There are probably as many myths floating around about migrants and migration as there are UKIP voters. (Fascinating fact: there are as many foreign born nationals living in the UK as there are UKIP voters.) In this post, I bust a good few of them:
- They’re stealing our benefits!
- Well they’re stealing our jobs, then!
- They’re only coming because we’re a soft touch on immigration!
- They should stay at home / in France / anywhere else!
- They’re violent criminals!
- Britain is full up!
- They’re illegal!
They’re stealing our benefits!
Let’s make this absolutely clear with a quote from the House of Commons: “Asylum seekers are not eligible for mainstream welfare benefits whilst waiting for a decision on their asylum application.”
Asylum seekers can apply for financial support and accommodation. The accommodation is offered on a “no choice” basis and only outside London and the south-east. Financial support is £36.62 per week for a single adult. Asylum support rates have not increased since 2011, despite the rising cost of living.
In comparison, a destitute British person claiming financial support will receive £72.40 (Job Seekers Allowance) and will be eligible for Housng Benefit.
If migrants were after handouts, then they should stay in France: they have quicker access to housing and benefits there.
This is all despite the fact that, according to a University of London survey of 2001-2011, non-EU immigrants to the UK paid out 2% more in taxes than they received. EU immigrants paid out 34% more. Benefit tourism is a myth.
Well they’re stealing our jobs, then!
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK – unless they have been waiting for a decision on their case for more than a year.
They’re only coming because we’re a soft touch on immigration!
This could not be further from the truth. The UK’s asylum process is draconian: 65% of applications were rejected in 2013 and we accepted less than 5,000 asylum seekers.
The UK is not seen as a soft touch by migrants either. In 2013, the UK received far less applications for asylum than Germany, the USA, France, Sweden and Turkey. Most countries saw a significant increase in asylum applications between 2012 and 2013; in the same period, the UK’s share of total asylum applications dropped from 6% to 5%. For every 1000 inhabitants, the UK receives less asylum seekers than Belgium, Montenegro, Austria and Leichtenstein.
These are not the statistics of a country that is a soft touch or that is even seen as being a soft touch.
They should stay at home / in France / anywhere else!
There is a philosophical argument here as well as a practical one. As British passport holders, UK citizens are allowed to travel almost anywhere in the world; in many countries they are allowed also to set up businesses and seek employment. These benefits are no more deserved than a lottery winner “deserves” his winnings. It’s luck. Similarly, being born in Syria at a time when the country suffers terrible drought and civil war, is no more deserved.
Beside this philosophical argument, the truth is that most of these people do stay at home or in other countries. The UK take significantly less asylum seekers than the rest of the EU. Overwhelmingly, the burden of asylum seekers and refugees is absorbed by neighbouring countries. The Syrian civil war has created around 3.8m refugees. There are 1.3m refugees from Syria currently living in Turkey and 1.8m living in Lebanon. In the UK, we have accepted just 24. The ones that do attempt the dangerous journey from their places of birth to the UK face great difficulty claiming asylum.
Legally, the Dublin Regulation states that migrants fleeing to the EU should claim asylum in the first country they come to. Logically, therefore, the UK should never need deal with asylum seekers because they MUST travel through other EU countries in order to reach ours.
It should come as no surprise to learn that the Dublin Regulation was pursued by the rich northern European countries of the EU, particularly the UK and Germany, in order to keep the “asylum problem” as far away as possible.
So why don’t the Calais migrants stay in France?
When asked this question, the main reasons cited by migrants are:
- They have family and friends in the UK.
- They speak English.
- They face racism in Italy and France.
- There are more jobs in the UK.
This is backed up by the demographic distribution of migrants in Calais. There main groups of people there are from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. If these people speak a foreign language, it is English. Migrants from French-speaking countries such as Algeria do indeed stop in France.
They’re violent criminals!
- After 1996, immigration to the UK rose sharply, from around 300,000 people a year to as much as 600,000 people a year.
- After 1996, violent crime in the UK fell sharply, from 4.2 million violent crimes in 1995 to only 1.94 million in 2011/2012.
Violent crime statistics are matched by property crime statistics: rising immigration in the last ten years is paired with falling property crime rates. What you really want now is a pretty chart:
Britain is full up!
If that’s true, then why are there over 600,000 empty homes in the UK? Why have a third of those been empty for more than six months?
Immigrants make up around 13% of the UK population, a figure that is broadly similar to most other parts of the developed world – Germany, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Spain and the USA all have immgrant populations of around 12-14%.
There are around 7.8m immigrants living in the UK; according to a 2005 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report, there are 13.1m British nationals living abroad. I wonder if Australia, Spain and the USA moan about all those Brits clogging up their roads?
Some people may travel to the UK illegally because, unlike you, they are not allowed to travel legally. They might have had their passport confiscated by a military dictatorship; they might have fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
As soon as they apply for asylum, however, they are legally permitted to remain in the UK until their claim has been assessed. This process, by the way, isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Asylum seekers are often treated as we might treat criminals: by putting them into detention centres or tying them down with electronic tags.
Some people may attempt to work in the UK illegally (because £36.62 a week isn’t an awful lot to live off), but it is highly unlikely that they will be taking jobs from British workers. These “jobs” are run by gangmasters paying as little as £3 per hour – now that’s illegal.