2014: A Year of Mass Immigration in the UK

There’s currently an e-petition which aims to stop mass immigration from Bulgaria and Romania in 2014. This will be a year when EU restrictions on immigration become more relaxed. In 2014 EU restrictions are set to be removed, allowing Bulgarians and Romanians ‘free movement’ to the UK. This change will be similar to the one that allowed access to 600,000 Polish immigrants over the past few years. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2005 and restrictions were set up to regulate the number who could move to Britain – in 2014 these restrictions will no longer be in place. As it stands, there are currently 1.5 million people seeking work within these two countries.

The Home Office has responded to the petition by saying that when the coalition formed a promise was made that, after thirteen years of uncontrolled mass immigration (due to the Labour government), the government would control the number of immigrants coming in. The coalition government claims that this tougher policy is working, with immigration having decreased by nearly a third since June 2010. While this may be true, the fact remains that these controls cannot be continued in 2014 because of the terms agreed by the previous government. But the UK is not alone. Eight other EU countries have similar transitional controls which will ‘expire’ at the same time. So despite the government promising to reduce immigration, they simply can’t do it in the long term. If anything, due to the economic recession faced by Romanians and Bulgarians, we can expect mass immigration to become a serious issue.

Under the Labour government 5.2 million immigrants came to the UK, while 2 million people left – that’s a net immigration of 3.2 million. Take into account as well that only one million British citizens emigrated during that period. The coalition government has enforced more controls, but the fact remains that mass immigration is still going on. It cannot be doubted that many immigrants deserve citizenship in this country and make great and valuable contributions in terms of their ideas, talents and culture. But while no one can doubt the benefits these immigrants bring and the multiculturalism that comes with welcoming them, the negative impact of mass immigration cannot be ignored.

The first problem is the rising population in the UK. If the growing global population wasn’t enough of a problem, mass immigration will only add to the UK becoming even more crowded. The Independent Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that the population of the UK will reach 70 million in 2027, compared to 62 million which it is today. To put things into perspective, the population of Birmingham is 1 million, so in 14 years time how is there going to be room for the population of 8 Birminghams? It’s just not feasible. The latest government projections show that immigration will account for 36% of all new households in the next 20 years – so that in itself will cause all sorts of problems.

Migration Watch UK
Migration Watch UK associates the rise in youth unemployment with the rise in immigration.

Migration Watch UK blames the rise in youth unemployment as being due to mass immigration. That, however, is a bit more questionable. People try to give different causes for the state of youth unemployment, which stood at 1 million in 2012. Some of these include the financial crisis, public sector cuts, social issues, lack of qualifications and lack of experience. Of course mass immigration may play a part in the problem as well, most likely in the number of low wage jobs available, but Migrantion Watch UK seem to under-estimate other significant factors.

I strongly support the right to freedom of movement as it is laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right gives an individual the freedom to move, live and work anywhere within their country, but also gives them the right to leave their country and later return. I think people have a right to move freely between countries as well since there are many benefits to immigration, both to the immigrant and to the country they are immigrating to. If an immigrant does become a UK citizen, they should be fully entitled to their rights and not have their movement restricted.

However, it is not practical to have completely open borders as a way to protect the individual’s rights, and there’s no use in having completely closed borders as a way to resolve the problem of mass immigration. A balance must be made which both preserves the individuals’ right to free movement (both UK citizens seeking to emigrate and foreigner seeking to immigrate) whilst controlling mass immigration in a way which avoids its negative consequences.

One sensible way to do this could involve preferring a system of ‘balance immigration’, where immigration is brought down to the level of emigration. Having the same amount of people leaving the country as people arriving seems like a fair solution. Balanced immigration would stabilise the UK population, reduce the strain on public resources and damage to the environment, enable the economy to remain competitive and improve the prospects of integrating newcomers to the country. Balanced immigration would not require leaving the EU, turning down refugees, preventing employers from choosing staff from outside the EU or prevent universities from attracting international students.

 

Sam Woolfe is a recent philosophy graduate from Durham University. His main interests are in ethics, science and civil liberties. He currently lives in London. 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. amazing how jersey are able to enjoy EU benefits and keep ‘unwelcome’ visitors off their island, one rule for the rich !

  2. A few hundred years ago Europeans used to abduct people from far-off
    places and force them to work on farms and factories in white-settled
    countries, because it was cheaper than paying white people to do the
    job.

    Now we abduct people who have voluntarily come from far-off places
    to work on farms and factories in white-settled countries, because white
    people want to be paid to do nothing.

    For some reason we call this “progress”.

  3. Hi Derek, I tried replying to you but for some reason I couldn’t. Strange. Thanks for the feedback and points you made. It seems like there’s more than two questions, but I’ll try my best to answer them.
    I do not know what range of population is acceptable, but the fact is that a rapid growth in population is not sustainable. It is a huge burden on the environment. Yes you’re right, tighter immigration policies are one way to control the population. But I see ‘balanced immigration’ as a good compromise which prevents overpopulation, while preserving the rights of emigrants, immigrants and multiculturalism in the country.

