A grown up discussion about immigration?

Even to talk about immigration was once to be accused of racism. But can we be a little more mature, these days?

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To control or not to control?
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Simon Miller
On 5 July 2013 12:37

Immigration has once again been in the news this week as one asylum seeker managed to get a deportation notice overturned because of his right to a family life.

Now, the right to family life and the European Human Rights Act have been the bane of many a politician but let’s get this one out of the way immediately -- it is the law. To that extent -- the ludicrous interpretation by the Judge that a man with no spouse or children has a right to family life in the UK notwithstanding -- there is nothing you can do apart from change the law. 

Unfortunately, any sensible attempt to examine this inevitably opens one up to the charge of racism.

Indeed, the Department of Health's proposal to charge non-residents £200 for medical treatment has been labelled “xenophobic”, no doubt by those very same doctors who, with their refusal to do out-of-hours and weekend calls, are probably ergophobic if we are to bang on with ludicrous terms. 

It is a question that has always puzzled me: if other western countries do this type of thing -- bond security for immigration purposes, or charges for using a healthcare system -- it is fine and hunky dory, but if this island on the North-West fringes of Europe does the same, people start shrieking the word "racism", thus drowning out sensible discussion.

You see, the politically-influenced influx of immigrants over the past 15 years has fundamentally changed the face of many a city politically, economically, and as regards health and social matters. 

Think also about language. Language gives us social skills, community, common cause, politics and laws. Without communication, we cannot interact. 

In London a third of the population are immigrants and in nine per cent of UK homes nobody speaks English as a main language. In addition, more than a million schoolchildren -- a rise of 250,000 in the past five years alone -- speak another language as their mother tongue. 

So what? You may say. You’re being ‘rayycist’ for pointing this out. But these are just facts from a Home Office report. 

Think about it. What sort of impact does this have? If you have children who cannot speak English, what types of pressures does this put the teachers and their assistants under when they are having to use up time and resources teaching the basics to kids who should already be speaking English before they attend?

Think about the effect not being able to speak English has on women, many of whom find themselves trapped in their homes. It does not even have to be the saw of the abused wife in the arranged marriage. Think how isolated a woman can be if she does not have the basic skill of communication. How can anyone be expected to be part of the community if they are excluded due to language?

And the knock-on effects continue. If you cannot speak the predominant language of of the place where you live, where do you end up? Generally in areas of your own kin, enhancing the separation from the host nation. Is having ghettos good for the country as a whole?

For those who are sharpening their pens at this, think about it. Think how you sneer at the archetypal Sun-reading, Costa del Crime Englishman abroad with his lager, fish and chips and English-only community. Why is that sort of ghettoisation not wrong when it comes to a Somali, Brazilian or Pakistani community in the UK? 

Health is also a concern. TB is on the rise as people come over from countries where there hasn’t been an immunisation programme, with 73 per cent of TB cases in the UK coming from those born outside of the UK and  around 60 per cent of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 80 per cent of hepatitis B-infected blood donors also born outside the UK. 

Births in the UK from non-UK residents add further pressures to the already stretched NHS with health staff telling the Home Office that appointments and visits could take twice as long where patients had poor English, adding greatly to their workloads.

And then there’s employment. The Government’s Migration Advisory Committee says that for every 100 non-EU workers employed in the UK, the number of UK workers fell by 23. 

Now before anyone starts ranting about the shoddy British worker as a defence, this displacement is happening around the Western world. In the US, a major study by the Centre for Immigration Studies found that from the first quarter of 2000 to the first quarter of 2013 the number of native-born Americans holding a job fell by 1.3 million, even though the overall size of the working-age (16 to 65) population increased by 16.4 million. Over the same time period, the number of immigrants (legal and illegal) working increased by 5.3 million. 

As it noted, the claim that immigration is due to a lack of workers is obviously false. In the US, since 2010 half of employment growth has gone to immigrants whilst the share of US natives working has remained virtually unchanged along with the number of those not working. 

Unemployment causes strains over time and not just on the social security budget: depression, divorce, and knock-on effects on family lives such as educational problems for children. So there is a risk that the more jobs that go to migrants the more employment risks rise for the UK resident population. 

I am on record saying I believe in economic migration -- that is to say that if you have the skill-set that we need, of course you can work here. But it is clear that there is a major problem on the horizon if we cannot have this debate now, without accusations of racism, bigotry or abuse. 

As the population continues its upward path, it is clear that social cohesion will come under greater strain, local budgets will be hit and NHS and school bills will rise. Housing is already at a shortage for various reasons and the policing consequences of societal break-down could be very serious indeed, both in terms of general public protection and the defence of civil rights.

You see, it is well past time that we had this conversation. It is well past time that we looked at the strains and stresses immigration brings -- sensibly, economically, factually. It is time that we examine how we manage our country. It doesn't matter what colour or creed you are, if you live here now, mass immigration will affect you sometime tomorrow. 

And when it does, what price will we pay becuase the likes of the BBC drowned out the debate?

Simon Miller is a contributing editor to The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @simontm71

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