Saturday, June 02, 2012

Immigration – The Taboo Subject

We do like to cover a wide range of subjects on this blog, and especially controversial ones which generate some debate and discussion in the comments, and hopefully some insight into the issue. Here, below, is a thoughtful piece sent in by one of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous.


There is a subject which is not properly discussed in our society. The reason is obvious. As soon it is raised, temperatures go up as well. People become hot under the collar and abusive, and even begin throwing around accusations of mental illness. As a result I would ask you to read to the end of this before you reach for your keyboard.

Deep breath: here goes. I think immigration is a problem in this country.
First, we have to remember that many of our fellow citizens have not had the educational advantages that some of us have benefited from. They do not consider the plight of the individual. They look around their communities and see large numbers of people who have come from elsewhere, whose skin is a different colour or who speak a different language. They see them living in social housing, accessing the National Health Service, drawing various state benefits. They see their children receiving extra help in school because they do not speak English. They hear that they commit crimes and are kept in prison at public expense, or worse are at large in the community, because they cannot be deported. The result is a slow, steady build-up of resentment, fuelled in part by the media. They feel like a minority in their own country. They know that if they make the mildest of comments about the situation, they wil be branded racist. It is worse than useless to point out to them that the majority of newly arrived people are hardworking and honest. They see what they see.

It is impossible to blame the individual migrant. You only get one shot at life. If I had been born in a bughole somewhere in the third world I hope I would have the energy and drive to get out and go somewhere with more to offer. The people responsible for the problem are successive governments who have allowed the situation to develop to this point.

Let us look at the case of Eastern European countries joining the EU and the subsequent removal of national boundaries. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that this would result in a mass movement from the poorer countries to the richer. Not only that, but people with settled lives do not up sticks and move halfway across Europe. The first to leave are those who are looking for opportunities, and that includes opportunities for criminal activities. People in government must know this, whatever your opinion of their intelligence. They must therefore believe that there is some benefit to accrue from large numbers of people from other cultures arriving in Britain, France and Germany. It has been suggested to me that it would be in the interests of big business to have a large pool of workers accustomed to low wages and poor living conditions as this would depress wage levels. I am not a conspiracy theorist but it is impossible to dismiss this idea entirely, especially as there are many international corporations that can wield more power than can some national goverments.

So, we have a problem and it is not so much one of fact as one of perception. Large numbers of our fellow citizens have a group of people to hand whom they can blame for all their economic and social woes, with no need to recognise the part they themselves or their political leaders might have played. They are ripe for the plucking by ruthless extremist politicians who see a platform onto which they can climb.

Is there an answer? We could make strenuous efforts to educate people about the true situation. We could limit immigration more effectively than recent governments have managed to do. But we need to do something. When the BNP failed to gain Barking & Dagenham in the last election, the candidate remarked that this was because the immigrants didn’t vote for him. Whilst this provoked great hilarity, it made me think very hard. Were I his campaign manager, I would advise him to stand in a constituency next door to one with large numbers of immigrants; where there is a group which feels threatened. Havering, for instance. It won’t be long before the extreme parties realise this for themselves and act accordingly.

So I have run the risk of addressing a subject which usually generates more heat than light. I know there will still be anger and abuse and I will have to trust Alan to edit out the more distressing comments. However, if you are reading now you have listened to the points I have been making and we can therefore hope for some true debate.


Here are a couple of extracts from a recent piece written by David Hirsh:

Since some rather nasty medieval stuff, London and Jews have got on fairly well. London stood firm against Hitler, and the local Blackshirts too; it didn’t mind much whether Jews stayed separate or whether they immersed themselves in its vibrancy; it didn’t feel threatened, it didn’t worry, it just let Jews live engaged lives. But London’s very post-nationalism, and its post-colonialism, has functioned as the medium for a rather odd new kind of intolerance.