    You seem to be suggesting that a policy of balanced immigration would lead us on to a slippery slope towards more totalitarian government controls. I think that is an unfounded assumption. I am not suggesting that the government controls family size. I do think that people should limit their family size since it is the responsible thing to do – in the same way people should recycle because it is the responsible thing to do – but this must be an individual decision, not a governmental one. You make the slippery slop fallacy again by assuming that balanced immigration would necessarily lead to the planning of markets. It wouldn’t.

    You’re right, the question of criteria is not addressed. That is a problem that requires some careful consideration. But I was not saying that Bulgarians and Romanians should be discriminated against, merely that in 2014 it is predicted that they will make up the majority of immigrants arriving in the country. Also, I don’t think our country is in dire need of engineers and professionals. There’s currently a ‘brain drain’ in developing countries, a shortage of people with talents and expertise, and I think balanced immigration could be a good way to resolve this issue.

    Overpopulation is not an unspecified problem, it has a seriously negative impact on the environment. I am a libertarian, but it’s wishful thinking to think that there can be a purely libertarian society. I mean there’s already restrictions on immigration. Is this statist? A balance must be made which takes into account other values than freedom, such as sustainability.

    I’m also interested on what you might suggest as an alternative? Or should we leave things as they are?

    • Thank you for the response. You seem to have subtly shifted your position. Originally your claim that a higher population was unsustainable, you now seem to say that it is the rate of growth that is unsustainable. In either case you do not indicate what level or range would be sustainable. I’ve quickly looked on Wikipedia (I know the drawbacks of Wikipedia, but nevertheless it illustrates my point) and the UK is listed as the 51st most densely populated state. Even if the UK population were to rise to 75 million the population density would still be lower than Barbados, the Netherlands, India and Japan. Indeed Gibraltar, Jersey and Guernsey would still be more densely populated. You can see that since these states are not usually regarded as unsustainable due to their population, it is difficult to see why the UK would become unsustainable at such population levels. It would appear to me that unless you can provide some reason that a certain population threshold should not be breached, your argument will simply be an assertion and thus open to refutation.

      You are right to identify that I allude to the slippery slope argument. However, I had rather assumed that your concerns with immigration were a lack of state provision for the immigrants’ needs. After all if the markets were free as demand increased prices would rise encouraging new suppliers to fill the gaps created in the market. Other than timing, there should be little that an advocate of a free market should have to fear. Similarly with the price of labour, if a substantial increase in the available workforce occurs, the price of labour in a free market would be expected to fall. If there is no long term problem with market mechanisms balancing supply and demand, then I appear to be left with assuming the pressure will appear in the areas that are not subject to market forces. And this is already the case. The minimum wage is a state intervention in the labour market, there is a floor price for labour. The shortage of housing is not caused by either a lack of demand (obviously), nor a shortage of construction firms. I might concede that lending has been curtailed as banks repair their balance sheets, but that is made necessary due to stricter regulation (action by the state), as well as institutions having had their fingers burnt in the past. So the slippery slope argument is used, not because it is a fallacy, which often times it is, but empirical observation reliably points to the fact that the state will legislate where it can and I would suggest has a propensity to legislate further than necessary and has a tendency to stretch existing legislation to cover novel circumstances that the original legislation neither foresaw nor was designed to deal with.

      One question that it may be worth asking is why might we suppose that people wish to immigrate to the UK? If the answer is that the UK is a land of opportunity for those who want to work hard and get on, then surely controlling immigration is unnecessary. As the population rises and opportunities diminish, the UK ceases to be as attractive and people will look for opportunities elsewhere. Now it may be that there are some issues to do with available skills and attitudes to work. If the reason is that welfare is generous, too generous some may say, then the problem is in the benefits system rather than immigration. In other words, and I’m not certain that this is the case, there are advocates for restricting immigration because the benefits system is dysfunctional.

      On the twin subjects of “brain drain” from foreign countries and balanced immigration as a solution, it seems as though you again favour a state managed solution, which I find difficult to square with a stated Libertarian outlook. Surely if you think that a Conservative approach with freer (but not necessarily free) markets and a smaller (but not necessarily small) state is a more practical solution, call yourself a Conservative, or maybe UKIP. For myself, I would be inclined to properly understand why immigration to the UK is popular. If the benefits system could be discounted as a principal reason, I would be inclined to let immigration be reasonably free. However, I recognise that this would perhaps mean lower wages. But I would also trust the free market, quite distinct from regulated corporatist markets, to be more nimble and find novel solutions to the problems that would undoubtedly emerge.

