by Paul Embery
Friday, 1
April 2022
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07:00

Don’t turn the Ukraine refugee crisis into a new normal

Ultra-liberal immigration policies are domestically divisive
by Paul Embery
Credit: Getty

No issue has, over recent years, more tested the patience of ordinary voters — or thrown into such sharp relief the ideological chasm between them and the political elites — than that of immigration.

At the turn of the century, the spectacle of the National Front spewing hatred in England had become largely a thing of the past. While nobody could, of course, claim that racism had been abolished, the issues of race and immigration had certainly become less of a dividing line in our society than ever before.

Ultra-liberal immigration policies, and a turn in the public stocks for anyone who opposed them, followed. Hyper-progressives set the tone and tempo of this enormous social change.

You might have thought the backlash that followed — first with Brexit, then with the 2019 General Election, might have made the chief exponents of a borderless world reconsider their priorities.

Yet even those who have shown themselves willing to take heed of the backlash and put their shoulder to the wheel in the task of bringing our fragmented communities together often remain unrelenting in their belief that open-borders signpost the way to a higher civilisation.

For example, a paper — “Homes for Afghans” — published jointly this week by think-tanks More in Common and British Future recommends (among other, more laudable, recommendations) that our country “turn the welcoming wave of 2022 [in respect of Ukrainian refugees] into a sustained social norm” and the government establish a “multi-million-pound fund” to this end.

Of course Britain must do its bit when it comes to providing shelter to individuals, such as those from Afghanistan and Ukraine, seeking to escape from war and persecution. But to attempt to turn these often unique and distinctive phenomena into a “sustained social norm” is surely to seek open-borders in everything but name — little more than an attempt to achieve through the back door what has been roundly rejected at the polls.

One must ask what such a measure would achieve except to further inflame tensions. In my experience, the vast majority of Britons are prepared to show compassion to those forced to flee their homelands. But the recommendation in the paper would, if realised, simply have the effect of exploiting their goodwill yet more and ensuring that the issue of immigration remains a running sore in our society.

Studies show overwhelmingly that Britons support immigration. But voters understand that, as with many good things, immigration works best in moderation — not least to ensure we can maintain the highest levels of social solidarity and cohesion.

I am ceaselessly staggered — though I know I shouldn’t be — at how the perfectly reasonable stance of millions of voters on this question is regarded by the liberal intelligentsia as somehow unconscionable. They still aren’t getting it. I’m not sure they ever will.

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R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

The new normal these ideologues seek is one of inflated house prices and a foreign serf class. That’s the world we already have. How much worse can this country get? The population is 10 million higher than if should be.

Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

The population may be several millions higher than the official figure.

Last edited 8 months ago by Neil Cheshire
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

20 million higher than it should be, in my opinion, and it climbed that much in so few years. Is it not the reason for so many of our problems? The last news item I watched last night was inadequate sewage treatment.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Not sure. Many are in the precariat themselves renting in urban areas. You wonder when the penny will drop- London’s population has grown by 2m recently. It might dawn on them as to the effect on available property. Then again they stupidly bleat that ‘only’ 4% of the UK is built on for housing. Hard to know where to start with this innumeracy.

Yvonne Aston
Yvonne Aston
8 months ago

I have to agree to an extent with the author. The British version of illiberalism arose because of the problem caused by immigrants who had left their own countries and continued to live by their own norms in basically what were ghettos in British towns. Many of them could not or would not speak English, Some of them retained their custom of disposing of their children, mostly female, into forced marriages with an honour code that demanded the death of the non compliant child. Outrageous examples of what to British ideas was animal cruelty abounded and it was just dismissed as ‘Their culture’ by the intelligentsia. The immigrants who came to Britain and embraced the British way of life have been successfully integrated on the whole. I am not saying that racism does not exist in Britain, the English make fun of the Irish and Scots and vice versa, so other nationalities won’t escape that. I feel that a lot of problems are caused by the attitude of “Let them do as they wish, they’re not us after all.” My thinking is “Live in my home, follow my rules.” It is not necessarily their skin colour that makes an immigrant unacceptable to the majority of ordinary people but the way in which they live their lives.

