The Immigration Debate: “should I stay or should I go”? | Immigration
The recent performance by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the local elections has added further fuel to the already raging immigration debate in the UK.
Together with the apparent surge in support for far right parties in the form of the British National Party and the English Defence League, it is clear that the immigration debate is a hot topic for those in politics and is seen as a vote winner or a vote loser, depending on where you stand.
I don’t intend to turn this blog into a debate on the merits of political parties whose members appear to be driven by a xenophobic or divisive agenda. The immigration debate needs to be approached in a far more balanced way with a focus on the pros and cons of immigration itself and nothing else. The time for an honest debate on immigration is long overdue with a lot of misinformation and scaremongering in the press. Consequently, it is a topic which many people have surprisingly strong feelings about.
Recent surveys have shown that the immigration debate in the UK is raging and the general opinion is there are far too many immigrants living in the UK. Is this an honestly held view? Where does it originate from? Are people taking their opinions from the press, which generally portrays a negative view of immigration into the UK or are they as a result of something else?
There is no doubt that the press places a disproportionate emphasis on immigration stories with a negative connotation and rarely even mentions immigration success stories. Does this mean that the media itself is inherently racist or xenophobic? No – but ‘sensationalism sells’ and it is easier for viewers/readers to form an opinion on a migrant who has committed a crime as opposed to one who is peaceably going about his daily routine, working hard and paying taxes. In short, the second migrant is not considered newsworthy whereas ironically, the first one is. This is more of a shortcoming of the press and what it considers to be “news” rather than anything more sinister.
What has been more surprising in the immigration debate is the reaction of the mainstream political parties to the results of the local elections – I have been shocked to see the mainstream parties suddenly take a far stronger public stance on immigration as if they all suddenly feel the needed to compete with UKIP immigration policy, trying desperately to demonstrate their tough stance on migration – sorry not migration as a whole, but immigration in particular.
The difference in how we view immigration and emigration highlights an inherent hypocrisy in our dealings with migration as a whole. We British seem to feel that we have the right to visit, holiday, travel, work, settle down and do business in almost any corner of the world that we choose. How many Brits are working, holidaying and living in France, Spain, Dubai, America, South Africa or New Zealand right now for example? If we wish to enjoy such freedoms to travel and work abroad, is it fair for us to stop others from doing the same here in the UK?
I think it is time that we engage in an open and honest immigration debate. It is important to speak from a position of knowledge of the facts and to examine the advantages and disadvantages of immigration prior to forming an opinion.
The immigration debate seems to centre around two areas: Our economy and our national identity. Here I will examine both sides of the argument before leaving you to form your own informed view beginning with the argument against immigration:
Should I stay or should I go?
Immigrants Consume our National Wealth
Immigrants into the UK, especially those working in low income jobs will use a disproportionate amount of our national resources in relation to what they put back into our economy. Because a lot of these immigrants will earn low wages, their contribution in the form of taxes will also be low or non-existent, yet they will still be allowed to take advantage of our infrastructure such as our education system, job market, healthcare system and most importantly our welfare benefits system.
All this at a time when these services are already under severe strain. We are suffering from seemingly never ending NHS waiting lists, a housing shortage and especially worrying in the recession, many of us can’t even get a job. Is this really fair on us Brits?
Should we not be concentrating on making sure that our own needs are met first and then worry about providing for those who come from outside? It’s not xenophobia, it’s just common sense.
We are making it harder on our youngsters coming out of university to find a decent job or even get a place in University in the first place. Many youngsters have started to look abroad for work and opportunities. As a nation, there is a real risk that we may lose some of our finest minds and biggest talents as a result of this ‘brain drain’.
Our unskilled workforce is also suffering as it finds itself unable to compete with the significantly lower wage demands of migrant workers. Our unemployment levels thereby increase and this has a knock on effect on families, society and the economy as a whole.
This also has adverse consequences on those countries and economies that these migrant workers leave behind. The talent leaving their countries will have a long lasting negative effect on their economy and their society in general. Unfettered immigration is a “lose-lose” situation for all concerned.
Multiculturalism has failed and is dangerous to our national security
Even the Prime Minister David Cameron believes that the experiment of multiculturalism has failed in the UK. We can no longer call ourselves a great melting pot of diverse cultures all living together, learning from and adapting to one another. Open immigration into the UK has led to the creation of separate communities all over the country, segregated from the rest of society, isolated even.
I have heard many people complain that there is no real sense of a national identity anymore, nothing for us to be proud of and to unite behind. With more immigration on the horizon, it is arguable that this identity will become even more diluted until there is nothing left.
There is a perception, rightly or wrongly that along with certain immigrants, comes a wave of anti social behaviour. There is a danger that criminal behaviour will increase as migrants come from parts of the world with a different understanding of the rule of law. What was acceptable and even legal in their countries may be illegal or immoral in ours. I am not blaming them for this but this is an inherent problem with the cultural clash caused by unchecked immigration.
Relaxing the laws on immigration may also make it easier for those who wish to harm our country to enter and live here amongst us. We should be making it harder for criminal gangs, intent on drug smuggling, people trafficking, violence and terrorism to get into the country, not making it easier.
I am not saying for a second that all immigrants are criminals or terrorists. It is just that failing to change or tighten up the immigration laws will allow criminals and other undesirables easy access to this country and that is not something any of us want.
Conclusion: GO! We cannot economically sustain immigration into the UK and from a cultural point of view for the sake of our national identity and our own security, we should look to curb immigration into the UK.