  4. Two questions spring to mind: the first is what would be the maximum permissible population of, say, England and Wales? Or the UK? If 62 million is the current population (and presumably feasible, since that’s what we have anyway) and 70 million is too great, what number or in what range of population is acceptable? And presumably this is a maximum number whether arrived at by higher birth rates or by immigration? In other words, immigration control is just one available tool for population control? Since some form of control is being advocated, why stop there? Why not go further and suggest a limit to family size? In fact why not plan the markets whilst you’re in the business of planning population? Am I to understand that this is Libertarian thinking?

    The second issue is that whilst mass immigration manifests itself in the aggregated numbers of incomers, presumably each potential immigrant decides for themselves whether to move or not. So even if it is agreed that there should be a limit on immigration, the question of the criteria is not addressed. Surely the proposal is not to prevent Bulgarians and Romanians from moving freely simply because they are Romanian or Bulgarian? Perhaps a first come- first served approach would be better? The one out one in approach, as might be found operating at a busy pub on a Friday night, would provide some control on immigration, but reduces the problem to one of numbers, which is perhaps the crudest of criteria. Would losing engineers and professionals to be replaced by unskilled labour be acceptable? If the situation was reversed would it be deemed to be better or worse? In other words having (seemingly) identified a problem, there doesn’t appear to be much of a proposal when it comes to finding a solution. So the question here is what criteria would be used? Whatever the answer, it appears that the author is advocating that the government enforces the solution, because immigrant households are set to rise and that “will cause all sorts of problems”. So again is the Libertarian approach to coerce a restriction to “solve” or prevent an unspecified problem? To me it seems more than just a little bit statist.

    • Thanks for the feedback and points you made. It seems like there’s more than two questions, but I’ll try my best to answer them.

      I do not know what range of population is acceptable, but the fact is that a rapid growth in population is not sustainable. It is a huge burden on the environment. Yes you’re right, tighter immigration policies are one way to control the population. But I see ‘balanced immigration’ as a good compromise which prevents overpopulation, while preserving the rights of emigrants, immigrants and multiculturalism in the country.

      You seem to be suggesting that a policy of balanced immigration would lead us on to a slippery slope towards more totalitarian government controls. I think that is an unfounded assumption. I am not suggesting that the government controls family size. I do think that people should limit their family size since it is the responsible thing to do – in the same way people should recycle because it is the responsible thing to do – but this must be an individual decision, not a governmental one. You make the slippery slop fallacy again by assuming that balanced immigration would necessarily lead to the planning of markets. It wouldn’t.

      You’re right, the question of criteria is not addressed. That is a problem that requires some careful consideration. But I was not saying that Bulgarians and Romanians should be discriminated against, merely that in 2014 it is predicted that they will make up the majority of immigrants arriving in the country. Also, I don’t think our country is in dire need of engineers and professionals. There’s currently a ‘brain drain’ in developing countries, a shortage of people with talents and expertise, and I think balanced immigration could be a good way to resolve this issue.

      Overpopulation is not an unspecified problem, it has a seriously negative impact on the environment. I am a libertarian, but it’s wishful thinking to think that there can be a purely libertarian society. I mean there’s already restrictions on immigration. Is this statist? A balance must be made which takes into account other values than freedom, such as sustainability.

    • Thanks for the feedback and points you made. It seems like there’s more than two questions, but I’ll try my best to answer them.

      I do not know what range of population is acceptable, but the fact is that a rapid growth in population is not sustainable. It is a huge burden on the environment. Yes you’re right, tighter immigration policies are one way to control the population. But I see ‘balanced immigration’ as a good compromise which prevents overpopulation, while preserving the rights of emigrants, immigrants and multiculturalism in the country.

      You seem to be suggesting that a policy of balanced immigration would lead us on to a slippery slope towards more totalitarian government controls. I think that is an unfounded assumption. I am not suggesting that the government controls family size. I do think that people should limit their family size since it is the responsible thing to do – in the same way people should recycle because it is the responsible thing to do – but this must be an individual decision, not a governmental one. You make the slippery slop fallacy again by assuming that balanced immigration would necessarily lead to the planning of markets. It wouldn’t.

      You’re right, the question of criteria is not addressed. That is a problem that requires some careful consideration. But I was not saying that Bulgarians and Romanians should be discriminated against, merely that in 2014 it is predicted that they will make up the majority of immigrants arriving in the country. Also, I don’t think our country is in dire need of engineers and professionals. There’s currently a ‘brain drain’ in developing countries, a shortage of people with talents and expertise, and I think balanced immigration could be a good way to resolve this issue.

      Overpopulation is not an unspecified problem, it has a seriously negative impact on the environment. I am a libertarian, but it’s wishful thinking to think that there can be a purely libertarian society. I mean there’s already restrictions on immigration. Is this statist? A balance must be made which takes into account other values than freedom, such as sustainability.

      I’m interested in what you suggest as an alternative? Or do you not see mass immigration as an issue?

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