Immigrants? What’s That Mean?

I have a friend, nice guy intelligent, educated (chartered accountant), of mixed Filipino/ UK heritage who lives abroad and is against immigration (his thing is Muslims and headscarves).  Listening to him made me realise two things.  One I agree with him on a lot of it.  Two “immigrants” is a catch all term that is as misleading as it is informative.

When people say immigration do they mean cultural or financial or both?

Cultural Dilution: 

Contention:

Western Europe pretty much monoculture ( the Irish, French, Germans, Italians etc are pretty much like us).
Africa is also a monoculture (excluding Arab Africa).
Arabian Africa and the Middle East are also a monoculture.

If someone from Ireland or France moves to the UK it is unlikely to change anything much.  On the other hand someone from Saudi Arabia brings with them a whole set of cultural values and norms that are anathema to the UK.  While it is OK for a limited number of people to emigrate here from Saudi (and may enrich our culture/ understanding) I would suggest we don’t want wholesale migration – and this is true for the other continents also.

 

Economic Migration:

“They come here stealing our jobs.”  In much the same way when people complain about immigrants they are not, in the main, complaining about highly skilled workers from other western European countries where pay scales are similar to (or better than) ours.  The complaints relate more to Eastern Europeans coming here, being paid less and under lower conditions than the indigenous workforce.  I have heard this from Leave voters in the NW of England that low paid, unskilled foreign labour does indeed cut the pay etc for some UK workers.  I have no reason to believe it is not true.   There is a plausible (I believe) argument, that the inclusion of Eastern block countries into the EU was in part a deliberate attempt to provide low paid workers to bolster western European economies.

Some Thoughts.

  1. Legitimate concerns about cultural dilution are used by the far right to promote an “Islamification of Europe” narrative, which is extremist fear mongering.  It’s like a small child breaks your window and all of a sudden a wave of child vandals are sweeping the nation.  A sense of perspective is required and awareness that cultures evolve.  We are not stuck in the 1950’s.
  2.  Immigrants from outside the EU are nothing to do with the EU – if we let them in that’s our choice.  Concerns about immigrants from the Middle East and Africa are still being lumped together with immigrants from within the EU.  It confuses the argument and is wrong.
  3. We already have record low unemployment – if the low paid foreign workers leave who will replace them?  If our manufacturing costs go up will companies stay competitive (depends on their margins on a case by case basis), or will they go under?
  4. If we make all foreigners unwelcome then we also risk losing the highly skilled workers we need – and this is already happening.  Just because you say to someone “we’ll give you a visa” does not mean they want to either arrive or stay

When we talk about “immigrants” we need to be much clearer about who we mean.