Wednesday's Sun front page truly encapsulates how low our debate on immigration has sunk with the headline: "Draw a red line on immigration or else". This is systematic of the tone that political representatives now address the issue of immigration with.
On a recent episode of Any Questions featuring Labour MP Chuka Umuna, Conservative MP Sajid Javid and Ukip MEP candidate Amjad Bashir it was very difficult to separate out who was from which side of the political spectrum. All three party representatives were insistent that immigration was a good thing but with the obligatory caveat that "the system must work for the people of Britain". There is now a significant gulf in the political classes of those who will actively speak in support of immigration without implying that the system needs to be stricter. This then simply allows the debate to become not one that takes into account facts and figures but one that is being driven by ideology.
You only need to take a peek at the vile being pumped out by some of our national press ahead of temporary work restrictions being lifted on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. Take this week's Daily Mail article on the number of Romanians being arrested in London, the article claims: "For every 1000 Romanians in London, 183 are arrested". The Mail would therefore suggest that there are around 4,300 persons from Romania living in London. However, as noted by the Ambassador of Romania in the UK in a Huffington Post piece, the total number is actually nearer 60,000 - therefore for every 1000 Romanians 13 were arrested, this is half the arrest rate for Britons.
Such fabrication of the facts not only go unchecked, they provide an opportunity for Conservative politicians such as Theresa May to back up her desire to have capped immigration rates for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. May and other Conservative representatives now associate the free movement with people with terms such as "scroungers" or "benefit tourists". They consistently fail to mention the 2.2million UK nationals living elsewhere within Europe who are entitled to the same treatment as local residents.
There is a clear race to woo the swinging Ukip voters ahead of next year's European elections and as a result it is turning the debate on immigration into an extremely toxic cocktail of scaremongering and borderline xenophobia. The idea of millions of Bulgarians and Romanians eagerly waiting at the border until the clock strikes midnight on Hogmanay is utterly nonsensical. Take a Channel 4 News feature that saw Nigel Farage travel to Bulgaria to ask locals if they would come to the UK in 2014 and some responded with: "No it rains too much there... it's very different culturally" and "we were born here and want to stay here". These are the voices of actual citizens and not some caricature on the back of a Ukip manifesto leaflet.
But the biggest piece of evidence that Ukip have got May and her Conservative colleagues on the run comes in the form of a report on the effects of EU immigration being shelved. Not because it was inaccurate or invalid, but because it was deemed to be "too positive". This really does make one wonder how far Conservative politicians will go in order to distort the reality of immigration within the EU and how valuable it is to the UK economy and to UK nationals living in other member states.
The recent comments made by the European Commissioner, Lazlo Andor that the UK risks becoming the "nasty country of Europe" are correct. No matter how much Cameron tries to gloss over this, his selective immigration policies have the potential to deter skilled migrants coming to the UK and helping to create jobs because they face a hostile media and political class. Would Cameron and May support for example another EU nation imposing restrictions on UK nationals moving there because we failed to learn the local language or didn't properly integrate within the local populous? I very much doubt it.
There is nothing wrong with discussing the issue of immigration, but surely a discussion based on facts and solid evidence is what we should be basing it on. Because casting unfounded claims about millions of people living at the other side of Europe is not helpful, it is downright nasty.
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