Immigrants should be welcomed, not despised

Share

The latest report on Britain by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance makes depressing reading. It shows that "ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination in the UK". This is a betrayal of the ideals this country should stand for.

The latest report on Britain by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance makes depressing reading. It shows that "ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination in the UK". This is a betrayal of the ideals this country should stand for.

The report identifies asylum-seekers and refugees as one of the most vulnerable groups. Sadly, this comes as no great surprise. Asylum-seekers arrive desperate and penniless. They are instantly distinguished from wealthier immigrant groups by their poverty. And the state gives them no means to escape this miserable condition. They are not allowed to work while their claims are verified - even though many are highly qualified - and are forced to live on less than £45 a week. They are slurred in the populist press as scroungers and blamed for everything from housing shortages, to violent crime, to hospital over-crowding. Is it any wonder that ill-treatment of this oppressed group is on the rise?

This is a cause for great shame in our country and in particular for the Government, which has done so little to counter the vile myths peddled about asylum-seekers. Indeed, the Government has so often seemed intent on dancing to this very xenophobic tune. Its scheme for rural accommodation centres for asylum-seekers is a case in point. That plan has - thankfully - now been dropped, but the very fact that it was being considered tells us much about this Government's attitudes to those who flee to our shores for safety.

The scheme was intended to provide accommodation and social services for 3,000 asylum-seekers in former Ministry of Defence sites deep in the countryside. At first glance, this might appear reasonable, even humane. Asylum-seekers would have been allowed to come and go as they please. They would have had easy access to health services and classrooms for their children. But consider the actual needs of refugees. In most cases they travel directly to London or big cities because they have family or friends there. Does placing them in the middle of the countryside constitute a humane policy? There is certainly no indication that they are welcome there. Angry demonstrations - led by well-heeled locals - greeted plans to build these new centres.

Then there are the ethics of housing large numbers of asylum-seekers in accommodation centres in the first place. Ways should be sought to house them within the community, rather than in isolation. Such an approach merely feeds ignorant prejudices that they are somehow "undesirable".

Just how misguided this is has been shown by the economists of the Fraser of Allander Institute in Scotland, who have examined the impact of asylum-seekers on Glasgow. They demonstrate that asylum-seekers have generated a jobs windfall for the city. Some 5,000 asylum-seekers spend their benefits locally, creating nearly 500 jobs and £10m in wages. But the real benefit comes when they are permitted to work. Countless studies show that hard-working immigrants become an economic boon to a region. The wealth they inject far exceeds the cost of their benefit payments.

The same study also points out that asylum-seekers could help plug Scotland's population shortfall because they tend to be educated and young. This is undoubtedly true, and applies equally to many countries and regions across Europe. Immigrants - whether asylum-seekers or economic migrants - ought to be received as saviours rather than a menace. This is a truth that Europe as a whole, with its declining birth rates, will have to confront. Unfortunately, the evidence of just how badly we still treat most poor incomers shows how far we are from learning this vital lesson. It is our loss.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Leonard Nimroy: Spock made me feel like it was good to be the weird kid

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?