Immigration: Austerity’s Trojan Horse

The crowds inch slowly towards the Tunisian border and immigration and customs officials. UNHCR/A.Duclos

The crowds inch slowly towards the Tunisian border and immigration and customs officials. UNHCR/A.Duclos

According to Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs: “Migration, when governed fairly, can make a very important contribution to social and economic development both in the countries of origin and in the countries of destination.” In 2013, 3.2% of the global population migrated, a figure which continues to grow. It appears that the migration culture is developing. Community has become an international phenomena so the world has packed its bags and has moved abroad.

In the UK the ex-pat culture is aspirational. Those who have braved broadening their horizons and migrated towards a sunnier climate, are something of a hero to the Britton’s battling through the bad weather and its inherent gloom. However it seems that those who look upon Britain as something to aspire to, are unwelcome. This is a not a uniquely national polemic, but unlike other nations, it is something around which our politicians and press circle like vultures.

Our banks have not only donated a rather generous debt to the British tax payer, but also continue to financially pat themselves on the back for doing so. Instead of condemning the banks by enforcing strict austerity measures upon their bonus cultures, instead of introducing controls over the British finance sector, the government has dipped in to the public purse to bail out the bankers. Of course to make this painfully clear to voters would compromise the already dwindling support for government in this country, so this austerity requires a scapegoat , ‘immigration.’

Immigration is the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country, a term which has developed into a political swear word, offending nationalists ‘left, right and centre.’ But who are these immigrants supposedly invading our country? Bulgarians, Romanians and Poles are the à la mode culprits. The tabloids which have helped shape the contemporary British media are fanning the flames of fear and British tolerance is at stake. They sell papers based on the extremity of the hatred they spew, because the average reader it seems has developed an immunity to important debates, and a fetish for cynicism, and newspapers need to make money. This has been confirmed by a recent report by the Hansard Society (2012), which found those who didn’t read any newspapers, to be less negative than those that do. As a result of this, articles are often factually inaccurate, and this is dangerous. It creates a perception of reality that is not real, and this is happening with the immigration debate in the UK.

In reality, immigration is declining:

Home Office (2013)

Home Office (2013)

The phenomenon Britain has come to refer to as ‘immigration’ is actually migration. This is the impermanent movement from one country to another. This has been assisted by the Schengen Agreement which permits the free movement for EU citizens between member states. According to studies carried out by Europa, migration is benefiting the economies of host states.

Admittedly, the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the press is not entirely based in fiction, foreign nationals can claim benefits. However, EU citizens’ access to benefits is restricted, and stopped after 3 months. After this period migrants’ have their right to stay in the UK removed if they are not self-sufficient. Most non-EU citizens must work to earn the right to reside in the UK. It is also important to acknowledge here that such benefits are mutual. British citizens are equally entitled to the same deal in wealthier countries like Norway and Denmark. This might not seem such a bizarre idea given that these two countries were found to be the happiest in the world by the 2013 UN World Happiness Report.

Crucial to the immigration debate is our British colonial heritage. Using barbaric methods, the British State sanctioned theft on a grand scale. Long before the era of tabloids and Twitter, Britain asserted itself as an empire and robbed countries like China, South Africa, and the Indian Empire of their resources, territory and culture. Since, many of these peoples have fought in our wars and rightly, have claimed British citizenship. However, for the ignorant, often anyone without a regional accent and white face can get caught up in the cross-fire of hatred, fueled by the press.

Meet Tina and her wonderful family. She is a dear friend, who happens to be Iraqi. Her family escaped civil unrest, the potential of persecution for their Christian faith and arrived in the UK with nothing. Through hard work, they built a life here in the UK. Her father, a surgeon has saved a number of lives and paid taxes in the process. We may have problems in this country. We may struggle to afford the material goods that the media have told us are so important, but are we still as barbaric as we once were during the empire as to dismiss the vulnerable from seeking refuge here? What makes the lives of Britons more important than the lives of foreign citizens? In a nanny-state, plagued by a sense of entitlement, their is a danger of becoming too selfish to realise how lucky we are.

Learn more about the WCIA’s the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) campaign which seeks to raise awareness and cause discussion of R2P issues. You can also get involved by using leaflets and teaching resources provided by UNA Wales.

References

Helliwell. J, Layard. R and Sachs, J. (2013). World Happiness Report. UNSDN [online]. Available at: http://unsdsn.org/files/2013/09/WorldHappinessReport2013_online.pdf . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

Hansard Society. (2012). Audit of Political Engagement. Hansard Society [online]. Available at: http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Audit-of-Political-Engagement-9-Part-Two-2012.pdf . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

Home Office. (2013). Immigration Statistics July to September 2013. Home Office [online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-july-to-september-2013/immigration-statistics-july-to-september-2013 . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

Home Office. (2013). Romanian and Bulgarian Nationals. Home Office [online]. Available at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsarticles/2013/december/100-bulgaria-romania . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

NI Direct. (No date). Benefits for Non-UK Nationals. NI Direct [online]. Available at: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/benefits-for-non-uk-nationals . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

OECD. (2013). International migration policies and data International Migration Outlook 2013. OECD [online]. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/els/mig/imo2013.htm . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

UN. (2013). UN Migration. UN [online]. Available at: http://esa.un.org/unmigration/wallchart2013.htm . (Last accessed: 12.02.2014).

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