Some people who love London’s relaxed, diverse, antiracism look for an ‘other’ against which to define themselves. They find (insert your own prejudice).
And here are a couple of recent reports from the Ilford Recorder on over crowding:-

‘Slums of the future’ putting strain on services in Ilford

Homeowners illegally renting their outbuildings an ‘increasing problem’ – Redbridge council leader



  1. I could write an essay on my response to this article based on my personal situation/experiences,but my overall answer to it is, I guess we will all see how immigration has affected this country in 15 to 20 years thing I am sure of is that it will not be the same as past phases of immigration appoligise for the pessimism or maybe I dont.

  2. A complex "problem" that too many people believe has a simple solution. I have some near neighbours both of whom are immigrants. he is Nigerian, she is Polish. Both nationalities are amongst the simple solutionists bogeymen. But he is a doctor working in the NHS, she comes from a highly intelligent family, the head of which ran for the leadership of his country.

    I have a cousin who never took school seriously and can barely (and I use the word a little generously) read or write and has accordingly had periods of drawing benefits. There are other examples. But here we have immigrants paying taxes that pay for at least one Englishman's dole.

    Also. fish and chips has been usurped by chicken tikka masala as the brits favourite dish. Witness any Wetherspoons on a Thursday night. But there is a serious problem in the "Indian" catering industry...the present generation of chefs is growing old and retiring and the new generation of asian youth aren't replacing them. And the British govt. has restricted the issue of visas to younger chefs. So who will cook our favourite nosh for us now?

    The Portly One

  3. And *anonymous* is exactly how some employers like their illegal immigrant workers to be.

  4. The Original Author12:12 am, June 03, 2012

    I believe 15 to 20 years may be too long to wait to see how immigration has affected this country if the extreme politicians get behind the issue. If you had been living in Germany in 1929,could you have even begun to imagine what would have ovetwhelmed your country by 1939?

    I have tried to address the issue of no one group being better or worse citizens than another, whether born here or not. This is not the problem. The decisions of previous governments have created a situation where there is a ready group to hand which can be blamed for everything that is wrong with the country and unscrupulous people who will exploit that for their own ends. In mitigation, I have heard many people comment that we have quite enough homegrown rubbish,we don't need to import it from all over the globe. And to reduce it to a question of who will cook your chicken tikka masala is to trivialise it beyond belief.

  5. The Portly One.

    Oh Dear Anonymous. 15 to 20 years? Immigration has been around far,far longer than that, so we can see how immigration has affected the country if only we open our eyes. Various groups throughout history have been the convenient King John's time it was the Jews, the Dutch were blamed for the Great Fire of London, the Irish and the French have been recipients of our general dislike, even hatred, for hundreds of years. And what of our personal lineages? Which of us is anything like pure Briton? This being Jubilee weekend it seems timely to reflect on our Royal Family's lineage. German. And let's not forget William of Orange. Both lines were invited to rule, no conquest needed. And what do we do with all those pensioners returning from Mediteranean retreats when national boundaries are restored? They'll all need medical treatment. But my doctor neighbour may not be here any longer to oblige. We're all the same species, the planet has limited space, so let's learn to live together.

  6. I think people can adjust to change when it comes gradually, and when the indigenous population is not overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

    Another issue is whether those who enter attempt to assimilate or remain rigidly 'other'. Coming from an immigrant background myself, I'd say it is incumbent on incomers to respect the host nation.

    1. At this point I will quote a friend who lives in Newbury Park and who I have known since 1971.

      "I arrived here from Pakistan in 1960 with £10 in my pocket. I thought right, this is my country now, I am going to fit in."

  7. Why is it that whenever immigration is raised by someone who "just wants the subject to be discussed rationaly and with balance" the side of migration that I never see included in the arguement is emigration. How many Britons are immigrants in other countries...Australia, Canada, USA, Europe, Africa? Why is the question "Why can't they all come home?" never asked

    1. Perhaps because the subject here is 'immigration' into the UK, not 'emigration' from it?

    2. An English Democrat2:45 pm, June 05, 2012

      ... because we already know why they left. It's called "White Flight".

