Immigration is the hot topic of the day in the UK with the rise of the BNP blamed on the Government, which has been portrayed as being soft on immigration. The BNP meanwhile has exploited the particularly corrosive atmosphere against Muslims in Britain since 9/11 to attack a visibly obvious immigrant population.
‘Damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ is how the immigration dilemma is often characterised. Opening a debate on immigration leads to a charge of racism while ignoring the subject results in an accusation of political correctness. However, as with much of western politics these days the traditional divide between the left and right on immigration is blurring.
Those on the political right have always been suspicious of immigration even though their natural free market tendency is to favour the free movement of labour for economic benefit reasons. Immigration into the UK from the old commonwealth nations, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has never been seen to be a problem, however. This is despite their significant numbers and the substantial impact they have on the UK jobs market due to their much higher employment rate in comparison to more recent non-white immigrants from say, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The left has emphasised an obligation to help foreigners on humanitarian ground even though immigrants may be motivated by economic reasons to come to Britain. Also, British politicians like to profess the country’s tradition of allowing immigration on purely altruistic grounds. Conceding that in an ever more materialistic Britain moral justifications hold little value the liberal left have argued the economic benefits of immigrants over their costs. Most immigrants are young, adult males and are therefore likely to contribute to the economy then be a drain on public services like health and schooling. With an ageing British population and burgeoning pension and welfare commitments these arguments from the left had dominated the political discourse ably assisted by the apparently expanding economy.
However, the Machiavellian nature of democratic politics means that with Britain slowly emerging from one of the deepest recessions for over 50 years mainstream public opinion has turned against immigration. Arguments which were once justifications for immigration are now deceitfully employed to keep potential immigrants out. Moreover, onetime proponents of immigration now use scare mongering language to frighten the public about the dangers of immigration to the economy and society at large.
The reality is – Britain’s immigrant population – those resident in the UK but born outside the country – account for 7.5% of the population according to the last comprehensive review of the population, the 2001 Census, according to the Institute of Public Policy Research. That’s considerably less than 1 in 10. More recent estimates are based on less comprehensive and usually political motivated surveys and studies.
Much of Britain is sparsely or unpopulated. One can travel in large swathes of Britain outside the main cities in say the south of England or the North and rarely stumble upon a non-white face. The relatively high proportions of non-white populations in some main cities are due to an exodus of the white population or white-flight over many decades. Much of this non-white population is born and bred in the UK. The recent estimated increase in inflow is from white immigrants due to new entrants to the European Union like Poland and other eastern European countries. However the economic recession, discrimination and the increasingly anti-immigrant climate has forced many eastern European to return home.
While both the right and left are now keen to discuss the negative impact (economic, social and environmental) of immigration to ride on the back of anti-immigration public opinion and thereby appeal to apparently increasing numbers of BNP inclined voters, none is willing to debate the underlying causes of immigration.
Exploitative capitalist economics, western support for dictators and despots and destructive unjust wars waged by the west are the causes for why so many people are being displaced from their homelands, venturing sometimes thousands of miles, risking life and limb with nothing more than the clothes on their back.
Africa, Asia and the Middle East were pillaged during colonial times and continue to be exploited today but this time by ‘Africans, Asians and Arabs’ supported by western corporations and Governments. Immigrants from the 1950s and 1960s were the product of British colonisation then. Today’s immigrants are the product of exploitative capitalist economics, which leaves developing countries populations poor and destitute while the rich in the west get richer, and outright belligerent western foreign policy.
Unless and util these underlying causes for immigration are debated and addressed the truth about immigration will remain untold.