Home secretary Theresa May plans to expel international students after graduation as a means of controlling immigration. Sir James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson hoover, thinks this is a short term crowd pleaser which will lead to long-term economic decline. Nigel Farage believes the poor level of English of immigrant doctors is “scandolous”. A study by UCL found that in the last 15 years immigrants to the UK have made a net contribution to public finances. Why then are we still having this conversation?
The conversation I am talking about is of course the immigration debate. In the last election the Liberal Democrats didn’t even consider immigration an issue, but this year it seems it is all anyone can talk about. Immigration and benefit fraud are the two biggest non-issues that consistently made headlines in 2014, despite having essentially no negative impact on the economy that they are always accused of destroying. The statistics for benefit fraud speak for themselves.
False benefit claims only make up about one sixth of unclaimed benefits. That is to say if all those who were legible for benefits claimed them there would be less money in the kitty than there is now. End of discussion.
The immigration debate seems not quite so easy to quash however. A number of studies have shown that immigration has brought a wide range of benefits to both to the British economy and public services but people will not be convinced. Nothing makes this clearer than the rise of Mr One Policy and One Policy Only, Nigel Farage. By focusing on this one issue alone UKIP has gained enough popularity to force every other party to start developing their policies on immigration, with even Ed Miliband claiming
it was an issue that Labour was taking very seriously. Interesting because ‘issues’ used to mean problems or concerns, things that we should be thinking about and addressing. I am not concerned about immigration and I do not think it is a problem.
I feel genuinely confused as to what expectations those who demand changes to immigration policy actually have. Assuming the hope is that some robust policies on immigration will lead to a reduction of the number of immigrants in the country, how then will Britain be so greatly improved? More English will be heard on public transport, less of a language barrier with your doctor or nurse, less queuing at the doctor’s surgery or hospital, more places at the best schools and of course jobs for all!
The idea that one immigrant gone means one more job for the angry and unemployed (or worse in work and still poor) has been disproved again and again. Those who have made no effort to understand the economics around this and genuinely follow the logic that more immigrants mean less jobs need to do their research. The idea that the NHS could survive without without immigrants is simply incredible, in the literal sense of the word. With a saving
of £70 000 on nurses and almost £270 000 on doctors (of whom 26% are indeed immigrants), who arrive already equipped with training that the government then avoids paying for, a 100% British health service would be dire for the financing of the NHS. As for the best schools, inequality within the education system is by no means a product of recent times, although it is worsening as the cuts continue. It is a long held British tradition that those who can pay, do, and generally go on to great things. Our Prime Minister, for example, is a product of Eton College a school established in the 15th Century and which currently costs around £33 000 per academic year. Accessibility to the ‘best schools’ is therefore a difficult topic, private education considered.
Again, those who do not know must teach themselves, but Theresa May pulling pointless policies out of thin air is only fuelling the ignorance that sustains this conversation. Theresa May knows full well that the lives of the angry and jobless will not be improved by the expulsion of foreign graduates. The same tactic was used on benefit fraud last year, when a law was created to cap benefits at £30 000 per year. The law may not be an issue, but the insinuation was, that there is a problem of people claiming benefits that needed to be addressed immediately. There wasn’t. Refer back to chart if doubtful.
Continuing the immigration debate is the most transparent manipulation of divide of conquer politics visible today. Brits all over the country feel shortchanged as jobs are scarce, wages are low and everything is more expensive than it used to be. This isn’t the fault or the responsibility of the man or woman next to you, the problem is much, much higher up. The money that you feel is being held from you is not in the hand of the immigrant, he or she does not take your taxes nor cut your public services. The NHS is rife with problems at the moment, cuts to services have resulted in unprecedented shortages and a more urgent need than ever to import cheap labour, at the expense of huge brain drains on other countries. The big issue is not that your doctor’s English is a bit off-key.
The fact remains that if the government spent more time taxing big businesses and mansions and took less from the National Health Service, the doctors of the NHS, home-grown or not, may have a better chance at doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Owen Jones
said it best: “who has caused our country the most problems, the bankers who plunged us into economic disaster, the expenses milking politicians who have the cheek to lecture us on benefit fraud, the wealthy tax-dodgers keeping 25 billion a year from the Exchequer… or Indian nurses and Polish fruit pickers?”
I’ll admit, for me the immigration debate is personal for multiple reasons. As an emigrant who merrily waltzes around the world without facing too much hostility or visa drama, I am well aware of the fact that getting into Britain isn’t nearly as easy as it seems. Frankly, it would be downright hypocritical of me to condemn those with the intention of going to my country and making a better life for myself as I intend to continue doing the same wherever I please. Furthermore, there is so much ignorance around it, I feel frustrated constantly pointing out the obvious. Britain had an empire. Britain spent centuries spreading the word of this wonderful country introducing its religion and education that every subject was forced to follow. It was so successful in its mission that dozens of countries that most Brits would not be able to locate on a map still learn the language, history and culture of the UK in school whilst worshipping images of Michaelangelo’s Jesus.
The English-speaking Caribbean would still be populated with Arawaks and other indigenous peoples had slavery not happened and Britain not relocated millions of people, who then went on to develop their own languages, customs and culture in their new land. Britain has been so influential in the historical development of so much of the world it makes sense that, in Britain, the rest of the world would have an influence too. You cannot spend centuries convincing millions of people that in Britain lies streets paved with gold and hope that with the advent of airplanes and cheap travel, they will not come and check it out for themselves.
Britain is a country built on the labour and riches of those abroad whether we like to talk about it or not. The luxurious lifestyle that we were so accustumed to and so outraged to have ripped from us, in an economic disaster that most of us had no control over, would never have been possible if it weren’t for its success in trade (aided by the gigantic empire) and cheap labour, whether Caribbean in in the 1960s or Polish in the ’00s. If you want to know what it looks like when immigrants come and take, take, take and give nothing back you should look at the land distribution statistics of Kenya, Zimbabwe or South Africa 50 years ago. A lot of countries are still trying to escape or recover from the crippling systems the bankrupted them and pushed them into poverty during the colonial period. Are we really so heartless as to turn away at the door the citizens of those countries who come only looking for what the UK has always claimed to offer?