, is an island. Migration to the UK has historically made the country more prosperous; with a recent report suggesting 1 in 7 start-up business’ are launched by immigrants. The much quoted government statistic is that Immigrants contribute roughly 10% of UK GDP, while according to the most recent census 13% of the population was born outside the UK. This means a marginal net loss, but has not been included in the mainstream debate. Additionally a UCL report suggests that immigrants to the UK after 1999 were 45% less likely than UK natives to receive any kind of benefits based on the years 2000-2011.

The problem many people have to face when trying to understand immigration is the wealth of disinformation on the subject, from beloved bile spewing hate-mongers like the Daily Mail. This leaves people with the overall impression that immigrants are taking jobs from British nationals. Look slightly closer. The rise in unemployment and the rise in immigration have been linked to prove that very point. However, as any scientist will to you, correlation does not imply causation.

By hanging on the argument that immigration is negative, we appear to be satirising ourselves on a global stage – UKIP is a prime example. This is not to say that Illegal immigration is OK, but that’s why the emphasis is on legality. After all that’s why Mark Harper stepped down from his position as Minister for Immigration when it was found that he had an illegal immigrant cleaning his home.

It is perhaps the greatest achievement of the right wing press and other interested parties to focus public attention of immigration to such an extent. By focusing on immigration, rather than an issue like getting companies to pay their fair share of tax, large sections of the press (and conservative politicians) externalise the anger of the public.

The focus moving forward should be on the benefits to growth and society in Britain, and as mentioned there are definite economic upsides. On the 3rd of March the House of Lords will scrutinise the Government’s latest self-parodying bill on immigration, and I trust that it will be more rational in its pursuit of policy making.

BY: Sam Woods