    3. I've just done a Googleoogle on "White Flight" and came up with this. It's 4 years old but nevertheless interesting.

      Ethnic middle classes join the 'white flight'

    4. An English Democrat8:59 pm, June 05, 2012

      @ Morris Hickey,
      I could stereotype you as of Irish origin, but I will not. It is not relevant. Nor is your response "BNP MkII"

      If you wish to engage with the subject matter being discussed here then please do. I would be interested to read your view, whatever that may be.

    5. In your opinion - and I am similarly entitled to mine.

    6. An English Democrat (Mrs)7:51 pm, June 10, 2012

      @ Morris Hickey
      Except you have not actually stated an opinion on the subject matter, other than a childish stereotype taunt.

  8. A couple of points. International criminals are of course famous for obtaining false identity documents. They aren't known for respecting national borders. There's no reason to claim they're "the first to leave".

    The author must be aware that many Polish immigrants are returning to Poland because the Polish economy is in far better shape. Does s/he think that "the first to leave" are criminals? That's the implication of the argument s/he is making.

    Why is this author so eager to distance themself from "our fellow citizens" who "have not had the educational advantages that some of us have benefited from" and at the same time so keen to acknowledge - and not even bother to counter - the ignorant impressions these uneducated people have of immigrants? Surely the response to ignorance is not to simply shrug, as this author does, and humour it, but to attempt to shed some light.

    And why is this author doling out advice to a far right candidate instead of challenging the false stories of current and future tribal victimhood the far right tell?

    This is not a good piece, doesn't help, and actually I am pretty sad to see it published unchallenged on B21.

    1. Mira,

      It was published on B21 for discussion, or to be challenged in the comments, as you have done. But I think you are being a tad unfair.

      What the author is alluding to, I think, is what you would know as “The Filter Bubble” – how the internet reinforces a view by supplying search engine results that correspond to previous searches.

      This is not a new phenomenon. It is actually a social condition where people only mix with others of like mind and therefore are not exposed to alternative or conflicting opinions or evidence. Like it or not, we all do it, even you Mira.

      The perception of any individual is their reality. That, I think, is what the author is worried about and the central theme of the post – how do we unravel it all?

    2. Mira, I do not understand your reference to the author 'doling out advice to a right-wing candidate'.

    3. B21 - I'm fairly sure Mira meant she was most disappointed that such a poor piece was published. It contains no links to any data which backs up the assertions made and is generally a rehash of things someone has heard or things the author believe other people think. and let's remember your interpretations of what the author means go through you own 'filter bubble'.

      Judith - in the post the author offers advice to BNP campaign managers that they should stand in constituencies next those with lots of immigrants as presumably they would have more chance of winning. Given the issues Havering has to deal with around the BNP this is at best unhelpful.

    4. The Original Author11:14 am, June 11, 2012

      Just a couple of small points:

      Iwasn't referring to international criminals, who of course can go wherever they wish. I ws referring to the kind of small-time criminal activities which make our lives more uncomfortable. Nor did I suggest that all immigrants are criminals; simply that when a door is flung open, all kinds of opportunities arise.

      Secondly, do you really think that I could tell the BNP campaignmanagers they don't know already?

      And Papanomicron, the point I was making is that large numbers of people believe these stories about immigrants without any evidence,or even in the teeth of evidence to the contrary, and that is what I see as the problem.

  9. The Original Author10:58 pm, June 07, 2012

    I'm sorry that Mira has imputed such base motives to my arguments.

    I sm very much aware that there are large numbers of people in this country who have not had the kind of education which has enabled them to have a broader understanding of history and politics. It is not their fault - and that could be the subject of a much deeper and broader argument. However it is not their intelligence or education which is of significance here. It is the general perception that they have of the people who have arrived in this country in the past handful of years.

    I believe I attempted to balance the argument when I pointed out that most newcomers are hardworking and make their fair contribution to society. If everybody were obliged to return to their country of origin I would have to be cut into at least six pieces to comply with that requirement. That is not my argument. My point is that unbridled immigration creates tensions and resentments which sre fuel to the fires of extremest politicians. From what I have read,nobody,including Mira, has addressed that point.

