Posted on April 14th 2011
Cameron’s speech may well have been the first in a number designed only to rev up its local election campaign, but for all of his talk of immigration having ‘immeasurably benefitted’ the UK, the message is clear; there are too many immigrants here, and as the Sun puts it, they're ‘tearing us apart’. But are they really? Too many? Let’s put this in perspective. According to the UNDP 2010 figures, those who were born in a foriegn country only account for 10.4% of the UK’s population- this figure is actually likely to have fallen further. Contrast this to Germany, France, Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Switzerland and the US and you soon find that they all actually have higher percentages of migrants as a total percentage of their population. Canada, Australia and New Zealand in fact have roughly double the figure. Pressures on public services? Cameron then moves on to public services. He notes that migrants are central to the delivery of those very services in the capacity of doctors, nurses, care-workers and teachers, but then bemoans the pressures that migrants exert on public services. He of course omits to mention the recent MAC report showing that migrants are net fiscal contributors. He also forgets the Research by Christian Dustmann and his team at UCL which shows that newcomers from Eastern Europe paid 37% more in taxes than they received in benefits and from public services in 2008-9, while people born in Britain paid in 20% less than they received. And he forgets the research by the UNDP that shows that the big 4 EU countries will have to increase immigration to 9 million per annum in the light of demographic changes if they are to retain social security systems. Disjointed societies Cameron refers to a sense of 'discomfort and disjointedness' in our neighbourhoods that he seeks to address. This according to Cameron has nothing to do with the wider effects of globalization. It has nothing to do with unemployment. And it has nothing to do with inequality. Instead, disjointed communities are according to Cameron, entirely attributable to migrants who don’t speak the English language and who, ‘on occasion’ don’t want or are not willing to ‘integrate’. It's unclear precisely which migrants Cameron has in mind given that linguistic requirements have been incorporated into the labour migration scheme for non-EEA nationals, and given that thet now also appear in the immigration requirements for spouses. Refugees perhaps? Assuming however that this is the case, why then cut funding for English language learning by 32%? Tackling extremism Cameron tops this all off with an appeal to anxieties about extremism. For him ''mass migration' under Labour and the supposed shutting out of debate on grounds of racism have led to the flourishing of extremist parties. Granted theyexist but 'flourishing'? We have not one single far right MP. We have only two far right MEPs, and despite much recent hype, the reality is that the BNP and the EDL remain, and have always been peripheral groups. Cutting numbers For Cameron the answer to an increasingly disjointed society, problems with public services, and extremism lies with restricting the freedom of those who choose to exercise agency and migrate to the UK. For those however with a committment to human flourishing and autonomy, the answer must undoubtedly lie elsewhere.