Letter: We should be celebrating the role immigrants play in Britain

If there is one thing that the British press get exercised with and enjoy exaggerating about as much as the EU, it’s immigration.

Immigration officer

It is used as a stick to attack the UK’s membership of the EU, which is blamed for any perceived or real increase of immigrants. Rhetoric against immigration and the EU alike has been rife recently and it has been further inflamed because Bulgarian and Romanian citizens (whose countries joined the EU in 2007) are to be given access to the British labour market at the end of the year.

But the facts are widely ignored. The charge against immigrants is that they are a burden on Britain’s welfare system. The facts seem to disagree. A study by Christian Dustman, from the UCLs Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, found that in the year to April 2009 workers from Eastern Europe contributed £1.37 in taxes for every £1 of services they used.

Native Britons on the other hand contributed just 80p for every pound of services they consumed. So, far from being a burden to our welfare system, immigrant workers make a considerable contribution to it.

Apart from ignoring the facts and being based on scaremongering and scapegoating, the current rhetoric on immigration and the free movement of people in the EU gives the impression of a nation ready to raise the drawbridge and close itself off from the rest of the world.

Boris Johnson noted recently that this attitude is “making it difficult for universities and the City to attract talent from abroad”. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, went even further when she said, among other things, that “the flurry of recent statements by senior ministers calling for a crackdown on bogus students had given the impression that overseas students were no longer welcome and was driving them towards competitor countries such as the US, Canada and Australia”.

A study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that overseas students are estimated to bring £8 billion a year into the economy, a figure projected to rise to £16.8 billion by 2025. Not a negligible sum, and one that the Government’s rhetoric and policies risk jeopardising.

Immigration is neither a burden on our welfare system nor a threat to the domestic workforce. Instead of persecuting them we should be celebrating the role they play in this country.

Allen Edwards

Oswestry

Comments for: "Letter: We should be celebrating the role immigrants play in Britain"

Andrew finch

Interesting view figures as which ever side you are on will allways reflect in your favour .

It si very true the media do play the immigration story as much as they play the benefit scrounger story as migrant EU workers blur in to asylum seekers or ilegals , all are seperate issues,

Do we in the uk with 3 million plus unemployed ( true possible figure they just hide it well) have a need for unskilled migrant workers?? which ever way you play it the answer in a clear NO.

Do we have a need for skilled migrant workers in ceratain areas a clear YES .

Have we had an issue with not so honest pop up colleges bringing in non EU students for dodgy qualifications , YES this was found to be the case in a lot of instances requireing this government to act.

Are EU non skilled migrant workers a burden on our welfare system YES reason they are in low paid jobs and are entitled in doing so to working tax credits and child tax credits if they have children and child benefit even if children are not uk based.

Will they be entitled to claim benefits on arrival YES soon they will be able to do just that .

Being a member of the EU in my and others opinions is a financial burden and a

Kath

All excellent points. However, the immigrants people get most worked up about are those working below minimum wage in agriculture, care homes etc. with the perception that British workers are being deprived of jobs.

Labour have today had a lightbulb moment - let's clamp down on people employing illegal immigrants, especially at below minimum wage and often crammed into appalling living conditions. Fifteen dairy farmers recently were caught using a gangmaster to employ, very cheaply, illegal immigrants. They got unconditional discharges and a pathetic £300 fine each. Yvette Cooper wants to double fines for paying below minimum wage, I wonder where she and her colleagues have been for years.

On top of that, we have large numbers of young people in this country who are unemployed. We need to tackle both their lack of skills and the attitude that boring work like fruit picking, cleaning etc. isn't good enough for them.

If the demand for cheap imported labout dries up, so will the supply.

Kath

To avoid confusion, when I said 'all excellent points' - only the original letter was visible, A Finch sneaked in above me :)

Wenlock Un

Kath,

Couldn't agree more.

Used to work in large-scale agriculture where the farmer was/is viewed locally as one of these successful, entrepreneurial types that apparently make Britain great.

Beneath middle-management, employment was subcontracted in this precise gangmaster manner, with a turn a blind eye, arms length away attitude. Cash-in-hand became imported labour, legal or otherwise.

And then to cap it all, claimed every government grant contribution going to expand the infrastructure of his profit generating business, on the grounds of 'contribution to the local economy through local employment'.

As you say, lets stop the Brit at the top of the pile rather than the many, replaceable minnows at the bottom.

All the time that we Brits are willing to exploit immigrants in terms of pay and conditions that we don't accept ourselves, we have no place to complain on immigration.

