The UK has got a serious immigrant problem.
Not in terms of the damage that immigrants are doing. Oh no – the problem is with the native British population. In the wake of Brexit, the UK has been host to a wave of anti-immigrant attacks and a rising sentiment of isolationism.
This is a crucial issue, even beyond the natural concern for the well-being of the immigrant populace. It’s a problem because, quite simply, the UK cannot function without its immigrants. They are needed through every section of society. However, fuelled by various sections of the media, this anti-immigrant undercurrent has burst into the mainstream – with potentially ruinous repercussions if it is not addressed.
One of the major problems is the misconceptions the native populace have regarding immigration. They tend to see the issue as a simple, step-by-step process:
Step 1: Potential immigrant decides to come to the UK because it’s such a great life on welfare benefits.
MYTH! The perception that the UK offers wildly attractive benefit payments is a myth. For example, France, Italy and Germany spend far more per-person on benefits than the UK. A huge amount of UK welfare claimants actually live below the poverty line.
Furthermore, immigrants are far more likely to work than not work. 6.8% of the British workforce are now immigrants, from a population of around 13%. This is a better ratio than for the UK nationals.
It has been theorized that the main reason immigrants choose the UK as a destination is because English is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. It’s a simple matter of a desire to assimilate.
Step 2: They get an immigration lawyer and move to the UK incredibly quickly, at which point they are able to access all benefits and social systems like the NHS.
MYTH! You have to be living in the UK (or its territories) for three months before you can access benefits.
Step 3: They are immediately given a property through social housing.
MYTH! Social housing allocation is allocated on a needs basis. There are strict rules for who can even apply, and once an immigrant gets on the list, they join the queue within the same points system as anyone else. There are no extra points awarded for being an immigrant, but this fact doesn’t stop the repetition of the opposite. In fact, it’s one of the most-repeated misconceptions in the UK.
Step 4: If they do work, they take jobs from British workers.
Of course, if an immigrant takes a job then that means a British person cannot occupy it. However, immigrants are more likely to do work that the native populace doesn’t want to do, such as cleaning services.
Secondly, there is a serious skills gap in the UK. The National Health Service, for example, relies on immigrants to keep running – there’s simply not enough native-born healthcare professionals with adequate training to fill the gap. There have been serious fears about potential removal of EU nationals and how it may affect the service.
Immigration is a subject that is controversial, but the facts and figures speak for themselves. If the UK continues on its current sentiment, it will undoubtedly shoot itself in the foot. Thankfully, plenty within the UK recognize the benefits of immigration and will stand up to defend it. Only time will tell if they are successful.