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Too much immigration or too little self-awareness?

British politics and the media are bombarding us with anti-immigration rhetoric – is immigration really the as big an issue as people say?

 

Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed I stumbled into the Conservatives’ “survey” regarding immigration. Curiosity took over and I explore this so-called survey only to be welcomed with Conservative agenda, objectively questionable statements, and an assortment of overly leading questions about immigration.

“Do you agree with controlling immigration so our economy and local services deliver for hardworking taxpayers?” can a question be more misleading? “Do you agree with making it easier to deport foreign criminals?”, “Do you agree with insisting immigrants speak better English?” These are only a few questions amongst many that claim to be a survey.

The problem with this is not so much with the question per se, but the way it is structured; in such a way that leads people to think of the infamous ‘TINA’ – There Is No Alternative. It’s impossible for any government to control the economy so local services deliver for hardworking taxpayers without eliminating or tightening up immigration controls.

Unfortunately, many people believe this and buy into the immigration bashing that admittedly not only the Conservatives have attempted to sell. UKIP wants to tighten immigration controls, wants to control the “quantity and quality of people”,  Nigel Farage wants to pose a five-year ban on migrant benefits and UKIP members want to block entrance to immigrants with HIV and in some cases even TB.

Labour has mostly kept quiet about immigration compared to other political parties, but not for long. Recently the Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman has stated that Labour too shares the worry of immigration and wants to further restrictions on migrant’s ability to claim benefits.

Comments have also come from individuals outside British politics – comedian Andrew Lawrence complained about the anti-UKIP agenda in comedy programmes, stating that they are “ridiculous and pathetic” and proceeded to defend UKIP stating that other political parties are “too spineless to tackle the issue of immigration”.

If that isn’t enough, there is always the French mayor of Calais who has recently said that illegal immigrants see the UK as a “soft touch” and the benefits offered to migrants are a “magnet”.

This immigrant bashing has managed to leak (unsurprisingly) into civil society and individuals in British society. On 7th January 2014, the BBC stated that a survey suggests 77% of Britons want to see immigration cut. The 2014 European Election results ended with UKIP gaining 4,376,635 votes – more than other parties – gaining the overall result of 24 MEPs. To summarise, Britain is exploding with fears over immigration.

The media only fuels this fear. An article written by The Express a couple of months back was titled “Romanian immigrant: “I want to make £40k through benefits – the rest I’ll STEAL” – if that isn’t eye catching to a hateful xenophobe or a disillusioned voter  I don’t know what is.

Has this immigration fear spiralled out of control? I think it has. An IPSOS MORI poll has revealed that Britain (as well as other countries) are largely ignorant of the social realities they live in. Britain is the 5th least ignorant country – hooray! – but is ignorant nonetheless, believing that the population of immigrants is twice the amount it actually is. When questioned, people believed that 24.4% of the population are immigrants. In reality the figure amounts to only 13%. Similarly, British people were largely unaware of the religious community within Britain – overstating the amount of Muslims in the country and understating the amount of Christians.

In 1905, the British parliament passed the Aliens Act which sought to limit Irish and Jewish immigration. Over the following decades it sought to prevent Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Blacks from entering the borders while poisoning its population against current and incoming immigrants; to the point where Conservatives allegedly used the slogan “If you want a n****r for a neighbour vote Labour.” Now eastern Europeans are targets of the campaign of hate, with videos being sent out discouraging immigrants from travelling to Britain as well as unpleasant “Go Home Vans” highlighting the unwelcoming anti-immigration spirit that sadly persists in Britain.

As an immigrant I have to say, it’s draining seeing the amount of anti-immigration feeling in Britain. Britain has supposedly progressed but it appears that over the decades there has merely been a shift of hatred rather than the elimination of it.

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