As we plunge headlong toward the European Parliament elections on May 22nd there seems to be little doubt that IMMIGRATION will be the hot topic of debate throughout the campaign, largely spurred by the rise of UKIP of late.
UKIP has managed to control the immigration agenda with its message of EU immigration puts Britain’s out of work.
Yet this message is over-simplistic and the ‘mainstream’ parties have failed to address this, allowing UKIP to control the immigration discourse. Over the next couple of months we really and truly need to see much more measured and logical debate on the subject, particularly because it is more than one single issue which means there should, in reality, be more than one debate on the issue.
There are at least four separate issues within that all-encompassing word ‘immigration’.
There is the issue of asylum. The blanket attack on immigration does not allow for the consideration of those whose lives are at risk by staying in their own country, are we, as a modern society, prepared to sit back while men, women and children are murdered by regimes which hold no care for human life, only their own greedily acquired thirst for power? While we can take action to try to halt those regimes from operating, these things take time and, in the meantime, obviously we, as a society, need to ensure there is no blood on our hands by leaving those at risk to die.
Then there is the issue of immigration control from outside the EU. Successive Governments have taken action to curb this but there is still a need for qualified workers in the UK to fill the skills gaps that exist. This is less an immigration issue and more a national one. Why do these skills gaps exist and why do Governments not take greater action to ensure that we have, for example, the right number of Doctors trained to meet national needs. By focusing resources on the skills gaps and ensuring that Britain has the necessary skilled workers to meet demand then this form of immigration naturally reduces.
Thirdly, and we are coming to the contentious issues now, is the free movement of peoples through the European Union. The is serious concern among many people about the effect of workers coming in from Eastern Europe, not only in terms of ‘taking’ jobs from British workers but also about pushing down wages.
However, this is as much about the effects of recession as it is about immigration.
When times are good and jobs are plentiful we need those migrant workers to fill the roles us natives often shun! Even now many migrant workers are needed to fill roles in social care to enable providers to operate, if we were to leave the EU and put in place a blanket ban on immigration our already crumbling social care system would be put into more crisis and the lives of many put at risk. Naturally it would be better then to work within the EU, and ask, if Eastern European members are in a state of poverty that forces their nationals to seek work elsewhere what is the EU doing to ensure those nations benefit, economically from membership?
Finally there is the issue of illegal immigration. We have all seen those images of migrants waiting at Calais to climb under lorries or jump on trains and this, to my mind, is the most important area of tackling immigration. It is ILLEGAL, therefore a criminal activity. It also fosters greater illegality as people traffickers con many out of money, and their livelihoods, smuggling them into the UK.
In terms of the EU debate it is obviously better to work within the EU to prevent illegal immigration. Those waiting at Calais have already entered the EU at some point and it is that issue that needs to be tackled, where are they entering and why are they not being stopped. That can only be tackled through cooperative working within the EU.
Leaving the EU would actually make matters worse. Not only would Britain have no leverage over people coming into the EU illegally, there is also the likelihood that those who currently have free movement within the EU would seek to enter the UK illegally.
Over the next few weeks there will be a lot of nonsense spouted about Immigration. It is times for politicians and the media to ensure that the real issues and sensible debate about those issues is at the forefront.