Letter: Immigrants are scapegoated by press, public and politicians

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a director of a small NGO dealing with migration, and as a city councillor, I am disappointed but not surprised that immigration is set to feature as a general election issue.

MPs will know through their surgeries that asylum seekers and immigrants (the two groups are lumped together because most people have no idea of the difference) have become the scapegoats for many individuals who can't get services they believe they are entitled to. Dissatisfied residents blame these groups for failure to obtain anything from adequate housing to health care. They usually quote a range of totally false assertions about how their chosen scapegoats get free this and free that.

When I challenge this, I find that the basis for these misconceptions is that they saw it in the papers; almost always the usual rags that we all know carry this sort of garbage.

For some time now I have used cuttings from these papers as examples of stereotyping when I am delivering training. An analysis of these papers clearly shows a sustained campaign of half-truths, misinformation and downright lies. This poisonous drip, drip has had a real effect on the public.

The real tragedy is that the politicians know the truth about the absolute necessity for immigration to fill many of the skills shortages. They know that refugees escaping from conflict are often confused in the minds of the public with so called "economic migrants". They could have explained all this. They could have funded campaigns to counter the gutter press claims. But most have done nothing.

Those who will suffer as a result of this political cowardice are ordinary decent human beings who just want to get a job, look after their families and live in peace. The vast majority of refugees and immigrants are ordinary, decent human beings.


City Councillor, Sheffield (Lib Dem)

Director, European Network for Integration & Development