Peter McLaughlin
Peter McLaughlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Yvonne Aston

Completely agree. So many escape awful places and bring the awfulness with them.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

Quite right. Robust immigration controls will make it easier for us to meet our legal and moral obligations towards refugees.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago

I’ll dust down my favourite phrase again: pigeons learn faster. This “you, see? We’re clearly right, you oiks just needed some time to realise it” attitude is unbelievably annoying and absolutely not persuasive.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Spot on… the fact is many are way less clever or well educated in a rounded sense, than they think they are.
I remember on a little regional Bank of England panel I was on (given the mutter from the gutter to the regional agent from SMEs every month) and just after Brexit he was taken aback when a couple of the small manufacturers went off on one a bit, asking when the Bank would stop just telling everyone how doomy it would be, and give more balanced view.
My contribution was that while the entire argument from the EU was predicated and pivoted upon the single market, and the Remainers had decided the dirty little secret was not only were Leavers thick, but many were racist.
It was more about many feeling they had been sold a pup on sovereignity and that *Ever Closer Union* meant, eventually, without any real say or vote we’d wake up and it would be full *union*.
(The sneery remark that *Not all Leavers are racist but all Racists ARE leavers* was disgraceful but widely retweeted and liked.)
One of the things Remainers don’t get is that most people now..Leavers, but also the more reasonable remainers away from the click-baiting prominent ones.. do see the EU as fearfully trying to punish the UK for leaving, and that current predictions of economic under performance are based on that zero-sum (erroneous) situation.
Of course we want a good relationship with Europe and of course we want and need immigration of highly motivated people, and will offer a refuge to people truly fleeing a war.
We just want the stupid paperwork barriers reduced, the NI protocol honestly renegotiated, and to control immigration according to our genuine work needs.
We don’t want Britain altered by 300,000 plus immigrants who don’t integrate and try to turn places into little replicas of the place they fled.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Well said, but your comment would be improved by the insertion of the phrase “every year” between “immigrants” and “who” in your final paragraph.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

It always gets me how the EU can throw open the borders instantly without consultation when they think it’s “compassionate”, but the NI border is, like, the hardest problem in the world.

Alan Birks
Alan Birks
8 months ago

There are thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia in and around Calais who are desperate to get into the U.K. Their plight is now being compared to those who are fleeing war in Ukraine, but who are being offered visas by host countries, including the U.K.
However, there are fundamental differences between these group and not just those based on race and religion.
Almost all the refugees from Ukraine arriving in neighbouring countries are women and children. They are all genuine refugees who have left their menfolk behind to defend their country. They all want to return home to Ukraine as soon as it is safe enough for them to do so.
Those trying to get into The U.K. illegally in dinghies and in the back of lorries are almost all young men. If they do have wives and children, they have left them behind to fend for themselves. Some will be genuine refugees, but many will economic migrants from poor, but safe countries. Virtually none of those who succeed in getting into U.K. have any intention of ever going back to where they came from.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Birks

I think the technical team for the footloose lads is *chancers*,,unless that’s become a non word in the new Wokey Imperium?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
8 months ago

In the days when prosperity rather than ‘a vibrant financial market’ was the goal of economic policy, it was understood that periodically, in all industries, a strong labour union would negotiate with management over ‘how to split this wealth we intend to make’.
If you believe that immigrants — people who are willing to do the job for less — are more deserving of the jobs than those who are not, then you will never have to feel ashamed of unfairly hogging the split. Given how ashamed so many on the left are of their very selves, over things they have no control, I don’t think we can get them to move to a position where they are ashamed over things their class actually did.

Clara B
Clara B
8 months ago

These borderless world people still haven’t told me how their vision can be achieved. I can’t say how many times I’ve asked pro-open borders friends how we’d cope, in terms of housing, services etc in this already densely populated nation, if even a fraction of the world’s population moved here under a state of no immigration restrictions. Their answers are typically vague and lacking in mathematical substance.

D Glover
D Glover
8 months ago
Reply to  Clara B

You can have open borders, or you can have a welfare state. You can’t have both, because if you offer free healthcare, social housing, pensions, education, then anyone with any sense will come. Why wouldn’t you?

