"Refugees Welcome...Bring Your Families." I saw this sticker on an old motorbike in Berlin and I've never seen anything like it. I'm so used to hearing rhetoric against immigration that nobody seems to dare to speak up for all those millions who are fleeing life threatening situations in places like Syria.
My impression of Britain is that the anti-immigrant view of UKIP and the extreme right has convinced mainstream politicians of two things: speaking out against immigrants is a vote winner, and saying anything positive about them is electoral death. Things are different in Germany and Scandinavia where it's still permitted to speak up on their behalf.
I met a Glaswegian in Berlin who told me she had met loads of immigrants back home. She said "they're always so keen to work and integrate but the government mandate that they're not allowed to work, which means the state has to support them and they're deprived of an enthusiastic work force. It's crazy."
Places like Berlin, London and LA run on immigrant energy. Immigrants come with a lot more dynamism to a job than a local, who may well feel that this particular job is below them. They fill up whole districts with thriving shops, restaurants and small businesses -- and they pay taxes if they are allowed to register. Keeping them out loses governments tax income and gains nothing but the illusion that the right wing will like them more.
Berlin is the hippest city in Europe, and perhaps even the world, and the hippest part of this city is Kreuzberg -- a part of town where the party goes on all night and there is so much happening culturally that you need months to check it all out. Kreuzberg used to be the Turkish district and it would wither and die without its immigrant majority. And the tourists love it and spend millions there every night.
Unfortunately the German government are also prone to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the extreme right (and the press). Like Britain, the Germans imposed "temporary" restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers; depriving them of the right to work freely in any EU Member State. But they can't stop immigrants coming up from the Balkans and what I don't understand is why did they agree for these two countries to join the EU in the first place? Could it be because the media have turned against them in the meantime? Or did they want to open up more markets for their subsidised agricultural products that can now undercut locally made organic produce in those countries?
The British government are particularly prone to anti-immigration tabloid pressure and are keen to show the public they are more right wing than the "swivel eyed lunatics" of UKIP.
Cameron's coalition government took one decision that seems particularly stupid, as it cuts off a source of highly qualified labour from Romanian and Bulgaria. Students from those countries are no longer allowed to receive low-interest loans for their university costs and the most qualified students of those countries no longer see Britain and the best place to go and study. Many of these students would have stayed on as highly skilled and motivated workers.
But anti-immigration politics never made any sense. All studies show that immigrants bring badly needed labour, tax revenue and they help fill the gap left by our inability to procreate.
A modern economy needs a constant flow of new labour -- both skilled and unskilled -- and immigration is the only way to get it. Germany, UK and America have built their economies on this and I met a lady from Silicone Valley, the centre of America's IT industry who said her industry's message to the US Government is simple: "give us more Indians."