Stephen Sanders

Immigration isn't only about the economy. We are a society too and immigration impacts on society. The letter concentrates on European immigrants (to date culturally similar to the indigenous population) and students, who are transient. But much immigration is from societies very different from our own in terms of religion and culture. Immigrants' attitudes towards women and western freedoms may be repugnant to the host community and even impact on it, as is the case in east London, where Muslim youths have made people empty alcoholic drinks, criticised women's clothing and told gay people not to walk through a 'Muslim area'. It is true that in the past waves of immigrants (huguenots, Jews) have assimilated, but that was helped by the fact that they were often fleeing persecution and had neither the inclination nor the means to keep in contact with their home. The umbilical cord was cut. But easier travel and new technologies make contact with the old country easier and integration (that final commitment to the new society) less likely or necessary. This may be nice for those who are homesick but what kind of society will it create in the UK? Will it be possible to have a collective identity, to speak of 'us' or 'we' when many people continue to feel closer to another society thousands of miles away or of an international nature?

HM

Utter tosh! For the true facts and a far more realistic picture of the immigration crises, pay a visit to Sir Andrew Green's excellent 'Migration Watch' website.

Immigration is out of control and everybody knows it.

Patrick Simond

I wouldn't trust migration watch. They claim to be neutral while they have a clearly defined agenda. Neither are they a reputed academic body. Just a bunch of people pissed off about immigration and finding as many facts they can to support their 'theories'.

Don't get me wrong, nothing against them saying what they want but they can hardly be called an 'excellent source'. I think Oxford University and UCL are WAAAAAY more reliable.

Ken Adams

They actually use Dustmans work.

Bill Nuttall

Has Christian Dustman produced any up to date figures? 2008 to 2009 was a while ago.

Ken Adams

May 2012 research by Christian Dustman showed that immigration was responsible for wages falling in the lowest paid jobs but rose in middle to higher wage brackets.

Peter

There are more up to date figures, reported in the press earlier this week, which show that net migration is reducing, despite all the hype.

Amogst the reasons for this is that people are returning to countries like Poland, where they have a degree of economic growth.

R Suppards

What angers me is immigrants of any type who come to and adopt this country as their own but make little or no effort to integrate. It's not the host population who should be integrating - it's the immigrants who should be doing so. In France there are no multi-lingual official papers, they're all in French and if you don't understand them, that's just tough. Personally I have no wish whatsoever to live in a multicultural society, I prefer a society with the values handed down by my forefathers over hundreds of years. And please don't play the "well we were all once Normans, Saxons, Angles and Jutes" card unless you are personally 1,000 years old.

If I went to live in another country and adopt it for my own I'd make every possible effort to adopt its culture, language and customs. How much money do we waste every year printing official notices in different languages? Heck, if you can't speak English you shouldn't expect to be pampered to in this way. Learn the language, adopt the customs - or the door's over there.

Ken Adams

The thing is culture is not static, if it were it would be dead, even if we had no immigration our culture would continue to change over time. I would prefer for there to be a fluid interplay between different cultures and people within our society which oddly means I am also against multiculturalism if it means separation, because then we are no longer one people but disparate groups a bit like retuning to the tribalism of the past. Neither do I think others should be forced to accept our present culture, immigrants have always and will continue to change our culture and usually that means an improvement.

James

'Learn the language, adopt the customs - or the door's over there.'

Just like all the Brits on the Costa del Sol, then(?)

Andrew finch

The Brits on the costa are spains problem not ours the debate is immigration in to the uk , i hazard a guest nobdy cares about others going the other way ie out.

R Suppards

Yes, exactly. They are just as guilty.

Mark Thompson

How crowded is England again? Please remind us. It isnt just about the economy.

Ken Adams

When as the EU has done, you become fully involved in funding for universities everything emanating from those institutions needs to be looked at through a microscope, because who is going to upset their paymaster, certainly not professors.

For instance the UCL is currently participating in over 500 projects funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme that is just one EU funding stream used by the UCL. Then we find that one of the conditions to be met before funding will be given is “to encourage its international competitiveness, while promoting research that supports EU policies.” PROMOTING RESEARCH THAT SUPPORTS EU POLICES! Note not a commitment to impartiality and objectivity.

So here we have a piece of research paid for by the EU supporting EU polices, we look at it and find the research was focused on only 16% of immigrants for the period and those immigrants were mainly young and without dependants, I think that is called propaganda. Do we not need the results for the remaining 84% perhaps the answers here do not support EU polices, so have been left out of the equation?

This research is limited to A8 Migrants! A8 Migrants in 2009 were predominantly from Poland, and were generally young and without dependents. Despite the attention it has received A8 migration comprised only 16 per cent of non-British long term migration.

Yet we can see that even when the research is limited to young immigrants mainly from one country they have the effect of lowering the wages of the lowest paid members of our society.

Even then we do not see half the picture because what is the effect of immigration on jobs, government figures show that Comparing employment levels at the end of March in 1997 with those at the end of March 2011, around 2.9 million additional jobs have been created over the 14 years since 1997: of these, around 75 per cent were taken by non-UK – born workers.

