Thursday, 21 April 2011

Immigration story is good news

It must be election time because the Tories are rolling out immigration as a subject for public debate once again. So the public were recently treated to another diatribe from Prime Minister David Cameron on the need to control migration.The Prime Minister quoted a number of instances of the abuse from sham marriages, to undocumented workers and abuse of student visas.
While the PM paid a short tribute to the contribution of migrants to the NHS and education the overall tone was negative. Immigration was something to be confronted and repelled.
It was one of the most depressing elements of the last general election campaign that not one party had the integrity or confidence to talk positively about the benefits of immigration. All pretty much took the same line that there were too many people coming into the country and it had to be stopped. The subject came up in all three televised leadership debates.
Instead of stopping migrants coming in the government should be celebrating those already here and looking to the needs of the future.
There is never any mention of the ageing population of the UK with the ratio between young and old closing all of the time. Only recently the number of over 60s outnumbered those under 16 for the first time. The economy today is not sustainable without new younger workers coming in.
The simplistic answer from government seems to be there are lots of people around the country on benefit, who should be forced into work.
Migrants have contributed positively to this country. A government study in 2007 estimated that migrants had contributed £6 billion to the growth in the previous year
Where would the NHS and care sector be without the migrant workers coming in from countries like the Philippines?
One in 10 students at the universities come from countries outside the EU, providing fees of on average £20,000 a year. The overseas students to a degree help keep the universities going. Some of the heavy handed moves from government have already threatened parts of the education system by cutting off the supply of students from overseas.
All of these factors are positive outcomes from immigration. What we have had over recent years is a debate hyped by the right wing media to the effect that immigration is a bad thing. It is only to be viewed in terms of being a problem in need of confronting and reducing, ideally to either no immigration or one person coming in and one person going out. It's absurd.
The interesting thing about the Cameron's speech was how it once again exposed the illogicality of the Coalition Government. So he speaks of the need for migrants coming to this country to be able to speak English, whilst cutting the budget for ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes. There is talk of enforcing border controls, while cutting the staff of the Border Agency.
Immigration is another area where policy really should not be being made on the back of headlines that pander to racial prejudice in a population more than ever looking for scapegoats in these difficult times.
There are issues to be raised such as the use of migrant labour to undercut and keep wages down. Also the question of providing the public services in the requisite areas to meet need.
What is needed on the question of immigration is a more balanced look at the issue. A look that considers benefits as well as drawbacks. An examination that sees the massive benefits brought to our culture and economy by people coming into multicultural Britain. These positive elements need to be recognised not ignored amid a desire to win votes by appealing to insecurities across the nation.

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