Government has 'forfeited confidence of British people' on asylum and immigration - poll verdict…


February 10, 2003

The electorate has delivered a damning verdict on the Government's asylum and immigration record.

In a Poll conducted by the MORI Social Research Institute for think tank MigrationwatchUK between January 16 and 21, 85% of the population, including the majority of Black and Asian Britons (59%), disagree that the Government has either immigration or asylum under control.

Similarly, some 76% of Britons disagree that the government is open and honest about the scale of immigration into Britain.

Separate, regular MORI surveys of the British public show a massive increase in those who see immigration as the most important issue facing Britain, from around 5% of the public in the 1990's, rising consistently to become one of the top issues facing Britain in the eyes of voters.

MORI's latest survey on the British political scene at the end of January saw one in three Britons name immigration as a national issue, behind only the Iraq crisis (64%) and on a par with concern over the NHS (35%).

The Poll also reveals that most people still do not realise quite how large the flow of asylum seekers and immigrants has become. Nearly one third were 'don't knows', while a third thought that that the annual total was less than 30,000 a year. Only 2% got the right answer, between 200,000 and 250,000 a year. (Source: MigrationwatchUK Bulletin 7)

The results suggest that the concern about immigration and asylum are not fuelled by racism or xenophobia as 70% say 'it is a good thing that Britain is a multi-cultural society' and 87% agree that 'you do not have to be white to be British'. This is consistent with previous MORI research for the Commission for Racial Equality.

At the same time, 57% are concerned that Britain is losing its own culture, compared to 29% who hold an opposing view and 26% say that they are unwilling to say what they really thought about immigration in case they were seen to be racist (although more disagree).

The research highlights that older, working class, and less well qualified people often have very different views from other people (for example, younger, well educated people in London) and are much more conservative on many issues. For example, on the question of whether Britain is losing its identity, 73% of those without qualifications and 74% of over 55s agree with this statement. By way of contrast, 29% of those with degrees and 46% of those under 45 agree with the same statement.

The majority agree (71%) that asylum seekers who have arrived in this country from a safe country in Europe should be sent back. There is also strong support for a toughening of immigration laws with 67% saying laws should be 'much tougher' and a further 13% who say immigration should be stopped altogether. 12% said laws should remain as they are, 4% say they should be relaxed and 2% that they should be abolished altogether.

'What this graphically demonstrates is that, while most people accept our multicultural society, they are strongly opposed to further large scale immigration,' said Migrationwatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green.

'A very large majority both doubt the truthfulness of the Government and their ability to bring immigration and asylum under control. Furthermore, three quarters of those questioned rejected one of the Government's main arguments - namely, that immigrants were needed to do jobs that the British did not want to do,' said Sir Andrew.

'The Government has clearly forfeited the confidence of the British people on a subject which causes a great deal of disquiet,' he said. 'That disquiet would be still greater if the public realised that we are now facing immigration on a scale previously unknown in British history.

'Our view, supported by this Poll, is that the time for tinkering with the law is past. Only fundamental and far-reaching changes to the whole legal framework will rescue us from the government's chaotic immigration and asylum policy.'

Technical details
Results are based on 2,057 face-to-face interviews conducted across the UK in 198 randomly selected sample points via MORI's Omnibus survey. Fieldwork was conducted between 16th January and 21st January 2003, and the data are weighted to reflect the known population profile.

For the full results, see www.mori.com

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