Immigration is a real problem

By Sir Andrew Green
Chairman of Migration Watch UK
The Guardian London, 29 March, 2010

Denis MacShane flings accusations of racism, but the fact is, there are growing population pressures from the third world

Denis MacShane seems to believe that "nothing has changed" in the immigration debate since the early 1970s. That is not quite right. In 1971, net immigration was -40,000: in 2008, it was +163,000. If it continues at about this rate the population of the UK will hit 70 million in 20 years' time, and then 80 million in the 2060s. No wonder public concern has mounted over the years.

It is ironic that MacShane's call for a non-toxic immigration debate should be laced with innuendo and slurs. Those who disagree with his views are repeatedly linked with the BNP and racism. Indeed, his "anti-racist" rant neatly illustrates why the Labour party's traditional voters are turning in significant numbers to the BNP. His arrogant disregard for their concerns, shared by some 70-80% of the population, can only add to their frustration and confirm their growing conviction that much of the political class is as deaf as a post.

The public's complaint is not that politicians are failing to talk about immigration. Indeed, the prime minister issued a podcast on the subject two days ago. The real complaint is that politicians are failing to take effective action. Denis MacShane claims that immigration is not out of control. However, net immigration under Labour has led to the admission of 3 million immigrants to the UK. So was this, indeed, deliberate policy?

Part of his answer is to confuse immigration and asylum. Asylum claims are now only 10% of net foreign immigration so they are a small part of the overall problem. Furthermore his statement that 65,000 asylum seekers were sent or went home last year is simply wrong; the correct figure is 10,800.

Another familiar trope was to focus on eastern Europeans, whose numbers are indeed declining. However, they comprise only 10% of the foreign-born, and even at the peak, were never more than one third of net foreign immigration.

The reality is that the long-term immigration pressures come from the third world. It is not racist to point to this obvious fact. It is a necessary starting point in the policy process. Here MacShane lists possible measures, such as sending European citizens home, that are simply ludicrous. Nobody is suggesting repatriation of any kind. What we are suggesting is that the level of foreign immigration be brought down to roughly the level of British emigration. If we fail to achieve this, our population will continue to climb – perhaps indefinitely.

MacShane seems to believe that addressing the facts of the case and proposing realistic policies somehow helps the BNP. The reality is the opposite. That is why the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration was formed. It is no longer just "a few MPs". It includes a former speaker of the house, Betty Boothroyd, a former archbishop, Lord Carey, a former field marshall, Peter Inge, former leader of the opposition Michael Howard, and a number of former cabinet ministers.

This is a serious body of people who believe the time has come to bring immigration under control rather than allow the issue to fester any longer. An open debate would be welcome, but it must be both calm and rational on all sides.

© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green

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