FOREVER FOREIGN ? OVERSEAS RESIDENTS AT HOME IN THE UK

Over the past few days, three main issues have featured consistently in the British media:  The heavy snow, Wikileaks (whose founder,JulianAssange is awaiting possible extradition toSwedenor theUSA) and two controversial immigration decisions.  News items about migrants surface regularly in theUKpress throughout the year. Sometimes they are slightly frivolous, often hostile, occasionally a combination of the two. In 2008, mostUKnewspapers covered the story of the four illegal immigrants (fromIraqandIran) found hiding in an artificial Christmas tree being taken by lorry toNorthampton. Then in October 2009, many of the same publications expressed astonishment that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had allowed a Bolivian to stay in theUKbecause he and his girlfriend had bought a cat.  The court considered that joint ownership of a pet.”was evidence that he was fully settled in this country”. They also concluded that to send him back to his homeland would breach his human rights because he was entitled to a “private and family life”.

The same argument was used in the recent case of the failed Iraqi Kurd asylum seeker who (while banned from driving) fatally injured a 12-year-old girl with his Rover car and then ran off. The judges decreed that because he had two children in theUK, he shouldn’t be deported. Prime Minister David Cameron, during a press conference inBrussels, expressed anger at this outcome and UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency) announced that they would appeal against the ruling. The “Guardian” subsequently reported (18th December) that the temporary limit imposed by the Coalition Government on skilled workers from outside the European Union (EU) on 28 June 2010  had been rejected as “unlawful” by the High Court because ministers had not first obtained proper parliamentary approval – though  more permanent measures will nonetheless take effect as from April 2011, in response to what the Government believes is continuing public concern about the “influx” from abroad. An “Economist” magazine article headed ”This sceptical isle” has described Britons as being “less keen on immigration than most people in continental Europe orNorth America”. The statistics they referred to were drawn from an opinion poll conducted by the ‘Marshall Fund’ in Germany, which indicated that although 71% of Germans considered that their authorities were doing a good job managing immigration, the same percentage of British people thought precisely the opposite about their own Government’s policies.

The UK Refugee Council attributes this disenchantment to “the tough talk on immigration” by the Labour and Conservative parties which “has reinforced the idea that asylum is a problem” and that this has not served to re-assure the public. Included in the “seven key facts” currently listed on the MigrationWatchUK website is the claim that “ a migrant still arrives in theUKalmost every minute”. Also, that immigration will add seven million to the population ofEnglandin the next 24 years (“seven times the population ofBirmingham”) and that “Englandis already, withHolland, the most crowded country in Europe (exceptMalta)”. This projected scenario has prompted UKBA to undertake research into the views of up to 6,000 new immigrants in theUK. The focus is on “their positive as well as their negative experiences” of life in this country, their reasons for coming, whether they want to live here permanently. their use of public services (such as schools, health-care, libraries and public transport) and their contributions to theUKeconomy and society. The results, along with “ an in-depth analysis of the main findings” will be published in March 2011.

To some extent, this has already been pre-empted by a survey commissioned by the Refugee Action charity earlier this year. This revealed, as quoted by both the “Daily Mail” and the “London Evening Standard”, that “asylum seekers find most British people polite, welcoming and obsessed with football”. Half of those questioned said either ”The Queen or Princess Diana was the British person they most admired, with 41% choosing David Beckham”. The TV programmes most popular among refugees and asylum seekers are the X-Factor, EastEnders and the news bulletins. Asked what they most valued about living in Britain, 50% responded with ‘Human Rights’, followed by ‘Freedom Of Speech’ (40%), a ‘Safe Society’ (30%). ‘Equal Opportunities’ (28%) and theUK’s ‘Democratic System’ (24%). A majority (75%) said they had supportedEnglandin the Football World Cup, but most of them acknowledged that they had not found it easy to get to know people who were from theUK: Only 14% said “almost all their friends” were British, whereas 29% specified that for them the proportion was “less than half”. In the opinion of Jill Roberts, Chief Executive of ‘Refugee Action’, the poll was “very positive” and “challenged a number of (negative) perceptions of the refugee experience in theUK”.

An investigation carried out by the ‘Institute For Policy Research’ (IPPR) has also proved encouraging from the migrant perspective. They found that  “on most criteria, most immigrant groups do better in economic terms than the UK-born population”. They noted that  “the educational performance of children of certain backgrounds such as Chinese, Filipino, Sri Lankan, Iranian and (especially) Indian was higher than the national average – though this didn’t apply to the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Turkish and Somali communities, whose children “achieve below-average results in British schools”. The IPPR analysis “confirmed that many immigrant groups are making positive economic contributions, either through paying high levels of tax and national insurance contributions, staffing our public services or working long hours in potentially undesirable jobs”. Furthermore, that they “appear to put little pressure on the welfare state in terms of claiming benefits” – a “key concern” in the public discussions on migration. The IPPR contended that “groups with relatively poor economic characteristics are directly supporting those with better ones” – for example “low-paid cleaners and security guards from countries such asPolandworking in the offices of American bankers”.

Many of these same financiers are, however, apparently themselves unconvinced about the attractions of living in the UK. According to an HSBC International study, there are 400.000 expatriates here who can be classified as “professional or managerial workers on fixed-term contracts”. Among this category, Britainis assessed at 23rd out of 26 countries as a desirable place to be located. The main deterrent factors, as summarised in the Daily Mail, are “the weather, the high cost of living and poor accommodation standards”.Canada is considered to have the best quality of life.Australia comes second andThailand third. ThoughRussia (along withIndia andQatar) is ranked lower thanBritain, there are compensations: 30% of the international workers based there earn more than $250,000 – the highest proportion of expatriates making that amount anywhere in the world.

COLIN GORDON

www.colindgordon.co.uk

 

Filed under: Immigration & Visas | Posted on December 20th, 2010 by Colin D Gordon

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