Still think immigration is good for us the people?

AF

Maybe look at it from another perspective? Why would a company prefer to employ a person who doesn't speak the language, doesn't understand job description, can't be easily communicated with if needed? At my work we use temps from agency, almost all Eastern Europeans. Impossible to communicate with, full stop. Also, why those 2.9m British unemployed don't register with the agency? I believe that British unemployed don't want to work in low paid jobs, they can't be bothered. If I was an employer I would always choose to employ somebody whom I can communicate with.

Ade

There's lies, damned lies and then there's statistics.

Barry C

Christian Dustmann seems to be another left-wing academic who is determined to perceive human-beings purely as statistical producer units, and (for moral reasons) absolutely refuses to address fundamental issues such as the social effects of migration. This is just boring and a waste of time. Furthermore, there isn't a sensible country in the world that doesn't make noises about wanting to keep too many migrants out, everywhere with a bit of class is the same, very much including the USA, so the only scaremongering is from the likes of the author of this letter... who thinks that people will stop wanting to join the best countries in the world the minute they indicate that they aren't completely wide open to exploitation. Rubbish.

Helen

England is now the most overcrowded country in Europe. We don't have the space, resources or the infrastructure to cope anymore.

The only ones to benefit from mass immigration are the Lib-Lab-Con politcal 'elite' (for cheap imported votes) and their fat-cat friends in big business (for cheap imported labour) - I don't blame the migrants themselves, afterall they're only taking advantage of system that our governments have created.

When over a million of our own young folk are without work and therefore without a prospect of a decent future, it is totally wrong and unfair that mass immigration is allowed to continue.

Alan

So in theory if we get enough in the country we can all relax and just live off them, phew...here was me thinking they were living off us...can't wait for the day

Peter

Belgium is more overcrowded than the UK - Germany is almost as overcrowded. By the standards of the most overcrowded countries in the world none are especially overcrowded. 75% of the UK is covered in green fields - so there is room to tackle our issues around social housing, which are not caused by immigration, despite the myths that parties of the right and extreme right like to propagate.

Immigrants are less likely than the indigenous population to look for social housing, generally have less entitlement (not more, as parties of the right would have us believe), and the numbers that do take social housing are nothing like big enough to be the cause of the problem - if you do the maths that becomes clear. We also have a situation that places a disproportionate number of the country's jobs in the more crowded South-East - there's really no need to concentrate so many jobs in London, and I wonder if the proposed HS2 link will add to that rather than help solve the problem.

So we come to the other old chestnut of the far right, that 'these people are coming here taking our jobs'. Most of the jobs that are taken by immigrants are low-paid, sometimes exploitative ones. Many indigenous people do not want to take such jobs - sometimes due to laziness, but also because of the fact that we have very expensive childcare and transport to work costs in this country. One recent suggestion by the current lot is that people should be prepared to commute for 3 hours per day or would lose their benefits - setting aside the additional 15 hours on the working week (for which many would have to find the cost of childcare cover) does anyone really think that on a minimum wage you could afford to pay for a 3 hour commute each day?

Ironically, there's a solid correlation between the knuckle-draggers you see draped in the Cross of St. George at BNP and EDL marches and those who won't take the low-paid jobs that immigrants are accused of 'stealing'. Parties of the far right thrive on this sort of scapegoating and bullying - if you follow the anrecedents of the BNP back, via the NF to the BUF you can see that this is a clear pattern - first it was the Jews, then the Afro-Carribeans, now it's the Muslims who are the target for the bile, the blame and the myth-making. Parties of the centre-right quietly love this too - any fragementation of the poor is good for them - it allows them to get on with helping the wealthy.

I actually agree with Ken's view of multiculturalism above. The ambitions for it were always that we should benefit from the positive things that it brings - the idea that there was ever an agenda to bring groups of people here to live in a 'bubble' of their original culture, entirely preserved, is ridiculous, and another invention of the right. So why then, do we still have some 'ghetto' communities? The reasons are complex. Initially people coming here will want the benefit and security of living amongst people of their own culture - look at Brits abroad in Spain or the Dordogne for examples of that if you like.

Poverty also plays a part - 'ghetto' housing is inevitably cheaper, and harder to move up from in low-paid employment. Sometimes the controlling element of religion plays a part too - personally I wish people could break away from such control, but much as it's something I feel is unhealthy, there are for example communities of Orthodox Jews in London and other cities who seem to rub along well enough with their neighbours, and have thrived here over time - even the bullies of the far right seem to leave them alone - but sadly perhaps only because they've found other victims.

But that prejudice plays another part in keeping people in ghettoes. We have people in this country whose parents and even grandparents came to live in Britain, but there are still unpleasant people who would have us regard them as alien in some way, simply because of their skin colour or their religion.