Monday, October 29, 2007

Immigration to Britain

So David Cameron is hot on immigration – again, and so is Labour. Apparently there is “too much” as David Cameron says, with no substance behind it other than it imposes "pressure on services and society". Bullshit. It increases property prices and migrants pay their own way, or if they don't it's because of government policies.
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The government says immigration imposes pressure on crime (so let's deport criminal migrants), housing, health and education (well who should pay for that?), but has no answers.
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Clearly people like me who are skilled and earning well above the average wage are a problem for Britain – but no, that can’t be true can it? Is it the huge number of Poles who have filled the service sector? Well, no and besides the EU means you can’t debate such things. The truth is that the problem is caused by poorly educated, poorly skilled people from different cultures who seek to claim taxpayer funded services - but nobody will admit that.
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The reasons given why immigration is an issue comes down to:
- Risk of overpopulation; and
- Unsustainability of taxpayer funded social services.
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Both arguments are complete nonsense, and moreover any politician honestly talking about immigration in Britain knows that the primary reason Britons are concerned about it is race and religion. Is it racism? Well to a point yes. Moreso seen in working class communities, and reflected in the occasional boost the BNP gets in local elections as the proletariat claim the “Pakis” or “blacks” are taking our jobs, and other nonsense. The deep suspicion and fear of those who “look different” has been exploited by politicians worldwide.
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However, there is a more substantive concern about immigration of those who don’t adopt the values of British liberal democratic society. Most obviously is the migration of Muslims who seek sharia law, although as many of those are born in the UK as immigrants. It is a genuine concern that people come to live in Britain, ignoring that “honour killings” are unacceptable, or female circumcision are unacceptable.
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Significant migration to Britain from outside the EU actually comes from the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and let’s face it, most Britons aren’t the slightest bit concerned about that at all. Though I remember before I got permanent residency, how appallingly I was treated at Heathrow every time I visited – quizzed by a petty fascist about whether I would be looking for work here, and when I was living and who I was staying with.
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Unfortunately, intelligent discussion about this is virtually impossible in Britain. This is why Malthusian nonsense is brought out as the reason, when what it boils down to is concern about race and culture.
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Britain faces no risk of “overpopulation”, it has extensive rural land, London is far from built out to the M25, even allowing for much open space. The population density of the Netherlands is substantially higher, and there are vast tracts of towns and cities across the UK with housing and room for more housing. So let’s dismiss such rubbish for what it is.
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The bigger concern is “funding social services”, but this also does not bear close scrutiny. Housing, for example, should be a private sector activity. Indeed, the notion that the taxpayer should be paying to house new migrants is a complete nonsense. The more rational approach should be to remove restrictions on land use that prevent private investment in housing, but more importantly prohibit new migrants from having access to taxpayer subsidised housing for at least five years.
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Health care similarly is constrained not by migrants, but the sclerotic bureaucracy of the NHS which is virtually without any price signals to ration demand or allocate resources where demand is greatest. New migrants should simply be required to pay the full cost of their health care requirements, or buy insurance to cover it. In exchange they should not have to pay social security tax. The same restrictions should apply to welfare and education, prohibiting new migrants from claiming taxpayer funding for either for a minimum of five years.
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Of course I’d argue that all new migrants should be able to opt out of all such services in exchange for paying less tax, and then be able to choose to opt in after five years. Then nobody can accuse migrants of not paying their way or public services being “unable to cope”. The flipside is that existing British residents might also want to opt out – then we will see how much true support there is for the “beloved public services”.
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The Tories wont advocate this, as it is far too Thatcherite and radical, but it would be hard to argue against. Why oppose non-EU migration if the migrants have to pay their way?
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Labour of course couldn’t stomach the welfare state not being offered to so many potential voters, given Labour’s great love for using the state to take from the successful and give to others.
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So the immigration itch is being scratched by the Conservatives and Labour not for reasons that are rational, but to scratch an itch that nobody admits is partly racist, but which is also discomfort about high numbers of people from African, Caribbean, Middle and South Asian origin with limited skills and funds. The concern is cultural and concern about funding welfare.
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The answer to that problem is not to put a cap on immigration from outside the EU, but to cease claims by new immigrants on the state. When being an economic migrant to Britain means get a job, set up a business, look after yourself or get out – then the problem will reduce. When one of the key requirements to migrate to Britain is proving you have the means to return to your home country, when you sign away any right to claim the welfare state for five years, and demonstrate a clean criminal record (and deportation when you commit a violent offence), then maybe the problems attributed to immigration may be addressed.
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Meanwhile, politicians will dance around this inconvenient truth – the immigration problem is a problem of the welfare state and allowing migration from those who want others to pay for them.

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