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

It’s not free. ‘We’ pay for it. I think there’s a growing sense that a system of copayments needs to be involved. Doctor’s visit – £20. Obesity, alcohol related, smoking, mountain rescue, criminal behaviour. Pay a fee.

D Glover
D Glover
8 months ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

That may be logical but it’s politically undeliverable. Any assault on the ‘free’ nature of the NHS invites odium. You would be portrayed as a salesman for private health care. Worse still; ‘Americanised private health care’
Also, would you charge for maternity services? The expectant couple have chosen to get that way. What would you do if they didn’t pay? What would you do with the obese, drunk, smoking mountaineer if he didn’t want to pay?
It’s a very brave politician who tries to take away a benefit that people are used to receiving, as Sunak is now finding out.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

Bernard Levin warned us to beware of the Single Issue Fanatics.
The World is a messy place with no simple answer to the many trade-offs we have to live with.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It seems that if ‘single issue fanatics’ are sincere, many will avoid going before a court, or avoid a sentence if they do.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
8 months ago

I, too, had noticed how the usual parties immediately exploited this issue to suggest that Ukrainian refugees enter without prior checks, contrasting us with EU countries (who all have ID systems). Many people will immediately sympathise with this without thinking it through; anyone not deserving admittance would either disappear, or if they don’t be impossible to deport.
One superficial justification was that ‘they’re all women and children’, which surely begs the question of what happens at the border, given existing controversies about declared age and sex.
That said, I’m perplexed that the administrative problem wasn’t foreseen in the same way that provision of anti-tank weapons was, that a special cut-down Ukrainian language application wasn’t introduced, why applicants wait weeks even for acknowledgement, let alone acceptance, and why a remote system couldn’t be used in place of physical documents. Also, once again, one suspects that it might have gone much better if the army had been asked do it, with the assistance of seconded Ukrainian officials.
As it happens, financial and material support for Poland, Romania etc. is probably preferable. It will be a major headache finding housing in this country when even the Afghans haven’t been successfully distributed.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
8 months ago

The West has tried really hard to spread western values abroad. These values have been sadly, worryingly, much maligned now from within the West itself. When the Americans flew out last year the best of the educated, most-opened-minded, receptive and hard-working Afghans from Kabul, those who should find their feet fairly comfortably when setting themselves up in the West, whose young compatriots in the US with their hair loose and bare arms showing had been holding up placards when protesting outside the White House the sense of the abandonment of Afghanistan by America, when the Americans flew them out, they would have had to fly for at least three hours in any direction to get anywhere civilised AND safe WITH a measure of freedom: a place with a Western outlook, if you will (Israel or Singapore or Nairobi, I reckon). Look at a map of Afghanistan and the wider region: you could drive for days, for weeks, out of the country in any direction and there is nowhere appetising for anyone who admires the West’s ideals to live. The poor folk fearing the Taliban had to fly out. How far the young members of the few music orchestras in Kabul would have to travel! Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Afghans had been prepared to tough it out in Kabul and district, for nearly twenty years, to make something of the country of their birth, post 9/11. They relied on the Americans to attempt that. Nobody else had the means to help them so. Perhaps that’s why a former British Prime Minister last year described the American decision to get itself out of Afghanistan “imbecilic”. Perhaps he rightly sensed that if anything values must be borderless. That is the values that underpin Western Civilisation. The Earth’s humans gravitate to that oasis in a world of trouble and strife. And for a short time, Kabul, under the watch of the Americans, was some kind of oasis in the Minor Asia region. But no more. The American withdrawal was like some kind of exercise in regret for what America had attempted. The manner in which the retreat happened, with President Biden going into the Comical Ali sphere of denials, at times, reflected the great loss of confidence Americans have in themselves, and more generally in Western Civilisation. America had scurried out with its tail between its legs. And when America sneezes, the rest of the supposedly civilised world catches a cold. Everybody should catch themselves on. An open-borders policy therefore simply means that the West can ignore the benighted and oppressed and oppressive régimes of the world (except perhaps opportunistically deal or trade with them), but it also means that the West can ignore what has made it what it is. “We don’t have to do anything for you. You just come to us.” The West has of late been faking feelings of guilt, to better boost its standing, and gives a poor return to those who, in spite of every trial THEY face, would much rather build a good life and community in their country of birth or homeland. Imagine this: you battle to get to America to wallow in Elvis, but all you wallow in is angry rap. That’s the West increasingly today. The good world is shrinking, actually. Materialism is all the rage. The spiritual and the taking of personal responsibility in decline.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dustshoe Richinrut
Frederick B
Frederick B
8 months ago