    1. TOA

      The problem with your argument is that it is not based on the facts and doesn't attempt to challenge people who use incorrect assertions to fuel prejudice.

      For example we do not have 'unbridled immigration' and have had limits on the numbers of people entering the country for over 100 years. Whilst I agree we cannot simply dismiss, belittle and ignore peoples genuine fears about immigration if we are to deal with them we must surely do so by using facts to deal with their perceptions?

    2. The Original Author11:19 am, June 11, 2012

      No, of course my argument isn't based on facts because it is about the absence of facts from most people's perception of immigration.

      The proponents of nationalism are not interested in facts, they are in the business of creating perception and that is what passes for truth with all of us.

  10. There are some wider issues that I would like to bring to the discussion.
    1. Immigration is not just about people upping sticks and deciding to move to an economic eldorado. A great deal of immigration is the result of war and conflicts. These are generated or at the very least excaserbated by ill thought direct interventions or by covert means wherby conflict is generated.Iraq , Afghanistan, Vietnam, Latin America, Somalia, Sudan to name just a few.
    2. The global deregulation of finacial markets( for which we are picking up the price) has meant greater poverty. Whole viable rural communities have had their means of livelihood destroyed on the back of state subsidised(EU and American) agri businesses that resulted in the huge expansion in "rootless" people who have no option other than moving to cities in their own countries or migrating. In China alone there are nearly 15 million per year people being forced to leave the countryside.

    3. EU expansion was always about economics. Just look at how the new EU memebrs states have been financially colonised by "old Europe". Estonia is simply an extension of Finland. Tesco, Carrefour, Aldi etc are everywhere.Over 5 million Polish people left their country after enlargement. The majority of them where craftspeople(plumbers, carpenters,electricians), graduates, health professionals(one region in Poland lost 24% of its dentists to England-who by the way for the majority worked for the NHS). All the new member states are experincing a "brain drain" as old europe makes up for its own deficient education system by cherry picking the best of their talent. The sixth largest french city in Europe is London. The 350,000 french people are by and large working , not by any means at a level comensurate with their qualifications as many are graduates working in restaurants etc.
    At the other end of the spectrum is of course the cheap, precarious labour that our economy requires to pick the agricultural produce,clean offices and hotels etc.

    4. Europe is ageing, fertility levels are at an historical low. It is estimated that over 1million new migrants per year have been entering the EU since 2006 and that this will continue for the next 15 years at least.This is an economic need , how else will we 'grow" and pay off the mountain of debt. In the UK, this is not the case and surprise surprise this is as result of our migrant communities having higher birth rates. The irony here being that it will be the sons and daughters of migrants who will be paying off part of the debt we have created.
    Somewhile ago a book was publihed called the "Empire strikes back" anut shell this was pointing out that immigrants are over here because we were over there in the first place. Migration is simply a process we invented and then escalated as part of the global inequality that our system has created.

  11. Papanomicron says:

    “we do not have unbridled immigration”

    From anywhere outside the EU, yes, and it is about to get even tougher.

    However, we have no way of knowing how many illegal immigrants are here or who are entering now. We know we have some because they get caught and we see it on our television screens. This is a fear of the unknown number for which there is no evidence or link. It is simply unknown. It may not be a fear of immigration itself but a lack of confidence in Government and the border controls.

    And as Haroon Saad says:

    “Migrant communities have higher birth rates”

    What we are seeing here is not necessarily the result of high levels of immigration now, but increasing numbers of second and third generation migrants – who are British.

  12. B21, I think I'm fair here. I am aware of the filter bubble. The piece above is not a filter bubble bursting piece.

    If somebody, as Original Author does, ventures to raise a "taboo subject" on a community blog, they had better be very careful including making the sources of their opinions clear - because this reveals where the authors' influences lie and signals that readers are expected to think and fact-check rather than react.

