On why we must replace policy with insight
Trevor Noah provides perhaps the best brief history of immigration in the UK. In his stand-up routine, he explains rather fantastically how immigration is our fault. Through a range of humorous accents, we are transported to Africa and then to India among a range of other countries, and in every circumstance, the British do the same thing: Tell the natives how great Britain is, kill some of them with machines called ‘guns’ and expect people not to go back to Britain, looking for the divine land full of ‘honey and milk, where the streets are paved with gold’.
His logic, although laced with laughter, touches upon a very harrowing point. It demonstrates the hypocrisy in Britain. The idea that we actively advertise our nation as being the best: the most equal, the most stable, the richest, without expecting people to respond. It seems that as Britons, we want the fame of ‘being the best’ without the responsibility that comes with it. c
Immigration is seldom enjoyed by anyone. It is not fun for the natives, who feel that their country is being slowly corrupted, and is certainly not fun for the immigrants who find themselves in a country that discriminates against them and is nothing like the land of hope and prosperity they dreamed of. In short, immigration is a negative experience for everyone. Whether it be the first real wave of immigration in the 1950s from the West Indies or the newer type of illegal immigration that we experience today, things have gone less than well. The only reason my grandparents didn’t leave after they arrived in the UK was because they couldn’t afford the boat back home. Their expectation of a land full of riches was replaced with the harsh reality of a two bedroom council flat for a family of five.
The reason why I suggest that immigration doesn’t matter is because until we are able to think of a solution, we might as well treat it as a problem intrinsic to developed nations. Policies that are thrown out in a national state of panic benefits no-one. On the grand scale of things, whether or not we save immigrants in the Mediterranean won’t make an impact on the much larger problem we have as a country and as a continent. It really won’t matter whether Britain takes one or one thousand or one hundred thousand, because there will always be more people who wish to seek a better life in the best country they’ve heard of. Immigration doesn’t matter because it’s a problem we’re failing to fix. Short-term foreign policies that hack at the hydra with neither thought nor understanding do little good for anyone, and we ought not to waste our time with it.
With this said, immigration shouldn’t be a problem we’re unable to fix. We have to remember that immigration is also damaging countries that are experiencing an exodus of large chunks of their young workforce. Even inside Europe, Bulgaria has lost 300,000 young professionals, which is now having a serious impact on its development. If we understand that immigration is an issue just as much for those that experience a decrease in population as much as for those that experience an unwelcome rise, we could tackle this issue more effectively. The only solution to immigration worth contemplating is one where no-one feels a need to emigrate, but rather may wish to. In an ideal world immigration shouldn’t be out of necessity, but out of choice.
The only way we might be able to achieve this ideal state being is if we develop a system whereby such wide development gulfs between countries are impossible to create or sustain. In every interview with illegal migrants who attempt repeatedly to travel across the Channel we are told that they will ‘never stop trying’ – it is our duty to live up to our boasting as a ‘great’ nation and work to understand why. The first step to solving a problem such as this is not developing more physical and legal fences, but rather nurturing empathy and understanding.