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Let's be honest about immigration – it's about work, not benefits

If we can harness the opportunities of technology and the human potential out there, we can create flourishing environments that people don’t feel they have to escape from.

Published: Wednesday 11 March, 2015

It must be the most notorious eight square miles in the entire world.

I am talking, of course, about the Italian island of Lampedusa – increasingly a magnet for African migrants trying to cross from Libya into the El Dorado of the EU.

The numbers of migrants involved are truly staggering.

Some 2,700 people have been rescued from the Mediterranean in the past week alone, following the shocking drowning of around 300 migrants earlier this month.

The numbers add to a grim total. Around 3,500 people died in 2014 trying to traverse the treacherous waters separating the two continents.

There is a direct, but little acknowledged, connection between this situation and our own immigration debate in Britain – not least because many migrants that reach Italy are often seeking to head further north.

For the past five years, we’ve watched David Cameron’s Government struggle to meet the self-imposed target to get net migration down to the "tens of thousands" by the end of the current parliament.

But with a pall of economic gloom still hanging over much of Europe, jobseekers from every corner have flocked towards the only beacon of recovery – us – like moths to a flame.

During the same period – and partly as a consequence – we’ve witnessed the meteoric rise of Nigel Farage’s Ukip as a major political force. The blind panic this has induced among Tories and Labour alike has led to ever more shrill proposals to deter migrants.

Unsurprisingly enough, the Government is still far from its goal. The latest figures, published by the ONS, showed annual net migration running at 260,000.

According to the last census, immigrants now make up around 13 per cent of the UK’s population – around 7.5 million people.

From reports in the media, you’d think nearly all our immigrants came from Poland or Romania. In fact, there is huge variety and even the single largest immigrant group – the 770,000 people born in India – account for only 9.8 per cent of the total.

More surprisingly, there are 206,000 US citizens here – double the number of Romanians - not to mention 210,000 Aussies and Kiwis and perhaps 270,000 French.

So why do we get so upset about Eastern Europeans and not Americans? Clearly, it’s to do with the perception that the former are coming and taking low-skilled, low-wage jobs while the latter are generally in higher-skilled occupations.

But there’s a bigger question that almost never gets asked in the public discourse on this topic: why are so many people globally on the move?

Read the rest of the article on The Telegraph.

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