Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The UK election's biggest non-issue

Asylum. A load of fuss about nothing. "The number of asylum seekers arriving in Europe has fallen to levels last seen in the late 1980s" - in the UK, asylum applications have fallen by 61% in the last two years alone.

As for all the nonsense spouted by the likes of Robert Kilroy-Silk about Britain taking "only our fair share" and all the suggestions that we take far more than our EU partners - France is actually the world's top recipient of asylum-seekers, with 61,600 last year. The UK, in contrast, while being in third place (behind the US and just ahead of Germany) received just 40,200 asylum requests in 2004 (down from 103,080 in 2002) - or 0.7 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants.

Yep, we're simply FLOODED with the buggers, aren't we?

The United Nations Refugee Agency press release has more, or download a pdf of the report itself, Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, 2004.

Some other blog views: Diderot's Lounge, The Pseudo Magazine, and Big Dog's Weblog.

6 Comments:

Blogger sean said...

You are singularly ignoring two points.
1. The absolute number of asylum seekers should be seen in relation to the density of population of the recipient country. The UK is much more densely populated than France, the USA, etc - that's why our housing costs are so much higher. Thus asylum seekers have a greater impact here, per head.
2. The government is perceived as having skewed the figures, by relaxing the rules on legal immigration.
The last point is perhaps the most crucial. Personally, I think migration is quite a good thing, as long as the migrants assimilate (which begs questions about Muslim immigration from rural Asia). But I am a middle class person. I don't have kids at a state school suddenly full of new kids who don't speak English; I don't live in a working class area whose culture is swiftly changing as the migrants settle.. etc etc. It's all very well for bourgeois people like us to pontificate high-mindedly about migration being great, we don't bear the consequences. We just get cheaper plumbers.
A final point. This whole argument has blown up because the government has LIED about immigration. Under New Labour, immigrant numbers tripled in a few years. I don't remember this being in their manifesto, do you? Yet it was a deliberate policy (either that or gross incompetence). So they lied to us, by omission. They are now reaping the anger provoked by that mendacity. Cheers! ST

3/02/2005 02:31:00 pm  
Blogger bebynnag said...

I can agree with you there.
Julie Burchill raised the same issue a few years ago when she said it's alright for us middle class to pontificate about the postitive aspect of immigrant. But immigrant or asylum seekers are not moving into middle class suburbs but into urban working class areas.

I have had theory that immigration becomes an issue when there aren't other burning issues. Employment is high, health care system is going fine (except in Wales), standards in schools are improving and crime is pretty low. So what can people complaing about now then ?

Immigration became a topic in the elections back in the sixties, because people where enjoying good standard of living and had nothing to complain 'bout.

3/02/2005 08:35:00 pm  
Blogger AlanK said...

Alun

come on this is the UK we always have something to complain about just remember eastenders

Nosemonkey

you have a good point there but that might just be because asylum seekers from iraq and afghanistan have fallen in general since the wars and that more people are simply immigrating rather than asylum seeking

3/02/2005 10:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nosemonkey, where'd you get that 0.7 per 1000? I'm looking at a table in the pdf and it says 6.7.... which is higher than France (4.7), but still puts us only 11th of 25 European countries.

Didn't notice people complaining about immigration when the government told us they were going to buy in doctors and nurses to make up our shortfall...

3/02/2005 11:16:00 pm  
Blogger Robert Daguillard said...

Alun, it's flat out wrong to say immigration only becomes a potent political issue when people have nothing else to worry about. There is always a specific context and a "national equation" that results in immigration either a lot or not so much at all.

Look at countries like Germany and especially France, where unemployment rates have remained persistently high for more than 20 years. Far-right parties have experienced sporadic success in the FRG and become a true and entrenched force in France, precisely because of the way they have been able to use immigration to attract support.

Of course, you can also look at Austria, where the far-right's also was successful with that tactic, in spite of the economy being so strong and unemployment so low that a German observer termed the political mood there the "revolt of the contented." My point is that one just can't generalize the way your post did.

3/03/2005 01:54:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Sean - you're right on the density. I can entirely see how people with a large number of asylum seekers housed in their area might be a bit miffed (the whole "Not in my back yard" thing). But this is also why I don't see it being an issue of nation-wide importance, and therefore not an election issue. The vast majority of people will never even see an asylum seeker, but the likes of the Mail, Express and Sun spread all these scare stories making everyone thing that not only are there far more of them than there are, but also that they're all potentially dangerous and liable to be housed next door.

Actual immigration is another matter entirely, but I am consistently amused by the fact that the Tories' proposed "cap" (stolen from UKIP) of 100,000 immigrants per year is actually about the number that are coming in at the moment anyway...

Oh, and you'll rarely catch me disagreeing about the government lying.

Alan - that Big Dog chap I linked to makes a similar point. There's probably something in it.

Anonymous - I did some calculations yesterday. Something to do with working out 40,000 per year related to a population of 56-60 million, or something. It wasn't in the document itself and, to be honest, my maths is shit, so I may have got it wrong. The 6.7%, however, I believe referred to the last four years, not just the last year.

Alun - you might be on to something there, but Robert also makes some good points.

The major problem, of course, is that this election (much like the last one) is so much of a foregone conclusion that the Tories are having to look for any way to increase their number of seats - by making immigration an election issue they're trying the old tactic (which has failed them so dismally over the last few years) of appealing to what they perceive to be their "core" voters on the right, who have left them for the (perceived to be) anti-foreigner likes of UKIP.

What the Tories should be doing, of course, is returning to their traditional individualist approach, lauding the rights of the citizen against big government. If they worked out a way to revive that old Tory (as opposed to Conservative) ethos along with some Disraeli-style "one nation" rhetoric, they'd stand a good chance of making some inroads against Blair's "nanny state" interference. Hell, they might even manage to get me to vote for them again...

Sadly, however, they seem not to have learned a thing from the last decade of failure.

3/03/2005 02:19:00 pm  

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