THE BLOG

We're Getting It Wrong on Immigration

02/01/2014 14:50 GMT | Updated 04/03/2014 10:59 GMT

If you've seen the Daily Express or the Daily Mail over the festive period you may well be thinking that civilisation is about to end. If you believe the tabloid hype, Romanians and Bulgarians are currently streaming across the channel in their thousands like immigration's own re-enactment of the D-Day landings. Even worse, they tell us virtually all of these newcomers are not here to make any positive contribution but are simply here to spend their days claiming benefits, their nights in A&E and any time in between committing crime. With these scare stories I'm wondering whether the Express and Mail haven't just crossed the line a little. For one, their editorials and columns sound increasingly like a BNP circular that is fuelling knee-jerk reactions from political leaders who are fighting each other to climb on the xenophobia bandwagon. But I also can't help wonder whether all of this hyperbole isn't going to reduce the print circulation of both of these papers. Primarily because some Mail and Express customers will now be so terrified that they'll prefer to sit nervously by a bolted front door clutching a bread knife just in case a Romanian bursts through their door looking for their pension book instead of strolling down to their local newsagent to buy a paper.

It's sad that just as we've just welcomed 2014 that we are being subjected to this pantomime villain-esque narrative instead of a mature debate. Even worse, the fact vacuum is being filled with one sided studies to support the protagonists of the "world is going to end" theory when really the opposite is true. Regularly ignored is the fact that there are many thousands of highly skilled migrants that come to these shores each year who are an enormous net gain for UK plc. Not just in terms of taxes they pay but with entrepreneurial and creative talent that helps our economy to thrive. So much so that many businesses complain that our economy is suffering because they, quite literally, can't get the staff they need quickly enough because of our stringent rules. Then there's those migrants who are lower skilled - the category that the Mail and Express are really fond of. Much evidence shows that lower skilled migrants have a strong work ethic who are more willing to take lower paid jobs to contribute to the state. There's the old line about these migrants stealing the jobs of UK citizens but it's not stealing if British nationals shun this work in the first place. And if this is happening shouldn't we be congratulating immigrants for working hard and using this as an example to those that, up to now, we haven't been able to encourage into the work-place?

Overall, from a financial perspective, some evidence even shows the net impact of all immigration is actually marginally positive - meaning that we get more money in than we give out through benefits and services. Similarly, research also shows that we need immigration - namely the influx of younger people of working age will help to offset the cost of our ageing population and pension time bomb. I'll be honest; other studies show deficits but by no means do they show us heading for financial Armageddon that some of our some media outlets will have you believe.

But more than anything else I think there is a far bigger elephant in the room that everyone seems to ignore which a financial value can't be given to - the fact that we are surrounded by positive impacts of immigration. I've spent New Year's week celebrating the arrival of 2014 with four New Zealanders, an Aussie and a Swede and so far we've festively enjoyed a couple of English pub meals, pizza, an Indian takeaway and a celebratory New Year's Day post party McDonald's. This is a small example, but it highlights that wherever you look, whether it's amongst friends or family, on your local high-street or throughout history, no piece of legislation has managed to somehow wrap the British way of life (whatever that is) in cotton wool to protect it from the impacts of globalisation. Take one look at America. Germans, Italians, Dutch, Irish, eastern Europeans and more latterly Hispanics have been arriving at their shores since the signing of the Constitution. Of course, there have been tensions and problems within this great melting pot of migration, but overall America is stronger both economically and culturally because of immigration and the UK has been too. The quicker we accept this fact and stop using Romanians and Bulgarians as a national focal point for xenophobic hate, the quicker we can talk about how immigration can help to make the UK economically and culturally stronger for everyone.