Immigration could still be a public concern even if numbers are cut

April 17, 2011 - 0:0

Research at the University of Nottingham said public worry over immigration is based on perceptions rather than reality. It signaled that even if net migration is brought down to the “tens of thousands”, it is “unlikely to diminish public hostility” because actual numbers have “little bearing” on opposition.

It said politicians would be better to revisit the notion of what constitutes a national identity and how migrants fit in to that.
Figures showed almost one in eight people living in the UK was born overseas and came amid a renewed debate on immigration.
In a speech on Thursday, David Cameron warned that uncontrolled immigration had undermined some British communities and led to “discomfort and disjointedness” in neighborhoods.
His comments led to a split in the Coalition, with Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, saying they were “very unwise” and risked inflaming racial tensions.
The Prime Minister has promised to reduce net immigration from its current level of more than 200,000 a year to the “tens of thousands” before the next election.
But findings in the report from the University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations suggested it could have limited impact on public concern.
The conclusions highlight the difficulties confronting policy-makers, said co-author Dr Lauren McLaren.
She said: “We’re seeing more and more evidence that figures don’t matter much and that people generally misperceive and overestimate the number of newcomers.
“This suggests minor tweaking – the recent proposed introduction of certain quotas, say – is unlikely to make much difference to perceptions of immigration.”
The report, Cause for Concern? The impact of immigration on political trust, concluded: “Whether European citizens like it or not, most European countries have become—or are rapidly becoming— countries of immigration and closing the gates would have no impact on the millions of immigrants and their families and descendants who are already in these countries and consider them to be their homes.
“Thus, perhaps an alternative solution is to revisit the construction of national identities, with the aim of more clearly establishing what national identity comprises and where the millions of foreigners living within European countries fit within this construct.”
It added: “At the very least, it must be recognised that immigration may be having long-term, unanticipated consequences for the functioning of political systems, which seem to require more open debate and discussion.”
Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “The last ten years have seen record levels of immigration, and the British public quite rightly want to see these levels drastically reduced. “That is why the Government is committed to reforming the immigration system, bringing net migration back down to the tens of thousands and clamping down on any abuses.
(Source: Daily Telegraph