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Britain Has An Immigration Problem and It's Not What You Think

Once again, immigration is the political word of the week. This is for two reasons. Firstly, Nigel Farage is on telly every night banging on about illegal migrants whilst wearing an extremely ill-fitting vest and eating crocodile feet. Secondly, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has come out fighting and claims he plans to decrease the numbers.

We've heard all of this time and time again. 'Immigration is too high, so you can't get a GP appointment or a job. But don't worry, we've got a plan to sort it all out.'

The last of these magical plans was called Brexit. However, it hasn't worked. Since leaving the EU in 2020, immigration only seems to have increased, hitting a record-breaking 745,000 net gain in migrants in 2022.

Politicians don't seem to be able to agree on what is actually happening with immigration. So, it will be no surprise that they cannot agree on what to do about it. In this article, I aim to clear all of this up and save the United Kingdom.

The first thing that I must reiterate is that Brexit hasn't worked. Nigel Farage waged a campaign during the EU referendum based on anti-Muslim posters. His main argument was to get rid of immigrants coming from afar who – in his one-size-fits-all view – come to the UK not to work but to leach off of our benefits system.

You would expect non-EU immigration to have fallen since Brexit. It hasn't. Based on my approximations from the Office for National Statistics' data, in 2016 we had 500,000 EU immigrants and 250,000 non-EU immigrants. In 2022, we had 150,000 EU immigrants, but almost 750,000 were non-EU immigrants. In short, Brexit has banished EU workers from contributing to our economy whilst tripling the number of non-EU immigrants.

So, this begs the question: why are non-EU immigrants coming here?

A big reason is the Ukraine war. In 2022, 19% – that's 157,000 people – arrived through humanitarian routes. The other two main reasons are study and work, which account for nearly 33% each. So, the lion's share of these supposedly lazy non-EU immigrants are coming to the UK for work, study or reasons of life or death. I don't think anyone is about to turn away extra workers, some of the brightest students, or people fleeing a war.

We've now worked out what is happening on the immigration front. Brexit promised to cut immigration and failed. For the most part, this is not because people are paddling across the Channel in a rubber dinghy looking for a free prescription from the NHS. People - largely from non-EU states - are coming here to work, study, or seek refuge from conflict.

We have reached a point where you and I are sat scratching our heads, wondering: if immigrants are doing these productive things, why do we want to stop them? 

Well, there is a hell of a lot of stigma about immigration in the UK. Many think people come here to exploit free public services and our unequivocal over-generosity. 

In reality, we need immigrants to hold up those very public services. Around 265,000 NHS staff reported a non-British nationality in 2023; that's one in five. Without them, we'd be left to die in a ditch. Similarly, another 20% of care workers are from EU or non-EU countries. We already have a shortage, so imagine what would happen if we kicked out all of these workers just because they're not British.

Immigration keeps the UK ticking over. To remove immigration in the name of saving the economy would be like removing the wheels from a car and expecting it to move. We would grind to a halt. To claim that we can fill all our jobs with British workers is barking mad.

Having said that, there is a very small but very costly proportion of immigrants who I do not believe should be admitted to the UK. We are housing about 50,000 migrants in hotels, reportedly costing £8 million per day as of September 2023.

Now, I appreciate that some of these people are the refugees I exempted from criticism earlier: those fleeing conflict in their home countries. But when people say, 'How is that fair? Where's my free hotel room as a British citizen? Where are the free hotel rooms for the homeless?' you have to agree that this should not be happening. 

If we can spend £8 million a day housing Johnny Foreigner, why can't we alleviate child poverty in this country? Or end homelessness? Seriously. There's no comeback to that argument. We either have to do both or neither. 

This is where we've got it wrong on immigration. New plans discuss reducing the number of dependents foreign workers can bring to the UK. But all that does is punish the people coming here to contribute to our economy. Meanwhile, the British taxpayer is shelling out millions of pounds every day to put a migrant in a Premier Inn. Why are we so hard-up when it comes to people wanting to work, yet such lame softies for people who don't?

We've reached what can only be described as a startling conclusion. To some extent, the Brexiteers were right: we have a problem with immigration in Britain. However, they pointed their weapons at the workers they should've opened up their wallets for whilst letting a tonne of small boats sail through the doors of a Travelodge right under their noses.

Image: AFP/via Al Jazeera

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