Amol Rajan: The main obstacle to immigration is politics

 

Share
Related Topics

An e-petition has been launched to force MPs to debate Britain's population, and so condemn the possibility of it rising to 70 million.

Since the petition has the support of Britain's right-wing, populist press, it should easily achieve the 100,000 signatures required by this new form of democracy.

What passes for a debate on immigration in this country is well rehearsed. Like all policies, that on immigration has both costs and benefits. In general, the costs are exaggerated and the benefits overlooked. The benefits include a more flexible, innovative and productive economy, and freedom of movement for migrants, which is particularly desirable for poor ones. The costs include increased pressure on public services, social tensions, and a lot of xenophobia.

But I haven't mentioned one benefit, which in my view is decisive.

In 2008, remittances from migrants in the rich world to their families was up 15 per cent on the year before, when it was already double the international aid budget of all countries. But this was much better than aid: being money sent directly to families, it put food on plates and coins in pockets, rather than having to be filtered through inefficient NGOs. In other words, migration saved and improved millions of lives, unbeknown to most in the West.

I should declare that I have a personal attachment to this benefit. My dad's parsimony with his two sons allowed him to send money back to India, where he could feed and educate my extended family. Many of my cousins who are now brilliant entrepreneurs themselves, creating jobs and driving growth, owe him as much as I do.

Naturally politicians in the West don't expect to get elected on their work for poor people in far away lands. When David Cameron made his stupid, immature, myopic, opportunistic and unrealisable pledge to reduce immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands, he was playing to a domestic gallery.

But it is curious to me that, conceived as a moral whole, the case for immigration is simple and convincing. The problems arise from the need for people to be elected. In other words, there is a difference between how some public servants ought to act, and how they actually do. That difference is politics.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments