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The folly of mass immigration

About the author
Anthony Browne is environment editor of the Times. He has previously been economics correspondent for the BBC and the Observer, and deputy business editor and health editor at the Observer. He is author of The Euro: should Britain join? (Icon Books) and Do we need mass immigration? (Civitas). His series of articles on immigration in the Times, led to the Home Secretary denouncing him in parliament as “bordering on fascism”. In fact, a former Labour party member he has only ever voted Labour in general elections.

There are two ways to tackle serious social problems: evading them by linguistic trickery, or confronting them openly and honestly. One is easy, though it merely postpones the day of reckoning. The other is difficult, but it alone holds out the promise of a solution.

Europe has a problem of illegal mass immigration, much of it in the guise of unfounded asylum claims. Europe can either address it directly, or just legalise and relabel it. The new Demos/openDemocracy report on migration, People Flow, embraces wholeheartedly the easy, evasive, relabelling route. Mass migration from the developing world to Europe cannot be stopped, it argues, so it should be taken out of the hands of the illegal people-trafficking industry, legalised and facilitated, in order to “harness the positive effects of people movement.” The report seeks to “replace the illusion of control with the concept of flow management.”

From this premise, the report makes many vaguely sensible suggestions for legalising and promoting mass migration. Its proposals imply the “free movement of migrants in and out of Europe”. This, of course, is an open door policy implying mass immigration without limits – a process that would enormously increase mass immigration to Europe from the poor countries of the world, and transform Europe beyond recognition.

A failure of vision

The desire to regularise, and thus sanction, irregular immigration is founded on four assumptions. First, that mass immigration is a normal part of human life; second, that it cannot be controlled; third, that almost all immigration is beneficial to the host society; and fourth, that immigration is a right not a privilege and that the host society has no right to choose who can live amongst it.

Together, these assumptions take the politically fashionable and emotionally comfortable route of focusing almost exclusively on the needs and desires of actual and potential immigrants, and almost completely ignoring the needs and desires of both Europeans and sending countries. Thus, they fall into the trap of so much of the current immigration debate – failing to imagine and project a vision of the sort of world that it might be desirable to create in the long term.

The active promotion of mass immigration does nothing to stem its causes. On the contrary, by fuelling the brain drain from the developing to the developed world, it increases the former’s dependency on the latter. It intensifies a world of flux, divided families, splintered communities, cultural alienation and ethnic resentments – a world where those who can, live in the west, while those who cannot live in the rest.

A different, humane vision is needed, one of a world of “sustainable societies”. This involves capacity building in the developing world so that most people are able to live in their society rather than feeling they have to leave it. Such a world will be enabled to celebrate the diversity between nations, rather than demographically engineering nations to look alike.

The illusions of immigrationism

The approach to mass immigration embodied in the Demos/openDemocracy pamphlet rests on four assumptions, each of which is open to serious challenge.

Mass immigration is normal

The Demos/openDemocracy vision tells us that the instinct “to migrate between different environments is part of our inheritance”. This approach may be described as ‘immigration-apologetics’, which regards present trends as historically unexceptional and thus not to be resisted – although it does graciously admit that revolutions in transport and telecommunications do mean that the scale of current immigration is without precedent.

Of course, there has always been immigration, especially of an ‘invasive’ sort which was resisted by wars as people sacrificed their lives to defend their way of life. Arabs conquered their way across North Africa; Moghuls invaded India; Romans, Vikings and Normans invaded Britain, killing or driving away those who stood in the way of their migration.

People from China and Korea moved to Japan, taking land from the indigenous Ainu. Over a 200-year period, 55 million Europeans migrated to North America and Australasia, committing genocide against those who already lived there and obliterating the societies of the native Americans, the Maoris and the aborigines.

But even unaided by war and genocide, what is currently happening is indeed far from normal. A hundred years ago, most people in the west rarely moved even to the next village; now whole villages from Bangladesh are relocating to northern England. People once, at most, moved to their neighbouring country, one often culturally and ethnically similar, whereas now they move around the world to radically different cultures whose populations have a completely separate history and character.

Immigration is historically rare. The fact that there were virtually no border controls until the 20th century illustrates this: there was no need to control borders because so few people ever wanted to cross them. Virtually no society anywhere in the world throughout history has ever wanted to attract immigration for its own sake – the white settler colonies (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) are virtually empty lands built on immigration; as such, they are extraordinary historical anomalies.

The historical rarity of immigration allowed humanity to evolve different languages, cultures, customs and family names unique to each society. Human immobility is such that intensely localised regional accents emerge, with, for example, villages in Ireland just a few miles apart having distinguishable speech patterns. None of this would have happened in a world of mass immigration.

