The European Parliament and Local Council Elections are taking place on Thursday 22nd May at a polling station near you! The big issue that has been dominating the run up to the European Elections is immigration. As my wife is Polish, along with many of my friends, I take a keen interest in the debate surrounding immigration.
Immigration is nothing new, people have been coming to Britain for thousands of years, starting with the Celts, Picts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Normans, Vikings, to more recent immigration from the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent and Central and Eastern Europe. All of us are descended one way or another from migrants, for example my own family came over to England from Scandinavia in the 700s.
It is the changing pace of immigration and the impact it has on services such as health and education which is driving the current debate. But whilst immigration is portrayed in a rather negative light by some, it is important to recognise the positive impact it has on our country.
Each wave of immigration has added to the cultural richness and diversity of Britain, including our town of Walsall. Immigration also benefits the country in other ways, for example 26% of NHS doctors are born overseas, and the British Medical Association said that without immigrants “many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care.”
There are also financial benefits associated with immigration; the Financial Times reported that between 1995-2011 EU immigrants contributed £8.8 billion more to the British economy than they gained. A study by University College London also found that migrants from Central and Eastern Europe are 60% less likely to claim benefits than a British born person, and The Economic Journal reports that immigration has no significant effect on employment.
The Bible has a lot to say on this issue too; in Leviticus 19:33-34 God commands “Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Jesus reiterated this command when he said “love your neighbour as yourself.”
It is important that we are able to have a mature balanced debate which recognises the positive impact immigration has on our country, and to celebrate Britain’s long and proud history of welcoming people to our shores.