As the EU blanket continues to weave itself across Eastern Europe, UK newspaper headlines have become dominated with concerns of an immigration invasion. A survey released by the BBC shows that immigration was responsible for half of Britain's population growth from 1991 to 2001. And with the imminent accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, we can expect this statistic to rise before it falls - despite restrictions on the right to work. Some of the UK's established residents are calling for the drawbridge to be dismantled and dumped in the Channel before the approaching army gets here.
Through the EU, thousands of people are enjoying the freedom to travel within Europe and, with increasing limitations, to work where they please. According to statistics, the UK is currently the number one choice of destination.
To understand the debate one must ask: why the UK? It's obviously not the weather, so one has to assume that people are coming here in search of better prospects. Many come from countries that are, in essence, failed states, where signs of corruption, disorder and abuses of human rights are still evident. But this is not an army of barbarians with guns and swords, but rather one of young hopefuls with shovels, calculators and an ambition to carve out a better life.
From an economic perspective, a wave of highly motivated, skilled workers can only improve a nation's economy, rather than hinder it.
Some argue that the diverse ethnic backgrounds within the EU will create more culture and language barriers, and immigrants will not be able to conform to British social norms and culture. The argument goes that they will not be able to prosper in their chosen working environments and will turn to crime rather than returning home.
But this is a confused line of reasoning, concerned not with immigration but with inadequate law enforcement. No matter how many people emigrate to the UK, the vast majority of criminals are still British born.
As an Australian working within the UK, I find myself somewhat in the middle of this discussion. Having emigrated to the UK, I have had no problem adhering to British life and have found that the majority of UK citizens enjoy the cultural differences between us.
Admittedly, British culture is closer to Australian culture than it is to Eastern European culture, and we don't face the same language and cultural barriers. But if an Eastern European can overcome these barriers, should they not be as well received in the UK as I have been?
Once again, this is not an issue of immigration. Although the Government's recent rules against new EU members working in the UK fail to acknowledge it, the issue has nothing to do with a drawbridge allowing a free flow of foreign workers into the country. Instead it falls under the umbrella of prejudice and racism. So, you may ask, where does that leave the Government?
The EU is a family of democratic European countries committed to working together for peace and prosperity. Britons should respect this commitment and strive to adhere to the EU's policies, rather than concentrating on individuals who struggle to adhere to UK lifestyle.
If nothing else, immigration seems to have become a scapegoat for deeper societal issues within British culture.Reuse content