As people who read my blogs know, immigration is one (of many) topics that interest me and I have written on the subject on several occasions. During the week I came across a new word, or rather one I needed to check out in order to get the right meaning. That word is xenophobia. According to my Internet search, xenophobia means: “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries”.
Xenophobic is another of those terms, like homophobic, thrown at people in a derogatory way, when they don’t match the norms of the liberal thought police. After all, there are many I know that like and are supportive of foreigners but think there needs to be restrictions on them living in the UK. The crunch question that has faced us for many years, and which has given rise to a growth in far right parties, like the BNP, and those not so far right, like UKIP, is how might we discourage too many foreigners from entering the country and, more to the point, what criteria should we adopt for allowing them in?
Let it be noted, my wife is a foreigner (I well recall the hassle I faced with officialdom getting her to come into the country) and so are a good number of my friends. One of the nice things about my church is that we have a wide ethnic mix and we all get on. Also, a lot of my early community activist work, such as coordinating Community-in-Harmony events and researching “Missing Communities”, was to do with foreigners and I like to think one of my more significant contributions was to help to empower certain BME communities.I dream with Martin Luther King: our children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (or anything that sets us apart as different), but by the content of their character.
As I reflect on the subject, the first thing that comes to mind is the UK is largely made up of foreigners coming from many different ethnic backgrounds, for various reasons, under various circumstances, following thousands of years of immigration, largely inter-marrying with indigenous folk, and few would question their British credentials. When it comes to age, gender, religion, race, disability and sexual orientation, few would want to argue that any of these should be excluded on those grounds, but the reality is that the UK population continues to grow, some say at an alarming rate, as a result of foreigners coming into the country and settling.
What to make out of this and where we go next remains a big question. Given the heated debate going on at the moment regarding EU remain or leave, there seems little doubt immigration will continue to rise if we stay, given freedom of movement is a fundamental EU principle. Whether we like it or not or see it as an unhelpful distraction or not, immigration concerns will feature highly for many. The question is also begged about our response to the global refugee crisis and our response to sanctuary seekers.
I have thought long and hard on these matters with still a lot more work to do, and without wanting to write my equivalent to war and peace, I would like to broadly venture my opinion under ten points:
- The UK, on lack of infrastructure grounds needed to cope alone, needs to restrict immigration.
- The EU policy of freedom of movement is flawed and does not work in the UK’s favour.
- When allowing foreigners in, we should do so on a basis that is akin to offering Christian hospitality.
- We should welcome what foreigners are able to contribute to UK life, in terms of their culture etc.
- We should be proud of our own British culture and not have to dumb down what we hold dear.
- That means we should celebrate Christmas and Easter, talk about religion and not adopt Sharia Law; and insist foreigners learn the language and respect the laws and customs of the land.
- In principle, foreigners wanting to settle in the UK on purely economic grounds should only be allowed to do so when there is a need for what it is they are able to offer.
- In principle, health, education and emergency assistance aside, foreigners should only qualify to receive benefits when they have made a requisite minimum number of contributions.
- A system whereby we need to recruit foreigners for services to be provided, e.g. within the NHS, is seriously flawed, given there is unemployment among UK residents; it needs overhauling.
- A more compassionate and enlightened approach is needed toward sanctuary seekers (in and outside the UK) whose request to settle in the UK has not yet been justly dealt with.