Last month in a much publicised visit the Prime Minster David Cameron decided to choose Ipswich to deliver his speech on Immigration. Now I understand how Immigration can be an emotive and at times a divisive issue but I welcome open debate on the subject,what I do not welcome is peddling myths and rhetoric that leads to increasing tensions in communities.
Mr Cameron started his speech praising the way that immigration has enriched our society but then went to the default setting of fanning fears of “benefit tourism” us being a “soft touch” and “health tourism” telling us about people coming to our country and taking advantage of our generosity without making a contribution.
But the truth of the mater and the facts do not match the picture that is being painted. The majority of immigrants come here to work and their is no evidence that they come to claim benefits. It is also a myth that immigrants get priority with social housing with research showing 60 % rent private, 18% owner occupiers and 11% in social housing. Asylum seekers have no access to social or council housing they also do not have access to the mainstream benefit system, They have a system of welfare support that provides £36.62 per week.
The strange thing I hear is people saying immigrants come here for the benefits and to take our jobs when they clearly can’t do both. I’ve addressed the benefit side but their is also no evidence to link EU immigration and unemployment levels and Asylum seekers are unable to work only once their claim has been decided and they gain refugee status can they find a job.
Then the claim that Britain is a soft touch, EU once again the evidence does not support that claim. EU migrants pay tax social security contributions and also we in the UK benefit with the fact that hundreds of thousands of UK nationals work in other EU countries.
We live in a diverse country and I like to think Ipswich is a diverse town. Perception is a large part of the issue,I spoke to some people who had watched Mr Cameron speech and they thought because it had been brought up that immigrants claiming benefits must be a major problem as well as immigrants claiming social housing above anyone else but as I’ve said the facts don’t match that perception. Ipswich is 82.94% white british,when you add black and asian british to that figure the immigrant population is quite small.
I fear that instead of a sensible discussion throwing around rhetoric and myths is not only irresponsible but also dangerous. There are far-right groups that will happily leap on statements and see them as validation of their beliefs. We have already seen the rise of such groups in greece. This lack of understanding can lead to tension between communities. I’m not saying we should not discuss Immigration I just hope for a sensible conversation and not unsubstantiated myths