Treading carefully- some thoughts on immigration

One of my friends has some really odd thoughts about immigration. He gets very angry and has an incredibly intolerant view about it. You see, if you so much as mention the “i” word, he goes off on one, branding you a “stupid…hate-filled…biogted…Daily Mail reading…BNP voting…fascist.” There are no such things as “genuine concerns over immigration” like those Mrs Duffy apparently had about Eastern Europeans.

But this did make me think about the state of immigration. I’ll save you worrying, I’m not about to start any sentence “I’m not racist but…” likewise I’m not going to go on about “I spoke to a black man and I agreed with what he said.” like Big Dave Cameron did recently.

I do however live in a small city with a  Bengali, Pakistani, Indian, Italian and Polish minority. Some might think the Poles are the most recent but there has been a strong Polish population in the south of England since the early 30’s as people fled the beginning of the 3rd Reich. Likewise the Italians POW’s that were employed in agriculture that didn’t stay after WWII was over, were joined by over 100,000 more as Attlee actively recruited immigrants to help rebuild the country in the late 1940’s. And of course the establishment of the Commonwealth meant near enough completely unchecked immigration from India up until the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed in 1962- this was welcomed as Indians often did menial jobs for little pay.

So against the background of recent immigration due to asylum seeking and our freedom of movement in the EU, it’s important to remember there has been a steady recent history of immigration.

There are some interesting stats my wifes old university found when it comes to EU immigrants too:

EU migrants made a “substantial net contribution to the UK fiscal system”, paying 37 per cent more in taxes than they received in welfare payments. Researchers found that, on average, migrants were younger and better educated than the native population, as well as being 60 per cent less likely to claim benefits and 58 per cent less likely to live in social housing.

And it’s when you start seeing stats like this that it becomes apparent that some of the comments on immigration are based in ignorance but that’s always going to be the case. You see, to my mind its more complicated than that. We have many different sorts of immigrants, economic migrants, asylum seekers, and so on. It’s harder to find figures to support the contribution, for example of asylum seekers, who in theory should be observing the “safe third country rule” – the convention that asylum seekers must apply in the first free nation they reach, not go “asylum shopping” for the nation they prefer. This of course makes a mockery of the Sangat camp the French had, not least in as much as the asylum seekers shouldn’t have even made it to France in many cases.

It’s also difficult to find the hidden costs some inner city councils and police forces have to pay for in house translators and multi lingual publications, which raises the question should there be a scheme in place for immigrants to learn the language of the country they live in?

Finally there is even the discussion of whether we truly live in a multi cultural society and not simply a society with many cultures that occasionally interact but mostly keep themselves to themselves.

You see, it’s all about debate and asking questions, and asking them or thinking about them can surely only lead to a better understanding can’t it?