Spirit of enterprise that boosts our economy

The arrived
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Men are milling about on the pavements. It is late, dark and cold. Piles of fruit and vegetables spill out from brightly lit shopfronts. There are customers in the place that advertises itself as the Turkish barber's and under the neon sign of the Turku Café Bar.

Men are milling about on the pavements. It is late, dark and cold. Piles of fruit and vegetables spill out from brightly lit shopfronts. There are customers in the place that advertises itself as the Turkish barber's and under the neon sign of the Turku Café Bar.

When I suggest to the man from the community centre that it might be late to meet, he laughs and says: "But this is not London! This is Kurdistan." And for three or four blocks, you could forget that you are in Stoke Newington Road, not far north of the City, and imagine that you are in central Asia. The shops stay open until 11pm. Middle-aged men greet each other with kisses.

There is a similar story a dozen streets south, where the Vietnamese dominate. And there are other boroughs like this, and other communities. In parts of London, corner shops, off-licences, dry-cleaners, factories and restaurants are owned and run by former refugees. Far from being a drain on resources, in certain parts of the capital asylum-seekers fuel the economy.

The Government knows this: a paper published recently by the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office concluded that immigration is overwhelmingly a benefit to the host country. Immigrants work hard, and are often the most enterprising of people. They pay more in taxes than they consume in public services.

Immigrants into the United States have higher educational attainments and skill levels than the American average. And asylum-seekers in particular are often educated people with professional qualifications. But they aren't the only useful immigrants. With a falling birthrate, Europe is likely to develop shortages of unskilled as well as skilled labour. Refugees willingly take jobs as cleaners, waiters, factory workers and shop assistants, seeing them as steps on an upward path for themselves and their children.

The people interviewed here all came penniless, as refugees. They would not have left their own countries if they had had any choice in the matter. But they have all settled here and made something of their lives. And, not least, they have introduced new ways of thinking and cultural diversity to the city they have made their home.

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