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Is immigration good or bad?
Is immigration good or bad?
The topic of immigration comes up time and again. Only this morning it was featured on a topical debate programme. The issues that immigration brings up are often similar, regardless of where you are. In Britain there has been lots of discussion to do with immigration and the movement of people across Europe. Since the relaxing of rules in EU member countries with regards to the entry of European workers into other EU countries, there has been a very big change of demographics. Suddenly there are more Polish, and Eastern European workers. Shops have opened up to serve this new community - Polish shops selling Polish newspapers and food. At the same time, certain elements of the British community feel threatened by these new workers and so racist attacks have increased. Political parties such as the British National Party have gained support to the point that they now are winning council seats. The National Front and English Defence League are both associated with the far right and have also become more popular. So is immigration a good or bad thing?
To understand this question I normally look back to the events of history. Starting with myself, I have a Scottish grandfather and my father's side of the family come from Ireland. Not very English in background, yet if anyone asked me to define where I come from I would say England and that I was English. England has been conquered numerous times throughout history. Going back three thousand years ago, it was invaded by the Celts who came from Europe, then the Romans came. The Angles, Juttes and Saxons came from Europe and invaded after the Romans left. The Vikings came and took the Nothern half of the country, and eventually England was ruled by a Dane, King Knut. After the Vikings came the Normans in 1066 and for two hundred years the kings of England spoke French. When the Romans invaded, it was common for soldiers to inter-marry with local Celtic women, therefore many people living in England today may have Libyan, Egyptian, North African or Mediterranean blood in them without knowing. What is English, French, American etc?
What I am trying to say is that we are always changing, always having new people and cultures coming to live among us and that this has always happened and always will happen. Yet people get frightened. I think that sometimes immigration has not been handled as well as it should be. Back in the 1950s, 60 and 70s there were lots of families from Pakistan moving into the working class areas of towns and cities around England, especially the Northern Mill towns. They came to do the work that the British people had stopped doing. In essence this was good for the economy. The problem was that these new communties came in large numbers to small sometimes isolated, usually working class communities. There was no integration, often the new comers could not speak English and so the communities kept apart. Over time mis-trust, resentment and prejudice grew between the white mainly working class English community and the new Asian communities. Racism on both sides was the result. During the summer of 2002 riots sprung up in Mill Towns such as Oldham and Burnley. Today, politicians would make you believe that 'no-go' areas do not exist anymore, however still there are parts of Oldham that are classed as Asian and parts classed as White and never the twain shall meet. Some immigrants do come to Britain simply to claim benefits and do nothing. These people make up a much smaller percentage of immigrants overall and give newcomers a bad name.
Often due to work commitments I have travelled to London for meetings, normally in hotels. It has always struck me that virtually everyone that works in a hotel in London is foreign. They provide a courteous service and work hard. My brother in law is to marry a Polish girl. She came to this country to work, and work she does. These people are not here for a free ride, which is at odds with many people's perceptions of immigrants.
I think that immigration is a necessary part of life. It is what humanity has always done - move around, re-settle and intergrate. Immigration is only a bad thing if there is no integration, such as in the mill towns in the North of England. Sometimes, communities are forced apart so that ignorance can bloom, note how the Nazis of Germany made the Jewish community separate (after being well intergrated for centuries). As soon as they had created a separatness between people, ignorance, prejudice and discrimination swiftly followed on. False stories, cruel imagery and paranoia resulted. Such is the case today often with tragic outcomes across the world.