Watch out there are swarms of marauding immigrants about who threaten our ‘standard of living.’ They are putting great pressure on our public services according to our Prime Minister (PM) and senior politicians. The problem is so severe that there have been meetings of the Government’s emergency Cobra team who have considered options to close the Channel Tunnel at night to stop their infiltration. Identified as cockroaches, perhaps it is to allow the tunnel to be sprayed with Rapid (cockroach killer)! The press, politicians and pundits are all very clear that immigration is bad. Yet, the Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is also very clear that immigration is a key factor fuelling Britain’s economic recovery and reducing the effect of austerity. The OBR is certain that immigration is vital to the stability of Britain’s future.
I know that I am supposed to be afraid of immigrants. The PM has said that we have had ‘A frightening decade of immigration.’ He should know, having pledged in 2010 that he would reduce net migration down to the ‘tens of thousands’. It has increased by 54,000 instead. To combat the problem the Government is introducing a raft of measures in the Immigration Bill.
Mark Harper the Immigration Minister says ‘The immigration bill will stop migrants abusing public services to which they are not entitled’. In the Bill a new criminal offence of illegal working will allow police to seize the wages of anyone employed unlawfully and put them in jail. A landlord will be able to evict illegal immigrants without going to court. For all that, a person’s immigration status can be transient. For example if a European migrant loses their job they may lose their right to remain in the UK and regain it by finding a job. Perhaps by starving and making immigrants homeless we will be able to identify who they are.
The rhetoric coming from the politicians, the press and powers that be, have told us whom to fear. They have even said what they are going to do about the problem. In all the strong language that has been used, and much of it offensive, the threat to Britain has never been really identified.
Douglas Carswell UKIP MP says billions of migrants want to come here. Sue Lukes, immigration expert says that even considering the humanitarian crisis in Calais, only a small number want to come to Britain, around 2- 3 thousand. Usually this is because their family is here. The overwhelming majority of migrants want to settle in German and Sweden, where they are usually granted asylum status.
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary speaks of the threat of ‘marauding’ migrant and the press supports it. In reality the tragedy of abuses like Rotherham and Rochdale are not rooted in race but the attitudes of some men towards women and children. Just as it was with Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall.
We are made to feel alarmed by the unsupported statements of our leaders such as immigration puts ‘pressure on our public services.’ However the OBR who provides independent economic forecasts for the Government rejects this view. They have presented Members of Parliament with facts that immigration has a positive impact on the public finances. For migrants on balance put more into the treasury than they take out. It has also been calculated that Britain needs a steady flow of migrant labour to fund public services in the coming decades.
Britain has an ageing population. The largest share of state benefit is paid to pensioners. State pensions accounts for £83 billion of the welfare budget, which represents 33% of total welfare spending. As the population ages, that bill will increase as will the cost of social care and the NHS. If less people are working a deficit will occur.
That position is counter balanced by immigrants as most are of working age. As Robert Chote, Head of the OBR has said ‘[migrants are] more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure’. This means that they are source of income for the treasury. This is supported by a study undertaken at University College London. It calculated that recent European immigrants pay £8.8 billion more in tax than they consume in public services.
If David Cameron achieves his goal of capping immigration, we would have to increase taxation by £30 billion or cut spending by £30 billion in order to meet the public debt in the next 30 – 50 years. The OBR’s calculations show that without any immigration, the national debt will soar to 175 per cent of GDP in 50 years.
Immigration is a success story for Britain. It fills our chronic skills shortage so assists growth. Immigration continues to prop up the care services and is responsible for the increase in educational attainment. It is migrants that pay in more than they take out. The current debate clouds the facts. What we hear from our politicians, press and pundits is often a one-sided misrepresentation of the position. Though irresponsible, the rewards for them in encouraging misplaced fears are an increase in popularity, money and votes. In society it has increased hate crime and intolerance. We need a proper debate on immigration, one based on facts and figures. A debate that will address public concerns and things that makes us uncomfortable. It must consider the concentration of migrant communities in some areas. As it must recognise that immigration is an important and necessary strategy for economic and social growth in Britain. Without immigrants we really do face a threat to our ‘standard of living’.