[Image courtesy of Getty Images]
If you are scared, worried, or annoyed about immigration, it often does not mean you are racist. But, it probably does mean that you are ignorant.
With an ever-expanding universe of human knowledge, often at our fingertips, is there ever a real excuse for not having a balanced viewpoint on any subject? In my opinion, there really isn’t. Even if you have spent your childhood being wrongly inculcated – whether in relation to religion, science, or culture – as a free-thinking adult you should take the time to question anything that you genuinely assert to believe. So, as far as immigration goes, let’s talk about some truths that should not be ignored in this discussion.
[Image courtesy of colmansfishandchips.com]
Firstly, the core assumption that mass immigration threatens the ‘British’ way of life needs to be unpicked. What we consider to be ‘British’ is a wonderful amalgamation of various civilizations that have cumulatively created our current culture. As a Yorkshireman, I know there’s nought more British than Fish ‘n’ Chips, right? Well, what if I told you that historians’ research indicates that fried fish was introduced to the UK by ‘Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain’, while the humble chip is a distinctly Gallic creation.
There are a plethora of examples, mostly of a more serious nature, that illustrate the same point: we have taken just as much as we have given. Thus, not only has immigration mostly had positive consequences for British society, the nation that we all care so much about would not be as strong without it.
At this point, I’m sure those who oppose this way of thinking would argue that we need to stop living in the past (whereas, I believe that history always repeats itself, in one way or the other). In that case, let’s look at the current situation.
[Image Courtesy of hhukltd.co.uk]
According to a study carried out by University College London, in the ten years following 2001 ‘the positive net fiscal contribution of recent immigration… amounted to almost £5bn.’ Another body of research, compiled by Eurostat, states that despite the UK’s migration level (of 7.8 migrants to every 1,000 citizens) being slightly higher than Germany (7.4), Spain (6.5) and France (5.0) there are over 10 other countries in the EU with a higher figure (including: Ireland, Norway, and Austria).
These facts not only shine a light on the gross fallacy that our ‘world beating’ levels of immigration are bad for the country, they also highlight the real reason that this issue will not go away. Rather than talking about migrants, and discussing the often altruistic desire to provide a better future for a family by moving to different places, we label these mostly hardworking people as immigrants (or to put it bluntly, vampiric social parasites who refuse to leave and have come to leech off our aggregate wealth). The difference in language is telling and serves to highlight the fact that as human beings we are often still too afraid of what we do not know or understand.
As with any other aspect of life, there should be checks and balances put into place to ensure that our society works best, for all. Concerns about local skilled and low-skilled workers being undercut by non-UK citizens are surely valid. However, as with all the other facets of this debate, this element is also fraught with complexity. Despite there being some anecdotal evidence of UK workers losing jobs and facing decreasing wages, The Migration Observatory provides a contrary viewpoint. This research shows that a larger sector of the British workforce benefits (in terms of wages and job opportunities) due to increases in migration.
[Mhairi Black: image courtesy of dailyrecord.co.uk]
This element of the debate is linked to much larger issues of government policy and social deterioration. As was so articulately noted by Mhairi Black recently, it is and will continue to be the poorest in society who are affected by austerity cuts – a fact that logically explains the intrinsic link between low-income areas and rising right-wing sentiment. If wealth was more evenly distributed across the UK, certain right-wing political movements would not be as successful (again, another instance of history repeating itself). Also, if we didn’t denounce manual labour, and force our youth to obsess about now-financially-unstable University education, then we might
have retained more pride for jobs that are now perceived to be less ‘glamorous’. The importance of this cannot be overstated. How many of the very same ‘immigrant complainers’ would be willing to do the jobs that many of the recent EU migrants are occupying? (Jobs such as: cleaning, process plant work, and hospitality). The truth is very few.
Despite there being significant post-recession problems for us to grapple with, the reality is that our country is not struggling, or facing a future turmoil, because of migrants. The cultural and economic benefits derived from those who add to British life will continue to be tangible and mostly positive. But, if you still don’t believe me think about what I’ve just said the next time you’re tucking into what has to now be our nation’s favourite food – curry.