In the last quarter century, immigration has doubled, so that over 3% of people on the planet now live outside the land of their birth. Contrary to People Flow‘s claims, most of this migration increase is in the developed world; the numbers have actually decreased in the developing world in this period. People flow in all directions, but there is now just one dominant flow: south to north. The UN says that 2.3 million people are moving from the developing world to the west every year.

This scale is unprecedented. There is more immigration from the non-west to the US now than there was from Europe at its peak of emigration a century ago. Britain gave shelter to 200,000 Huguenots and 100,000 Jews, but never in modern history has Britain’s population growth been almost exclusively driven by immigration; in the past, population growth was almost exclusively self-generated. Since the second world war, immigration from the ‘third world’ has increased the British population by 5 million more than it would otherwise have been, and current levels of immigration are predicted to push the current figure of 59 million up to 68 million by 2030.

Mass immigration cannot be stopped

The second assumption is that mass illegal immigration cannot be stopped. This is demonstrably false. In 1924, the US government passed legislation that effectively closed the door on European immigration, opening the door to immigration from poor countries with new legislation only in 1965. Australia has shown in recent years that tough policies can reduce illegal immigration to virtually zero. The Netherlands and Denmark have cut back asylum applications by around a half in the last year and cut many other forms of immigration abuse, but the political elite only found the will to do this when their voters turned in desperation to far right parties.

Pro-immigration campaigners who tell the people of Europe that “mass immigration cannot be stopped, so it must be welcomed” are adopting the policies of despots through history of quelling opposition by telling opponents that resistance is futile. The evidence is otherwise. All that is needed is political will.

Mass immigration is mostly beneficial to the host society

The third assumption is that mass immigration is beneficial to the host society. This is at best contentious. In a relatively empty land, such as Australia, Canada or the US, the desire to boost the population via mass immigration can make sense. But in Europe, mass immigration only makes crowded countries even more crowded and unpleasant to live in. It can also create severe problems of coexistence between communities of people forced into unwilling proximity.

Mass immigration can also be very detrimental to the sending countries. In a November 2002 report, the World Bank said that Africa had lost a third of its professionals in recent decades as western nations reduced immigration controls for skilled workers, and that the brain drain was delaying economic growth in the continent, increasing the wealth divide between the west and the rest. Promoting mass immigration just creates a world where everyone with education and energy seeks to move to, or is poached by, the west. This retards development where it is most needed and leaves poor countries in a state of dependency.

However, some particularly failing societies are turning to mass emigration to solve the problems they are unable to solve for themselves. In 2000, the then president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the country was going to feed, clothe, house and employ the expected doubling of her population by 2050. She replied: “We’ll send them to America. Globalisation will take that problem away, as you free up all factors of production, also labour. There’ll be free movement, country to country. Globalisation in its purest form should not have any boundaries, so small countries with big populations should be able to send population to countries with big boundaries and small populations.”

But most immigration to Europe is not from full countries to empty ones, for the simple reason that most of Europe is still more densely populated than most of the developing world. Most of the people migrating to Britain each year are in fact moving from a less to a more densely populated land.

Mass immigration is a right not a privilege

The fourth (and most philosophical) assumption is that immigration is a right of individuals, but that societies as a whole have no significant rights to decide who lives among them, except on grounds of “security”. This is the founding principle of the People Flow report, and it is thoroughly wrong. Immigration has always been a privilege, not a right; throughout history, societies have always had the fundamental right to determine who should belong to them. It is hypocritical to profess belief in democracy, then deny people any democratic control over immigration policy, one of the crucial influences on a society’s development.

The intolerances of western liberalism

The People Flow authors make a mistake common among pro-immigration advocates: seeing a nation as nothing more than a geographical entity with a functioning economy and a legal system. But a nation is first and foremost its people. It is the French people that define what France is, not lines on a map.

The pro-immigrationists are effectively trying to abolish nationhood, denying a country the right to sustain its own culture.

British-born white people, the progeny of the generation who survived the Nazi attempt to obliterate Britain as an independent nation state, now account for only 60% of the population of London. England has for more than 1500 years been a Christian country – its flag is a cross, its head of state is head of the national church – but in its second city Birmingham, Islam is now more worshipped than Christianity. In two boroughs of London, whites are already in the minority, and they are expected to become a minority in several cities in the coming decade.

If current trends continue, the historically indigenous population of Britain will become a minority by around 2100. Islam is the fastest growing religion, and much immigration to Britain comes from Muslims fleeing Muslim lands – around 75% of intercontinental asylum seekers are Muslim. But where are the limits? In an extreme example, would British Christians have a right not to live in an Islamic majority state?