As an economy, the UK is far better off as a result of immigration
A recent analysis by the ‘Migration Matters Trust’ has revealed shocking figures that if net migration were stopped tomorrow, the cost to each and every tax payer would be £137,000.00 in their lifetime and within five years, public sector net debt would rise by £18 billion! This reveals to what extent our economy relies on immigration into the UK. Our already struggling economy would find it very difficult to sustain itself without immigration. Therefore those arguing against immigration do not seem to have our best interests at heart and must be motivated by something other than our economic welfare.
As an economy, we are suffering from an ageing population that is living longer and contributing lesser amounts to the economy in the form of taxes etc… Who will look after this ageing population and pay their pensions in the future? At the same time, the problem is made even more acute by our own declining birth rate in the UK. As a general rule, migrant workers come to this country to work and it is their efforts and the contributions that they make today and will continue to make that will fill the economic gap and help support our indigenous population as we continue to age.
Immigrants often take jobs that British people do not wish to do. These jobs usually involve manual labour or are of an unskilled nature. Employers regularly complain of not finding enough labour to do unskilled jobs. However these jobs, though unskilled are of an essential nature.
If Brits are not doing jobs like rubbish collection, labouring, waiting on tables, cleaning or dishwashing, then we should be grateful that there are people out there who are willing to. Employers and businesses are often ‘big fans’ of immigration for this very reason. I am not blaming Brits for not doing these jobs as the wages on offer are often too low to induce them to work whereas immigrants cannot earn such a wage in their home countries and therefore are often happy to work for the wage on offer.
Therefore, immigration causes an increased supply of cheaper labour and this in turn leads to cheaper prices, higher profits and better quality goods and services. A cheaper labour supply can boost an economy and also give business the ability to employ more people who in turn will invest at least part of that money back into the economy.
On this side of the immigration debate, statistics show that most migrants are far less likely to claim benefits than we, as Brits are. Even when they do claim benefits, the net effect on our economy is positive.
Recent changes to the immigration rules relating to student visas have caused a perception that the UK does not want foreign students here anymore. This has led to a fall in the number of students seeking to study in the UK and has had a detrimental effect on colleges and universities up and down the country.
As a proud nation, we should be encouraging the cream of the world’s young thinkers into the country in order to boost the numbers and reputation of our educational establishments.
The recent addition of investor and entrepreneur visas for migrants has led to thousands of people investing their monies directly into the UK economy and the inflow of hundreds of millions of pounds from other countries directly into the UK. During the recent period of sustained recession, this could not have been more vital or necessary to our general economic wellbeing.
Some of our most productive workers, businessmen and entrepreneurs have either been immigrants or the children of immigrants into this country.
The relationship between our economic welfare and immigration could not have been better stated than by Barbara Roche, Minister of State for Asylum and Immigration from 1999 to 2001 when she said:
“It’s not that we cannot afford more immigration… Rather that we cannot afford not to have immigration.”
As a country, we need immigrants to add to our cultural identity
Last year, I proudly witnessed how the Olympic Games enriched our country socially, culturally and economically. Whilst maintaining our amazing feelings of national pride and achievement, it was also worth noting that two thirds of the medals won by Team GB were won by athletes who were either born abroad or had parents or grandparents who were born abroad and migrated to the UK.
This phenomenon is not limited to athletes. The UK suffers from a shortage in many skills that are vital to our needs. Doctors, Nurses, Engineers, Musicians, Artists, Chefs, and many other skill sets are under-represented. Unless these occupations are filled by British citizens or those settled in the UK, the UK will need to rely on immigrants arriving from all over the world to fill these occupations and to bridge our cultural and economic skill gap.
London leads the way for cultural diversity. No other capital city on earth contains such a melting pot of races, languages, religions or culture. Great Britain is a cultured, tolerant, welcoming and sophisticated society. Our nation is literally bursting with international migrants who come here to invest in our economy, to study at our great universities or to live and work as one of us. They learn from us and teach us so much in the form of arts, culture, music and culinary delights. Some of these imports have been so readily embraced by us that they have become part of our own culture and identity.
What makes us British? It is a constantly evolving concept. At one point in our history, being British meant fighting off a series of invaders including the Angles, Saxons, Romans and Normans amongst others. In the end, the Angles became the English People and the Normans from France became the ruling elite of this country. Our current royal family has German ancestry. Each migrating people brought a diverse set of strength and skills to this country and the indigenous people adapted to them and they to us.
There is also a moral argument here that should not be ignored:
Immigration into the UK in the last century has been mainly from the West Indies, Ireland and the Indian Subcontinent. In all three cases, it is arguable that Britain should be more lenient with all three peoples as a result of our own historic conduct in those countries.
British policies played a huge part in the slave trade that resulted in the movement of millions of African slaves on British ships to the New World to work on British plantations. It was our economic policies that arguably caused or contributed to the Irish famine and our condescending colonial policies of paternalism and plunder that led to a debt which many feel that we are at least morally obliged to repay to our former colonies.
As for immigrants being a threat to our national security, we should remember that millions of immigrants have died fighting for ‘queen and country’ and they are remembered and honored on plaques and memorials all over London.
Conclusion: STAY! Immigrants have taken back with them our inherent values of freedom of speech, democracy, freedom of worship and tolerance. These are not always ideals that we practiced ourselves. We have learned from each other and will continue to do so. Together, we will invent new forms of entertainment, art, literature, science and technology and forge a British identity fit for the 21st century. I do not believe that our national identity or security has been compromised by immigration. I believe it has been enriched and enhanced by it.
I have tried above to show a balanced view of the immigration debate in the UK and I hope that I have added to the fibre of the discussion. I do not know what side you will take but one thing is for sure; the immigration debate will continue for many years to come.