The topic of immigration appears to have reared its ugly head once more. With party leaders determined to ensure that no stone is left unturned in this season of party conferences, immigration has predictably featured rather heavily. Nick Clegg warned that it should not be "a numbers game". Ed Miliband made an astonishing admission in Liverpool last week, claiming that Labour "got it wrong" with regards to immigration levels. The Conservative's shall no doubt follow suit this week, fervently peddling their immigration cap policy - a policy that, in truth, shall never accomplish its desired intention. But what every leader appears to avoid mentioning are the endless positive impacts of immigration.
The common consensus among right-wing press is to bash immigration and turn it into something wholly undesirable. The Daily Mail - along with the Daily Express - ran a headline recently claiming that immigration had increased a whopping 20%. Had this been true, perhaps there would have been cause for concern. However, the reality was that immigration had only risen by 1.4% last year. Instead, it was merely net migration - the difference between the number of people leaving and entering Britain - that had rose by 21%; mainly the result of a dramatic decrease in the number of people emigrating. So you can see why people fear the worst with these highly cynical, inaccurate, mendacious reports. It is imperative that mainstream media puts the record straight by pointing out a few realities concerning immigration by factually assessing the impact of a restrictive cap or outright ban.
In 2001, Robin Cook - Foreign Secretary at the time - hit the nail on the head with regards to migrants. During a speech to the Social Market Foundation he stated: "We should celebrate the enormous contribution of the many communities in Britain to strengthening our economy, to supporting our public services, and to enriching our culture and cuisine". He ended by saying that "diversity is part of the reason why Britain is a great place to live". Can you imagine a politician going out on a whim and declaring that in today's hostile environment? I think not. In fairness, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have made some interesting remarks, but these are meaningless whilst they continue to prop up Cameron's xenophobic mob.
But let us for a minute pander to the anti-immigration brigade. Let us imagine a Britain without immigrant's contribution and input. First off, you can wave goodbye to Tesco, Marks & Spencer and easyJet; all companies founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. It is a well known fact that immigrants prove very economically lucrative. In 2007, the Home Office, alongside the Department for Work and Pensions, put together a paper called 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration'. In the report it was found that migrants contributed £6bn to output growth the previous year. So ask yourself, what would be the consequences were immigrants, valued at £6bn, to be deported - a policy put forward by the BNP; a party that worryingly secured 564,331 votes last May? If you think Britain's economic situation now is dire, just think what it would be like were it not for immigration.
A few more facts and figures then. According to economist Philippe Legrain, as outlined in his wonderful book Aftershock, immigrants are twice as likely to start a business in the UK as non-migrant 'native' Britons. So, when you next stroll through your lifeless high street, watching on apprehensively as your local shops sit empty, rejoice at the fact that we have business-astute immigrants willing to refill those shops and rejuvenate your local area. The next time you visit your local NHS hospital, take a look around. One-third of all NHS doctors gained their training overseas. Without them, the NHS would be on its knees and you and I would be unlikely to recover from whatever sickness we were suffering from. Thank heavens for migrant medical professionals.
How about our wonderful higher-education institutions? It is a fact that one in ten students come here from outside the EU. Without their beneficial fees - approximately £20,000 per year - universities would not be able to fund vital research that enables them to teach our next generation of children at such high levels. Added to that, the experience of university life would find itself heavily depleted. Many British students enjoy the multicultural aspect to it and would perhaps reconsider attending if the social factors found themselves in rapid decline. And what about the national game? Were migrants forced to leave these shores the English Premiership would witness a fast deterioration in standard and popularity. The economic outlook does not look too appealing either.
Millions of pounds are spent on attending football matches across the country, with lots of fans turning up excited to see their favourite foreign purchases in action. If we kissed goodbye to the likes of Fernando Torres, Robin Van Persie and Sergio Aguero would the supporters of their clubs still be willing to fork out the £50-a-ticket fee to cheer on some average home-grown talents? I think not. Our best sides would dwindle and no longer be able to compete at the highest level; a level that attracts mass tourist income during big European events such as the Champions League. These are all factors not considered when meat-headed bigots speak of deporting migrants permanently. Ethnic cleansing comes at a price.
Of course, there are genuine concerns, such as average wage increases, that respectable Britons rightly raise. But once again, misinformation has enabled these concerns to spiral into full-blown scaremongering. A study by the Low Pay Commission found that, in actual fact, immigration between 1997 and 2005 made a positive impact on non-immigrant Britons' average pay. So, whilst this is a legitimate query to raise, the factual evidence highlights how the worry is unnecessary and born from nothing more than right-wing propaganda. Another common myth is that migrants are jumping queues and gaining social housing ahead of 'well deserving' non-migrants. In 2009, research carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission unearthed that only 5% of new lettings are currently going to foreign nationals. It was found that only 11% of all newly arrived migrants were allocated social housing compared to 60% who rent and 18% who own.
The message is clear and simple. Immigration has a good, positive, lucrative impact on the UK and its economy and to lose it would be both shameful and damaging. The economy would topple and our culture would undoubtedly crumble. We need to eradicate the xenophobic myths and embrace the factual advantages of mass - albeit controlled - immigration. To spend the majority of our time denouncing immigration, treating it as if it were some elephant in the room, is disingenuous and completely hazardous. Immigration offers us so much; but, if the BNP or the right-wing media or the mainstream politicians had their way, we would ignore this fact and go on condemning and belittling migration as if it were taking the 'Great' out of Great Britain.