Friday, 16 April 2010

Good/Bad/European/NonEuropean/Capped/Regional: IMMIGRATION in the UK

I did something different the other day: I recommended someone go to the USA instead of the UK. A young Egyptian tech guy had asked me about going to the UK for postgraduate studies, and I suggested he think of the States instead. This guys represents the differential between countries. His leaving Egypt is a loss to it, his entering another country will be a gain.

I am becoming more certain about it: the UK is not an immigration country. The British people say they are open and tolerant, but my years of living in the UK tell me that they may say so, but they are in two minds; their heart isn't in it. The faces walking down a typical city street are very mixed, but they do not own the land, and those who do (the 'natives') are unsure of this new state of affairs.

The number one consistent concern of the UK public, according to the polls, is immigration - for years. Under that word is a whole set of issues: jobs, fear, "Britain is a crowded island", the decline of British values, etc.

When the first-ever UK Election debate took place between Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservative), and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), what was the first question on? Immigration!

But there was a new twist. The political leaders (except Clegg) made a distinction between European and non-European immigration. It is very tricky stuff. Their words are chosen carefully and I like to think that they personally do not have a racist motive. Yet the fact remains: the distinction was made, in front of nine million viewers on live television.

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