I read this article - The illegal immigrants desperate to escape the squalor of Britain - this week and it made me feel ashamed, for three main reasons:
- This is happening now, 2012, in Southall which I pass through several times a week
- Imagining the dissenting voices saying “Let them go then” with a shrug
- Suddenly being mindful of the posterboys for anti-immigration made rich by their notoriety, and the right-wing reporters made rich by our country’s prejudice
Then the fabulous Channel 4 documentary Make Bradford British was on when I got home, so I knew I’d write this blog.
The spectrum of fact
When the UK Coalition Government commissioned their ‘Migrants on work-related benefits’ study (the very first - progressive!), they attempted to smash two emotive issues together into one compost bag. They failed - there’s no link between immigration and benefit claims; in fact immigrants were less likely to claim benefits than the British.
Or did they? Or did they? Or were they?
In the UK think tanks, maverick politicians and furious columnists thrash like tin toy boxers to tell us “But It’s Not As Simple As That”, and tease a neat fact out into a scratchy grey gauze for the eyes; neatly illustrated here in this famous clip of Johann Hari and Richard Littlejohn.
But who is right?
Dunno, really. But what I do know is that at one logical extreme of the debate over immigration is idealism, compassion, a desire to trust others, and a fire inside to help those worse off than ourselves. And at the other is a lot of paranoia, clinging to arbitrarily drawn lines of division, and gnashing of teeth like THIS.
So if that’s all I can really know, then the former is all I’d really choose.
WLMT: M, 25 - 40, GSOH, must be foreign
But it’s the idea of ‘foreignness’ rather than attitude, ambition or skill as a differentiator that I find so rank.
If the pervasion of the English language across the world had been coupled with respect for the people forced to adopt it, then the negative aspects of immigration would be neither as difficult, or as sexy for Fleet Street editors.
Where is the real, policy-passing evidence that immigrants are a drain to British resources more than the Brits themselves? In the main they’re either well-integrated, or perhaps doing something ‘a bit weird’ in Littlejohn’s eyes. Or in the case of those in the BBC’s article, they’re barely registering at all.
So a country that could now let go of its negative obsession with border control is always bound to succeed. Diversity = more efficient workforce, fewer barriers for trade, more useful options for education, broader horizons. ‘They’ are here; you survived, now get on with it.
It’s too late to improve things for those now heading back to their home countries; but a change in attitudes will make it easier to look after the ones that stay.
is on 4OD, right now.