The United Kingdom is one of the most diverse countries in the world and no stranger to migrants. Migration has been happening to the Island since recorded history. The Saxons invaded and settled in the 1st millennium AD, to be followed by the Danes and the Normans, by the 19th century the United Kingdom boasted a diverse set of European and African migrants. Border controls in the 19th century were not as sophisticated and the Victorian era was bristling with poverty and inequality, it is no surprise people cared little for the presence of migrants. In the 1960’s post war era, indentured labour became necessary, so Caribbean migrants sailed to Britain and despite living under terrible conditions, they made valuable contributions to Britain’s public service sector, from housing development, railway, to energy and healthcare. Pakistani migrants also came to the UK developing a 24 hour local economy that today is invaluable to Britons. Despite this migration, non-white immigrants and all their descendants still make up less than 5% of the British population, their contribution in the face of senseless hate through the post war years is astonishing, especially when you think of their contribution to development proportional to numbers. A big blow for the Enoch Powell crowd.
Britain is the 5th largest economy in the world. Many European nations like Spain and Italy have 30% youth unemployment and somehow always claim the rich North are seeking their demise. Let’s face facts, Spain had an empire similar the Britain, they participated in the slave trade. Their failure to emerge as a power in Europe was based on their attitude to migrants and former colonies under their charge. Britain and France still maintain close ties with their former colonies as a consequence France is the 6th largest economy in the world. If Le Pen has her way, France could be staring into the abyss and may even turn out worse than Spain and Italy. Britain’s growth and success in the world is dependent on strong immigration that needs to be underpinned by a good legal framework to ensure we attract the right sort of migration.
In a world where education is becoming wide spread and wealth is global, migrants are aspiring and have the means to compete, so it is impossible to attract indentured labour as even poorer countries now have well educated migrants. Take David Sengeh, a Sierra Leonean migrant to Sweden who studied Engineering, earned a scholarship to MIT and developed the first perfect fit bionic limb, he was inspired by the civil war in his home country (Ref. CNN African voices). His development would aid British, American and other amputees around the globe, his tax bill is likely to be worth 10 times that of the average jobber. There is no argument that migration adds a net benefit to any nation lucky enough to attract migrants.
Let’s take a detour to Eastern Europe, still trying to shake its racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic roots. Women in Ukraine and Russia are treated as commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, their value reduced to the curse of their Slavic beauty, the Ottoman legacy. Other former Soviet block states like Serbia and Romania are also wrestling with the prospect of being more open to attract business. Let’s face it, hardly anyone wants to migrate to Eastern Europe no matter where you are from, the stories of open dislike for migration and failing systems is a deterrent. That said, these countries are one of the poorest in Europe and continue to scramble for EU handouts and run the risk of being absorbed back into Russia or simply used as a work house for the EU.
Britain will likely be leaving the EU, a campaign won as a result of the hubris of Londoners and city dwellers that take things for granted and the strong far-right message targeted towards the Islamic threat and European open borders. The poorer Eastern Europeans who shun migration in their countries hoped to takeover British industry with their industrious nature and repatriate those resources back to their home countries. It seems like the competition from this kind of uncontrolled migration is too much for Britain. There is a lesson in all of this, cultural understanding is an important aspect of migration, The UK needed an immigration policy friendly to former English speaking African, Caribbean and Asian colonies whom since the 16th century have offered a net benefit to the Island. They speak the same language and feel more of affiliation to the UK. It is clear that while Eastern Europeans are white Europeans and are genetically similar, they are culturally miles apart and feel no allegiance to the United Kingdom not ignoring the wave of Middle Eastern migrants that practice a completely different religion at the core and have always had strained relations with the West. Modern immigration policy must take into account cultural differences and in turn put measures in place that don’t jeopardize our place in the world but at the same time preserve our cultural identity.
Politicians needed to acknowledge that cheap European labour was going to hurt manual labour industries. They should have blocked access to Welfare and other healthcare facilities for new EU migrants, they should have made access rules for Commonwealth countries easier, this would have stemmed the need for companies to grab at the cheap labour pool. there should have been US affirmative style action, that is companies must consider UK citizens first for skills, this would have stopped ordinary citizens regardless of race being forced out of their jobs. It was just too easy for corporations to choose cheap European labour over domestic. While Britain is all about freedom of religion, people from Islamic backgrounds needed monitoring, a Chinese style community relations officer should have been appointed to observe what is being said in places of worship, this would deter terrorists from using mosques as meeting grounds and radical preachers would have been picked up earlier. Cyber security, remains paramount, companies like Google should be made to take down sites and videos citing racial or religious hatred, we have no 1st amendment in the UK. Some of these measures would be hard to enact but public support would definitely have swayed the political elite without the need for a nuclear option like Brexit. Immigration will be a never ending story it is question of what kind of immigration do we need and how do we manage it.