Leading article: Some home truths amid the hysteria and hostility

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The Independent Online

The report on immigration published by the Institute for Public Policy Research provides some welcome light in a debate clouded by myths and untruths. The good news is that Britain is now a thoroughly diverse country. It is widely seen as a successful country and, as such, has become a magnet for immigration. The report shows that London has become a genuinely "world" city, a home to communities from every corner of the globe; 41 per cent of all immigrants settle there. That is a signal achievement, and one of which we should be proud.

The second piece of good news is the enormous diversity of immigration into Britain. The number of those born in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and South America has increased sharply, while those born in countries traditionally associated with immigration, such as the Caribbean and Ireland, has fallen.

Most encouragingly of all, the report also finds that almost two thirds of new immigrants were employed, compared with barely half 10 years ago. This is testimony to the vibrancy of our economy, and further proof that openness to immigration is not a drag but an asset. The notion that numbers alone should be the measure of immigration, as the right-wing think-tank Migrationwatch UK and xenophobic newspapers seem to think, is plain wrong. The balance is overwhelmingly positive: immigrants have, by and large, done well by themselves and their country of adoption.

Donal Meade, one of the Royal Fusiliers killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq this week, is a case in point. Evacuated from Montserrat to Britain at the age of 11 after a volcanic eruption rendered the island uninhabitable, he had wanted to join the British military since watching Royal Air Force planes taking off and landing on his native island in his childhood. He realised his ambition and, tragically, died serving his adopted country in Iraq. He is by no means the only member of our armed forces born abroad, and was prepared to give his life for his new country.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding in the IPPR survey was the great discrepancy between those immigrant groups who have succeeded in Britain and those who remain at the bottom of the pile, despite working long hours, often in poor conditions. Even that discrepancy, though, is illuminating - and has a message for policy-makers.

Among those immigrants born in Africa, for instance, Somalis tend to do poorly, while Nigerians succeed. A similar discrepancy can be observed with immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. The study found differences, too, between settled immigrants and new arrivals; new arrivals from some groups do better than their settled compatriots, while with other groups their fortunes were reversed.

Some of the reasons may be obvious - instability in the country of origin, whether the decision to come to Britain was voluntary or forced by circumstance, and level of education. Others may be more elusive. The cultural isolation of certain communities, especially the Bangladeshi one, shows where integration has been less successful - and suggests where policy and financial resources should be focused.

Already one of the most diverse societies in the world, Britain shows the way other countries are likely to develop. Where we have been successful in integrating new arrivals, providing education, employment and a better life, we offer an example to others. The merit of this report is not only that it provides chapter and verse to gainsay those who clothe their racism in hostility to immigration, but it also shows where, as a country, we could and should be doing better.

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