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Immigration, Immigration, Immigration...

September 4, 2015 12:00 PM
By Stephen Phillips

Calais portIs immigration really the key question?

According to a recent poll (June 2015) 45% of the population is concerned about immigration. That is 5 percentage points more than are concerned about the NHS (at 40%) and 19 points more than those worried about the economy (at 26%).

There are several issues related to this. First, asking specific prompted questions will invariably increase their importance to those surveyed, so something that is not at the top of their minds might suddenly take on greater relevance simply by being mentioned. (Do you care about the plight of the Galapagos giant Tortoise? Of course I do. Point proved!)

The other point is that 'concerned about immigration' means different things to different people. About three quarters of us apparently want to see the amount of immigration reduced and this appears to be a fairly long-term attitude. It covers EU as well as non-EU citizens.

But during the past year or so, things in the real world have changed significantly. Immigration was once a matter driven largely by economic factors; the wish for a better life for oneself and one's family. But as with the mass migrations of the dark ages, much of what we are seeing today - and it is far from being on the same level as during the fourth to eighth centuries - is similarly driven by war and invasion in the homelands of those being displaced. In the current situation, much migration is the result of terrorism or war and it is hardly surprising that people want to protect their families from that.

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. Is it acceptable for us in Western Europe to sit back and watch all the killing and mayhem in other parts of the world, secure behind our borders (although some might argue we are not really 'safe', we most certainly are compared with those living in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere) while watching the suffering on our televisions?

The truly liberal response must be that it is not acceptable. If we are concerned about the individual, we must include ALL individuals, not just ourselves and our immediate neighbours.

Such concern brings its own complications, of course. Were we simply to open our borders to immigration by all those who need our help, we would not only risk quickly becoming swamped, but also of allowing potential terrorists in through the front door. These considerations must not, however, be allowed to prevent us from doing what is right. Germany takes many more times the number of immigrants than we do, from war torn zones. Greece - with all its economic problems - is being swamped by boatloads of immigrants, yet we simply seem to sit back and think of ways to prevent anyone 'undesirable' from breaching the English Chanel. (Might calling it La Manche, like the French, might change our opinions? Well perhaps not; 'the sleeve' still sounds too protective.)

What we really need is more genuine concern for the needs of those who are worse off than ourselves … and a plan to help them in the way that truly answers their needs.

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Stephen PhillipsStephen Phillips is a member of the Shepway Liberal Democrats, and his views are not necessarily those of the Party. He has been writing professionally for many years on investment and economic related issues, and has focussed recently on creative writing.

You can find Stephen online at www.phillips-writer.co.uk