Anything but immigration?

fstq1Le Royaume-Uni a toujours connu une immigration importante. Récemment, le débat sur l’immigration est devenu plus houleux, suite à une annonce du premier ministre David Cameron. Ce dernier souhaite renforcer le contrôle aux frontières et durcir les politiques migratoires actuelles. Qu’envisage exactement le gouvernement britannique ?

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A long history of immigration 

The UK has been welcoming a large number of migrants since the beginning of the 20th century. The two world wars caused the first waves of mass immigration: the UK needed to rebuild its economy and its infrastructures, and the country needed many migrants because of a labour shortage. Moreover, the end of the British Empire prompted people from the former colonies to go to the UK. This mass immigration triggered a wave of violence caused by racial prejudice in the 1950s. In the 1970s, the British government started limiting the immigration flows by passing more restrictive immigration laws. But it was not enough to curb immigration because numerous migrants were looking for a job in the UK or trying to be reunited with their families. Owing to growing racism, many migrants were attacked. In 2000, strict anti-discrimination laws was passed but social tensions remain worrying.

What now?

Since the end of the 20th century, immigration in the UK has kept growing. The UK is one of the main European countries with a high net migration rate. This graph shows how important it is.

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At present, immigration is a major political concern in the UK. The Prime Minister pledged to “put Britain first“. Indeed, in an interview with the Telegraph, David Cameron exposed his plans: he wants to halve the period during which immigrants can claim benefits. But, the emphasis seems to be laid on illegal immigration. Indeed, when Cameron mentioned “putting Britain first”, he clearly had illegal immigrants in mind. The fight against illegal immigration is what a part of Cameron’s immigration policies are about. Indeed, one year after the “go home or face arrest” campaign in London (which wasn’t official but tolerated by the government), the problem of illegal immigration is still present. Prime Minister Cameron insisted Great Britain would not accept “bogus” students or immigrants who would come only to claim benefits. Therefore, the government intends to make life more difficult for them …

But some figures seem to show that David Cameron should not really be concerned with the benefits claimed by EU migrants because the figures show that the proportion of EU citizens in the UK on benefits is far lower than the proportion of UK nationals claiming benefits. Cameron’s reasons for vilifying EU migrants is mostly political. 9 months before the May 2015 general election, Cameron aims at winning back the conservative voters who defected for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Britain’s Eurosceptic party, whose European election results were unprecedented this year.

Indeed, Cameron’s reasons for wanting to strengthen Britain’s borders have very little to do with Ebola…and a lot to do with the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, a different kind of virus that has been weakening the Conservative Party for at least 3 years now. Conservative voters have grown increasingly restless in the last few years. Many voters have been won over by UKIP. Cameron’s party is therefore at risk of being forced to form another coalition after next year’s general election. The party’s ability to compete with UKIP will determine its success next year.

Immigration is likely to dominate next year’s general election campaign. According to many opinion polls, Britons seem to be genuinely preoccupied with immigration, which has become a key issue in their eyes. 39% of British people, according to The Economist, think that immigration is the most important problem of the country. And yet, Britain’s relatively high rate of economic growth may have something to do with its demographic dynamism, its cultural diversity and its net migration rate. Would Britain’s companies be so innovative and diverse if it weren’t for the country’s many newly acquired talents?

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Walid IAAICH & Morgane RABENANDRASANA

 

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