For an answer to this, consider what that most liberal of American writers, Gore Vidal, said in a lecture in Dublin in 1999:

“A characteristic of our present chaos is the dramatic migration of tribes. They are on the move from east to west, from south to north. Liberal tradition requires that borders must always be open to those in search of safety or even the pursuit of happiness. But now with so many millions of people on the move, even the great-hearted are becoming edgy. Norway is large enough and empty enough to take in 40 to 50 million homeless Bengalis. If the Norwegians say that, all in all, they would rather not take them in, is this to be considered racism? I think not. It is simply self-preservation, the first law of species.”

But at what point are people of the west allowed to say that enough is enough, it is time for us to be allowed to preserve our culture? This is an issue of almost total, mind-numbing hypocrisy among western governments and political elites. They defend the inalienable right of other peoples – the Palestinians, Tibetans, native Americans – to defend their culture, but not the right of their own peoples.

It is vital to emphasise that mass immigration and the remarkably intolerant ideology of multiculturalism are exclusively western phenomena. Indeed, the striking thing about the global immigration debate in the west is its determined parochialism. If people in India, China, or Africa were asked whether they have a right to oppose mass immigration on such a scale that it would transform their culture, the answer would be clear. Yet uniquely among the 6 billion people on the planet, westerners – the approximately 800 million in western Europe, North America and Australasia – are expected by the proponents of mass immigration and multiculturalism to abandon any right to define or shape their own society.

This liberal hypocrisy was perfectly illustrated in 2002, when the British government gave full UK passports to 200,000 people living in British overseas territories, such as St. Helena, Montserrat and the Turks & Caicos islands. The inhabitants were allowed to live in Britain, but there was no reciprocal right for British people to live there.

The justification for this one-sidedness was given in the House of Lords by the foreign office minister Valerie Amos:

“The right of abode is non-reciprocal. The territories which fall within the scope of the Bill are for the most part small islands. In consultations on the content of the Bill the governments of the territories concerned made clear that granting British and European citizens the right of abode in their territories would risk fundamentally altering the social, cultural and economic fabric of the territories.”

Britain too is a small island, yet other British government ministers tell the British people that they must embrace mass immigration, and that it is simply racist for British people to oppose the altering of their country’s social, cultural and economic fabric. What makes the Caribbean and South Atlantic islanders noble in defending their culture, and the British racist in defending theirs? It is largely about being a minority, and being outnumbered. But western people are a global minority. There are more citizens of either India and China than all the people of Europe, North America and Australasia put together. There are as many people in Bangladesh and Pakistan together as in the US.

In the developing world, there are simply no significant equivalents of Europe and the US, where around 10% of people are foreign born, or Canada and Australia where the proportion is around 25%. The foreign born in the developing world rarely exceed 1% of the population.

Indeed, developing countries have been the most draconian in clamping down on immigration. In 2002, Malaysia started forcibly returning some of the thousands of illegal immigrants from Indonesia, while India put soldiers on its borders with Bangladesh to force illegal Bangladeshi immigrants back home. Western countries do not cane illegal immigrants or point a gun at them, but provide them with free immigration lawyers, free shelter, free food, free schooling and free healthcare – then express disappointment when they are reluctant to leave.

Several countries outside the developed west actively discriminate in favour of their own nationals. Saudi Arabia has adopted an official policy of “Arabisation” of many commercial sectors; Nigeria pursues “indigenisation” of its engineering industry, and Zimbabwe’s agricultural policy has similar motivations. In 2002, India began issuing residency cards to the 20 million “people of Indian origin” currently living in the west, specifically writing the legislation to exclude any white people born in India. Meanwhile, the South Korean government insists it is not a nation of immigrants, but an ethnic group with shared history and culture, while Japan has no desire to dilute its unique identity by opening the floodgates of mass immigration.

The wellspring of diversity

Pro-immigrationists tell everyone else they should “celebrate diversity” within our nations, while they work to destroy the diversity between nations. Small ethnic communities enrich a culture, but the question of scale is crucial. If it continues, unfettered mass immigration would simply stir all the different nations into one indistinguishable global melting pot.

For myself, I like Ireland because it is Irish, I like Sweden because it is Swedish, I like Vietnam because of the Vietnamese, and I like Japan because it is Japanese. Yet I like diversity; I enjoy (for example) London’s Chinatown and appreciate the economic and cultural contributions of Britain’s Indian community, but that does not extend to a wish to open my country’s borders – as the People Flow report suggests – to 1.3 billion Chinese and 1.1 billion Indians. In that case, Britain would no longer be Britain.

I leave the last word to another universally respected author, who struggled against another ideology that tried to transform the culture of a nation against the will of the people, and tried to make all nations under its control the same. In accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, Alexander Solzhenitsyn talked at length about the struggles of people around the world to retain their culture and identity, and then alluded to mass immigration, the multicultural ideology and the global melting pot:

“In recent times it has been fashionable to talk of the levelling of nations, of the disappearance of different races in the melting-pot of contemporary civilisation. I do not agree with this opinion...the disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.”

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