    When authors first say they are worried about a taboo and then proceed to write a piece which becomes a vehicle for spreading false impressions about migration and migrants - intentionally or not - it's fair to point that out. Here are some assertions from the piece which to the best of my knowledge aren't borne out by the facts. There isn't a simple relationship between lack of education and hatred of immigrants. There's no reason to think that the first to leave their countries are criminally inclined. It's untrue to claim that people "get branded as racist" for making "the mildest of comments" about immigration. We don't have "unbridled immigration" and there is plenty of evidence about undocumented migrants e.g. And to blame the rise of the extreme right on immigration rather than the structure and state of the economy is highly questionable.

    Yes, we can have a good debate about immigration - but this piece shows that good faith and thoughtfulness doesn't automatically lead to one.

    1. "Yes, we can have a good debate about immigration.."

      That, I believe, was the intent of the original author and certainly myself when I published the post.

      So, let's do that ...

    2. The Original Author11:05 am, June 11, 2012

      Of course I was aware when I submitted the piece that some of the readers would react as if I shared the kind of opinions I am concerned about. I also expected to be accused of being part of the problem,and I think that is why so few people are prepared to speak openly about how they see the situation.

      I work with the public in circumstances which often lead to an exchange of views and where they are comfortable with expressing an opinion, i.e I am a total stranger, they don't even know my name.

      At first I was surprised by how many referred to the numbers of 'foreigners' but now I have
      begun to think about it more seriously, and that was the reason for the piece.

      I am not a fool and I know all the arguments about immigration: that there are as many reasons to migrate as there are migrants; that we all came from somewhere if you go back far enough; that we have plenty and can share with those who have less; that the NHS would collapse without doctors and nurses from abroad; that we will need the children of the migrants to push our wheelchairs; that we are reaping the harvest of our colonial past; and all these are essentially true however facetiously expressed. The point I have been trying to make is that however sincerely we may hold those opinions and however much we try to propogate them, there are significant numbers of people who do not share that point of view. Not all of them are undereducated and poor; indeed I am often surprised to hear strong views about immigration expressed by people who I would have expected to be far more tolerant. My point is that those views are out there and are being held, and more openly expressed, by a significant group of people,and this gives me great cause for concern. 'The Portly One' in an earlier comment made my point for me. Immigrants have always been scapegoated and blamed for a country's ills, and we would be worse than foolish if we believed that it could never happen again. The question I asked, and which as far as I can see nobody has seriously addressed, is what we should do about it. I don't accept that there isn't a problem, I have the evidence of my own eyes and ears, conversations in private and in public, the tone of the mass media and the growing rise in popularity of minority parties with an increasing national agenda.

      As for spreading false impressions about immigration and immigrants, isn't that exactly the problem I have asked you all to think about? It is already being done all around us. I have simply asked you to acknowledge that those views are out there and if you haven't heard them you lead a very protected life.

  13. Haroon, your comment was full of food for thought. To pick up one point, am I right in supposing that lower birth rates are primarily associated with high levels of social security and education of women?

    1. An English Democrat (Mrs)7:41 pm, June 10, 2012

      No. It is primarily associated with the availability of contraception and a lack of cultural pressure through social systems such as Forced Marriage and Honour Killings, although I have to reluctantly concede that FGM would mitigate against this trend.

      Are you happy, Mira, with these cultural "imports"?

    2. Or the acceptance of birth control?

    3. Mrs ED, those practices either are, or are about to become, illegal in the UK. And that's not because they were catching on as "cultural imports". It's because they harm their victims. Nothing to do with birth rates.

      Availability of contraception is necessary but not sufficient for birth rates to fall. Education helps women to make informed choices about their fertility and consequently is strongly associated with declining birth rates e.g.

  14. "I have simply asked you to acknowledge that those views are out there".

