Friday 22 January 2016


Immigrants, fear of them, suspicion of them or jealousy of them, played a minor part in last year's general election and is likely to play a major part in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership.

Those who claim to be worried about immigration remain unconvinced by the evidence that immigrants add to  economic growth, pay more into the government kitty in taxes than they take out in benefits or the use of public services, and are often highly innovative people who contribute enormously to our way of life.  Michael Marks, an immigrant from the Polish part of the then Russian Empire, who with Thomas Spencer started the famous Marks and Spencer's high street  retailer as a "penny an item" market stall in Leeds in 1884, is a good local example. There are dozens of earlier  and more recent examples in Robert Winder's highly readable book "Bloody Foreigners."

Those not reassured by the "macro" arguments might like to do a more personal inventory.  I've just done this and find that immigrants, or the offspring of recent immigrants:

  • sell me my morning paper;
  • drill and fill what's left of  my teeth;
  • clean my car;
  • dispense my medicines;
  • provide about a third of my health care (depends on which of my various ailments is being treated);
  • provide the vicar, brilliant organist, one of the two Franciscan friars attached to us, and a goodly (godly?) portion of the choir and congregation of the church (firmly C of E) I attend;
  • give me an opportunity to teach, as a volunteer, ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages), a highly interesting and entertaining weekly experience which makes me feel still useful;
  • run my second favourite restaurant;
  • provide me with my remaining few hours of paid employment.*
Altogether my life would be much less comfortable, and much less interesting, without immigrants.

*  This last group are post-graduate students on a business-studies at a local university.  In my view they shouldn't be included in the "immigrant" count as the overwhelming majority go home once they've completed their course. Their university fees and living expenses are a tremendous boost to our yawning balance of payments, and most return to their countries with a very favourable impression of the UK.  However, the government in its stupidity includes them  in the "immigration" count, tries to limit their numbers and discourages them from remaining for more higher degrees, research or opening up businesses here.

1 comment:

  1. On my anual visit to England I buy a morning paper from an immigrant newsagent. I could buy a paper at another shop but the Indian lady likes to talk and at the other shop they don't even say good morning to me.The Indian lady has a sister who lives in Malaysia.I have some idea what it is like to be an immigrant as I work abroad.
    These days from outside the EU few immigrants come to Britain. Refugees are not immigrants in the proper meaning and legal sense of the word. Most refugees would return to their country if it was at peace.