Well, we now have the most liberal immigration policy this country has ever had. This is Johnson’s new “points based” policy – no cap on numbers, no need to advertise in this country before appointing from abroad. As a result, work visas were 25% up last year compared with the previous record year of 2019 (despite continuing travel restrictions for part of the year).
On top of that, we have the new “Student Route” which, in practice, means that all of the 600,000 overseas students in the country will be able to remain permanently if they wish. And on top of that we have unrestricted immigration from Hong Kong. And on top of that we have Afghanistan, Ukraine etc. etc.
Although people had many different motives for voting in favour of Brexit, there can be no doubt that it would never have happened- there would never have been a referendum- had it not been for concern about immigration.
And yet, arguably, nor would Brexit have happened without Boris, so perhaps it’s right that he should have the immigration policy that he favours? He’s fortunate that the intense media focus on immigration in the years leading up to the referendum has almost wholly subsided in the years since, but will that last when people begin to realise just what this new policy is going to do to our country.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
8 months ago

There is, actually, no difference between the immigration policies of Conservative or Labour Governments. This will strike Paul Embery dumb with amazement but it is perfectly true. I am talking here about immigration, not race relations policies where there is a difference and the Labour Party has a far more liberal record than the Tories. Let’s do some history.
The 1948 act allowed all of the citizens of the Empire and Dominions, in recognition of their contribution to the war effort, the right to live work and study in the UK. It was passed by a Labour Government but with all-party support. Obviously at the time it was white people from the Dominions which the government had in mind not the dark skinned ones from India, Africa and the Caribbean. Strangely it didn’t work out that way.
The Conservatives Immigration act of 1961 attempted by ham-fisted means to set employment criteria designed to keep the dark-skin ones out. The Labour Party may have opposed it but in 1964 they never repealed it.
The 1971 act reduced the entitlement to British Citizenship a bit and also removed the right of immigrants to bring in relatives beyond a certain level; the 1981 act removed the automatic entitlement of those born here to UK citizenship (we are one of the few countries where birth in the UK does not equate to right of citizenship a feature of the “Windrush Scandal”) Neither of these measures were repealed by Labour Governments and under the the Blair/Brown administrations people such as David Blunkett and Phil Woolas seemed to enjoy slinging dark-skinned people out. The legislation that lead to the Windrush Scandal was barely examined, let alone opposed when the Coalition introduced it even though it was clear that the victims largely were going to be elderly Black People who had lived in the country for years and had never imagined that their right to do so could be questioned.
So if Paul Embery were an honest political commentator he would not be accusing the Labour Party of proposing ultra-liberal immigration policies. Clearly there are crises concerning Afghanistan and Ukraine, the former as a direct result of this country meddling in its politics in the first place. That sort of meddling doesn’t, in the long-run, come cost free. In both cases it is likely that once the original crisis has settled there will be a gradual movement of people back again when there country is more livable.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
8 months ago

My son and daughter in law work in Singapore. Singapore has imperfections like any country. No job- no visa. Pretty much straight out on your ear. No one cares. I know commenters on here hate the idea of strict state rules but it’s the most straightforward safe country I visit save Finland ( other son) which also has a rule based culture plus strict border controls and ID cards etc. Finland does have a language test for citizenship. Good luck with that one!

Matty D
Matty D
8 months ago

This is a bad faith argument by Mr Embery. He has either not read the paper he refers to, or is deliberately misrepresenting it. How is a 10k cap an open door? If unHerd is serious about a fair debate, it should not allow this kind of article.