    Original Author, the views which are worrying you worry me too, but there is a difference between us in that I don't find them to be taboo - on the contrary I encounter them frequently. I see them fed by major newspapers (e.g. the incendiary way The Sun reported swans being eaten by homeless migrant workers, the way the Standard gratuitously mentioned country of origin in the context of a case of social security fraud, etc), and documented in the rest of the news. They can be overheard on public transport and on the streets of North East London, among other places. Also frequent are high profile discussions about immigration and views of immigration - search for the tens of thousands of records, see too - and for a frank discussion about negative views of immigration see in particular - these are debates are ongoing and happening at the heart of the establishment.

    This is why I am finding it hard to understand why you think these negative views about immigration are so taboo that it's appropriate to reproduce them, ask the ether for answers and leave it at that.

  15. The Original Author10:41 pm, June 14, 2012

    I did not use the word 'taboo'. It was ascribed to the piece by the editor. I said that the subject was not properly discussed. I suggested that it was providing a platform for extremist nationalist movements. I asked you to acknowledge that a problem exists and give some thought to how it might be addressed.

    My concern is not that the subject is taboo. On the contrary, it is that anti-immigrant opinions are increasingly openly expressed by otherwise rational people when they believe they are speaking to the likeminded. Your last comments entirely support this. The lack of proper discussion is because it is impossible to put the subject forward, as I have tried to do, without attracting the kind of misinterpretation, criticism of motives or downright refusal to engage that the piece has engendered.

    I never knew a problem to go away because people tried to pretend it didn't exist.

    I am bowing out of this 'debate' as it has proved what I already suspected - that the only opinions people are prepared to express are informed by their prejudices, on whichever side they happen to fall. You at least, Mira, were prepared to respond with passion even if you failed to grasp the basic point I was making. I asked you to acknowledge that there is a growing problem and give some thought to what might be done about it. You hsve all read the responses to that.

    I leave you with two quotations, neither of which was originated by me so perhaps they will be given some attention.

    Those who do not learn the lessons of history will be condemned to repeat them.

    For evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.

  16. OK, Original Author - I'm now understanding that it's not immigration that worries you, but rather the rise of racism on the political right. I was diverted from your main point by the piece's title and opening 2 paragraphs, in conjunction with the examples you raised of negative perceptions of migrants. But it seems we're in broad agreement.

    Another link - to Oxford University's Centre on Migration, Policy and Society - COMPAS - there are plenty of resources which examine different ways of looking at migration. I think the Urban Change and Settlement cluster of work is particularly relevant to this conversation - it's concerned with less positive attitudes to migration.

    1. Mira, if by 'the political right' you mean fascist groups, please note that their policies are usually closely allied to extreme socialist ideas (hence National Socialism, or Nazism). Check out Marine LePen's policies.

      You may recall that Oswald Mosley had been a Labour MP, and that many prominent Fabians (GB Shaw, Leonard Webb) supported eugenic policies which had much in common with fascism states, whilst David Lloyd George thought Hitler was wonderful.

  17. See too these recent reports on the English Defence League:

    From DEMOS, trying to get to the bottom of what motivates EDL support, with a view to responding in a way which doesn't strengthen it:
    Inside the EDL

    From the University of Northampton, also charting the rise of the EDL:
    The EDL: Britain’s ‘New Far Right’ Social Movement

  18. The Original Author4:52 pm, June 15, 2012

    Thank you, at last. Yes, the point was that all the negative attitudes to immigration and the unwillingness of people with a more positive agenda to put their heads above the parapet are increasingly putting weapons into the hands of extreme natonalists. I am sorry if careful reading of the text failed to convey that message, and as for the word 'taboo' which seems to have contributed to the misunderstanding, we must blame someone so it had better be ALAN.

    I will read the reports you point me to with interest.
    Thank you.

  19. Arthur Streeb-Greebling3:50 pm, June 19, 2012

    I look forward to the day when our future generations are all a light brown and have the sense to have banned religion.

    This should sort things out nicely and eradicate the stigmatised issues currently held by most of the opposition to integration.

    1. I thought Martin Luther King summed it up quite nicely some years ago ...

  20. You may look forward to such things - I do not.