Response to Guardian Editorial on Immigration

By Sir Andrew Green, Chairman
Migration Watch UK

8 February, 2012

The following is Migration Watch's response to an editorial in the Guardian edition of 2 February entitled "Immigration: dubious means to an uncertain end". We offered it to their web site "Comment is free" but it was rejected, apparently on the grounds that the web site does not publish comments on the newspapers editorials. The text is below:

The Guardian editorial of 2 February claimed that “The truth is that politicians worry about immigration more than the rest of the population do, not less”. Nobody who took part in canvassing for the last election, for whichever party, would come to that conclusion.

The editorial recognises that immigration lies second only to the economy among “important issues facing the country”. It also points out, correctly, that when asked about issues “facing you and your family” immigration is much further down the list. But the wording of a question and its framing are important. In this case, the reference to family is followed by a list of alternatives to choose from, most of which are clearly of direct family concern. The effect of this frame, therefore, is to skew the responses away from national issues. That does not mean that people are not greatly concerned. The very same question had crime level pegging with immigration. Is anyone arguing that politicians are unduly concerned about crime?

The title of the editorial “Immigration: dubious means to an uncertain end” points to further weaknesses in the argument. The dubious means is presumably a reference to the policy of greater selectivity announced by the Immigration Minister last week. However, any immigration system is, by its nature, based on selectivity since the alternative would be virtually open borders. Indeed, the Points Based System introduced by the previous government is based entirely on selectivity. The only remaining question is whether economic migrants should be selected on the basis of their earning capacity. The Migration Advisory Committee concluded that this was the only sensible yardstick.

As regards foreign students, their benefit is not in dispute – provided that they are genuine and that they intend to return to contribute to their own countries at the end of their studies here. Measures to eliminate bogus colleges and to weed out false applications should be welcome to the Higher Education sector whose long term future depends heavily on their reputation for excellence.

As for the “uncertain end”, that is the precise opposite of the case. For the first time in British history, a government has set an overall objective for immigration policy to which individual measures will be addressed. Those who oppose this are simply in denial about the sheer scale that immigration has reached and its consequences, notably for our population. Net foreign immigration under the previous government was just over 3 million and last year’s figure was just over 250,000 – the highest on record.

The latest population projections – which assume migration of 200,000 a year – show that our population will reach 70 million in just 16 years and two thirds of that increase will be a result of immigration. Those are the bare numbers. What it means is that we will have to find jobs, homes, school places hospital beds and transport capacity for the equivalent of an extra seven cities the size of Birmingham in just sixteen years. This, far from being an uncertain end, is a prospect which the vast majority of the public have consistently opposed.

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