By the time this post is published the Government will probably have announced its cap on migrants to the UK. As MPs now have to do before making a speech in Parliament, I should perhaps say that I have an interest in this area. Both my parents were immigrants to this country. My mother came here in the 1950s when she was under 5. At that time Cyprus was still apart of the British Empire. I don’t know why my Grand Parents decided to come to the centre of the empire rather than remain in the Mediterranean paradise that Cyprus must have been. Anyone notice the sarcasm in that sentence? My father arrived in 1975, after independence and the Turkish invasion, looking for a better life and a job. Both contributed to British society through their payment of taxes, through the friends they have made and through the money they have spent here.
I was born here and consider myself to be British first and foremost. Of course my identity is multi-facetted, my Turkish Cypriot heritage and blindness, to name but two other identities, all add up to the unique individual that I am. But, oh dear I’m fast getting off the point. Back to migration caps.
We have a serious problem in this country with an aging population and a birth-rate that won’t replace the workers at a fast enough rate from the native population. By native, I mean those who have been born here and consider here to be their home. If we don’t have enough workers, how will we pay for the pensions that all those pensioners are entitled to receive?
The only way is to have a managed migration system that allows those who want to come and work here, to buy into our way of life, to contribute to this society to do so. At the same time we shouldn’t expect conformity, we can learn as much from our migrant workers as they can from us. Curry anyone? Kebab? Some reggae perhaps?
But how do we manage migration. People have tried to do this for centuries. The Romans tried to keep various tribal peoples out of the Roman world and they failed. As did the Byzantines with the Turks half a millennium later. It is almost impossible to stop people from moving from the parts of the world that have little, to the parts of the world that have a lot. If the Romans and the Byzantines couldn’t prevent it, how can we hope to now, given the improvements in transport.
A country is not a box. There isn’t a finite amount of space. Well, actually there is, at least in terms of physical space. But here in the UK we haven’t even come close to running out of space. There was an article in the .. well actually I can’t remember where, The New Statesman? Possibly. The article suggested that there was plenty of land that could be built on. The only part of the country that could be said to be full was, well you guessed it, the South-East.
In terms of services, the other great argument that those who insist on capping or banning immigration always use is that they can’t cope, services can expand. With more people, you can employ more doctors, nurses etc.
I find it sad that very few people are prepared to stand up and say, immigrants have done a lot of good for this country and we need them. Why has the US been such a successful nation over the last 60 years? Perhaps because of the fact it is an immigrant culture, building on the diversity of its population.
So, when you read in the press another attack on immigrants, or hear a politician spouting on immigrants think of me, the child of immigrants.