Comment | In defense of immigrants

Earlier this week (w/c 4th November), UCL published a comprehensive study on the effects of the presence of immigrants from the eight countries which joined the EU in 2004.  It found that every year since their arrival, they had made a positive contribution to the state of public finance.  While new arrivals were entitled to claim benefits after a year of residence, they are 60 percent less likely to do so than people born in Britain, and in 2008 and 2009 paid 37 percent more in taxes than they received in public goods and services.  In the same year, despite representing 0.91 per cent of the UK population, they contributed to 0.96 percent of taxes, accounting for only 0.6 percent of public expenditure.

Some readers may be surprised by these results. I am not. Why? Because it is clear that the vast majority of immigrants come to the UK with the best intentions: to create a better life for themselves and their families.  How do they intend to do this?  By working incredibly hard at jobs for which they are both overqualified and underpaid.

Living in an area with a high population of eastern European immigrants has taught me that they are to be admired rather than unjustifiably demonised. It seems that we have a lot to learn from their incredible work ethic; immigrants are not brought up to expect state hand outs, as many people seem to believe.  In their home countries they are unable to rely on their government to such an extent, so why do people suddenly think that the moment that they enter Britain they will suddenly become benefit scroungers, leeching off the state at taxpayers’ expense?  At the heart of this abhorrent view is the totally false idea that immigrants are draining the country’s resources which could be better spent on native Britons.  The fact that immigrants from these eight countries contribute more than they consume in terms of public finances cannot be understated, especially when the country has been running a budget deficit. It seems that the opposite of the racist, anti-immigration rhetoric is true: we are the ones benefiting from their tax returns as Britons consumed 11 per cent more public resources than they paid in tax over the same period.

This report undermines the claims of the likes of UKIP that EU immigration is harmful to the UK economically, as it swamps the British economy with unskilled cheap labour and takes jobs away from young Brits in the process. It is true that the jobs performed by these immigrants could technically be done by British workers. However, their claim can be disputed on two counts: firstly, European migrants seem to be more educated than the British labour force, with 32 percent holding degrees as opposed to 21 percent. Secondly, these migrants are often performing jobs which the British simply don’t want to do, yet are necessary to our economy. These migrants are in fact filling the gaps that Britons don’t seem to want to fill themselves.

So if you are surprised by the results of this study, I hope that you will learn from it that whilst our country is currently being poisoned by right-wing, anti-immigration rhetoric; it is important to look at the facts when assessing the impact of immigration.  Demonising immigrants when the facts indicate the complete opposite is wrong and we should take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution to our society.

Annie-Rose Peterman

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