Village that gives the lie to the scare stories about immigration

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The Independent Online

Deddington is, in many ways, an idyllic English village. Nestling on the edge of the Cotswolds, little appears to have changed there since the writer JRR Tolkien opened the public library in 1956. It is also home to Sir Andrew Green, a retired diplomat who is also head of Migrationwatch.

This is the self-styled "think-tank" responsible for many of the current scare stories about immigration. Its statistics - doubted by many - are regular fodder for the right-wing press, and many believe its high-profile lobbying is one of the reasons why Tony Blair, on his tour of Britain yesterday, felt obliged to add a last-minute pledge on asylum and immigration to his party's approach to the forthcoming election.

Sir Andrew said in an interview this week there were no migrants among his neighbours. A glance at the last census would, on first glance, appear to largely confirm this - 98.7 per cent of Deddington's population records itself as being white. But even in this quiet corner of Middle England the complex realities of, and persuasive arguments for, modern immigration are at play.

Within a quarter of a mile of Sir Andrew's home, a honey-coloured firestone cottage nestling behind the Norman church, The Independent found 13 different nationalities at work in the village's school, restaurants, pubs and hotels, amenities which give Deddington its charm and help keep its house prices among the highest in Oxfordshire. Nearby, foreign workers are filling the void in factories and farms left by a British workforce either unwilling or unable to work. The same is true of the hospitals.

At the Unicorn Inn, 200 yards from Sir Andrew's front door, Jude Kelly, the chef, was in little doubt of the need for overseas workers. "Unlike the work-shy British, they do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. The English seem to want something for nothing," he says, passing a steady stream of cottage pies and grilled chops through the serving hatch.

The Unicorn's owner, Joy Putland, is in the process of selecting a recruit from Poland on the internet, via a Polish-based recruitment agency run by a British expatriate. The agency demands no up-front fees, nor does it require a regular slice of the recruit's income. It can also provide her with new staff within a week. In the past she has been able to fill part-time posts with mothers with school-age children. This time, she has been unable to do so.

"We advertised locally for a cleaner and we got zilch response. But people from abroad know exactly what their rights are, what they are entitled to earn and they see the pay as quite good," she said. It is a story repeated elsewhere.

At the Holcombe Hotel and Restaurant, the owners employ staff from South Africa, Poland, France, and Canada as well as a management team from Australia and New Zealand. Over at the Deddington Arms Hotel they come from Finland, the Czech Republic, Poland, South Africa and France.

One worker who has held jobs in the village is Marta, aged 25. She hails from Lubin in south-west Poland. A graduate in environmental protection, she also teaches Russian at an Oxford secondary school. "Maybe I am just lucky but the first place you see, you ask if they have a job for you and they say 'yes please'. It is nothing like that in my country," she said.

Michael Lim, 62, has run May Fu Too, the Chinese rest-aurant on New Street, for 15 years, although Sir Andrew told The Spectator in an interview this week that he is not among the restaurant's customers and doesn't like Chinese food.

Should he be tempted to pay a visit, though, Sir Andrew may discover a compelling example of the positive impact of immigration. Mr Lim arrived in Britain from Singapore in 1961 and now employs six people in his restaurant from Hong Kong, China and Malaysia. He has two grown-up sons, one a computer studies graduate, the other a psychiatrist.

It is a similar story for Hamid Choudhury, 47, from Bangla-desh, owner of Bengal Spice. Despite opening just three months ago, he struggles to keep up with Deddington's appetite for his Anglo-Bengali cuisine: "We are very, very short of staff and we are suffering. So we have to get relatives in to help. Local people can work in the bar, they can do the washing-up, but working in the kitchen requires experience," he said.

But it is not just in the hospitality trade where overseas labour is needed. At the highly acclaimed Deddington Primary School, Judith Tinsley, the head teacher, is proud to have a Tasmanian, Kathy Bradburn, on board as one of her staff. "We value her highly," she said.

Companies on the Wildmere Industrial Estate on the road to Banbury employ a number of Polish workers, billeting them in barn conversions, while the local National Farmers Union representative, Isobel Bretherton, said farmers in Oxfordshire were strongly in favour of foreign workers and were now seeking to bring in middle managers as well as general labourers from east Europe.

Deddington's local hospital, the Horton, part of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust, has been taking part in a long-standing and highly successful overseas recruitment policy for nurses, a spokesman for the Trust said yesterday.

Such policies are unlikely to be well-received by many of the people who regularly log on to the Migrationwatch website (Sir Andrew claims it receives up to 20,000 hits a day).

And he insists it is wrong to examine the ethnic make-up of a single community. "These issues have to be considered at a national level which is where policy is decided," he said. "Migrationwatch have said from the start that the issue is not about the existing immigrant communities, many of whom have made, and continue to make, a valuable contribution.

"The question is whether we want our population to increase by a further five million in the next three decades as a result of immigration (as the Government now projects). That is a matter for the public to decide. Judging by the opinion polls their view is very clear; 75 per cent are opposed."