The great immigration game

European Union 2013 - European Parliament ---------------------------------------- Pietro Naj-Oleari: European Parliament, Information General Directoratem, Web Communication Unit, Picture Editor. Phone: +32479721559/+32.2.28 40 633 E-mail: pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

© European Union 2013 – European Parliament
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Pietro Naj-Oleari:

Here in part two of my Despatch Box mini-series I aim to demystify the scaremongering and ludicrous claims surrounding EU immigration.

It’s as if everyone has developed Tourettes syndrome and immigration is used as an excuse for just about everything. ‘I have no money’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘I don’t have a job’; ‘its the immigrants’. ‘There is traffic on the motorway’; ‘its the immigrants’. So let’s get a few things straight on immigration and the current debate in which it is engulfed.

For part one, which explores the EU and the NHS, the environment, the economy and sovereignty, please click here.


First and foremost, a study entitled ‘the Fiscal Impact of Immigration to the UK‘ found that, ‘European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011’.

We can also see that EU migrants claim far less in benefits than UK nationals, ‘In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6%) working age benefit claimants were British while only 131,000 (2.5%) were EU nationals’. Similarly, a study carried out by UCL said immigrants ‘were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain’.

Immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. Those from the European Economic Area (EEA – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) had made a particularly positive contribution in the decade up to 2011, contributing 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits.

Immigrants from outside the EEA contributed 2% more in taxes than they received in the same period, the report showed. Over the same period, British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.

The report also showed that in 2011, 32% of recent EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees, compared with 21% of the British adult population.

Last but not least, within the NHS 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from the EU and many more from outside the EU. From personal experience of both my mum and dad being treated by the NHS I know just how important this immigration is to keeping it functioning.

Why the immigration fury?

Well, the public and much of the media seems to have conflated and misunderstood the whole idea behind the ‘free movement of people’.

This applies to the 28 EU member states, in other words, you have to be a part of the European Union to gain the free access of movement. Therefore, people living outside those 28 states cannot just freely move to the UK as they please – evidenced by the UK government’s decision to turn away the 3,000 unaccompanied children who were alone in Europe without a home.

This is where the confusion seems to lie and the positioning of blame is very wrong. The current ‘migrant crisis’ we see is not to do with EU migrants putting a ‘drain’ on our services or the ‘Romanians coming over here and taking our jobs’. It has much more to do with the mass devastation that we see spread across the world, particularly the Middle East, by war.

People are fleeing the crisis in search of a better life, not because they want to kill us or take our jobs or ruin our ‘nationality’. The ‘security threat’ of ‘uncontrolled migration’ which ‘increases the threat of terrorism’ is also an absolute Houdini act from the media and Leave campaign.

The inter-service security networks we receive from being part of the EU are second to none, more noteworthy is the fact that recent terrorist attacks in the EU have been carried out by naturalised European citizens and not immigrants, citizens who feel alienated and left out by many policies.


If we are truly interested in reducing immigration figures then we must deal with the crux of the issue, instead of pinning the blame on the ‘undemocratic EU’ and the ‘bureaucracy of Brussels’.

It is far too easy to place the blame elsewhere and play the blame game. However, the issues we currently face in the EU have a huge amount to do with the financial crash of 2008 and ineffective foreign policies in the Middle East.

The financial crisis was perpetuated by an unregulated and irresponsible capitalist world and much of the unrest and displacement in the Middle East has to do with Western meddling in the area.

I am not saying that immigration does not need to be controlled but to leave the EU will solve none of our issues, it will simply mean that we brush them under the carpet and turn a blind eye.

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Why does the West turn a blind eye to Eritrea?

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Flickr/Roberto Maldeno refugee camp at Tsorona Eritrea

 

Research by: Phillip Baker, Sam Fletcher, Jonathan Parker, Josh Kneale and Abi Simons.

Eritrea is a country that seldom makes the headlines, indeed it is a state that most Europeans haven’t even heard of, but Eritrea currently has huge implications for the future of Europe. Amidst the migrant crisis that is bringing millions to the shores of the continent, it is often overlooked that a large proportion of the refugees are not fleeing form the more widely known crises in Syria, but from the incredibly oppressive and brutal regime that governs Eritrea – a state from which 5,000 of its citizens flee from each month.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea forms a long strip of coastal land bordering Ethiopia, a country which it was governed by for many decades. A 30 year long war of independence devastated the country until the final victory over Ethiopian forces in 1991. Independence was recognised by the international community in 1993, and the Eritrean struggle for freedom has been hailed as a “major feat of a people’s fight for self-determination.

But in the years since independence no national elections have been held. They are repeatedly postponed, and the country has fallen under the grip of an oppressive regime in which only one political party is allowed to function – the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice – and all independent private media was closed down.

This has meant that the rest of the world is subject to an information blackout about the country, and independent accounts of what is happening there are incredibly hard to come by. What little is known about the country’s internal affairs indicate the existence of what has been described as a ‘totalitarian state’ that carries out constant surveillance of its people, causing the population to live in constant fear.

Human Rights Watch reports that the abuses committed against the Eritrean people include; “forced labor during conscription, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances. Other abuses include torture, degrading treatment in detention, restrictions on freedoms of expression and movement, and repression of religious freedom”.

There is no freedom of movement, and permits are required for people to move out of their communities. Religious persecution is also rife. The government officially recognises four religions; the Eritrean Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the Lutheran church and Sunni Islam. But followers of all other religious beliefs are subject to harassment by the state and can be subject to arbitrary arrest, which is not a pleasant fate especially considering the appalling conditions reported in Eritrean prisons.

But the main cause of the mass exodus of Eritreans is usually held to be its system of conscription. While many European nations still practice conscription, this is only a few years national service. But Eritrean conscription is in reality a form of slavery; most of the population spends their life on national service with no given end date. A scathing UN report on the subject stated that conscripted Eritreans are subject to “the systematic violation of an array of human rights on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world.”

There seems to be little prospect of the situation in Eritrea changing, the President has explicitly denied democracy will be introduced and in 2014 he stated that “[I]f there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or [a] multiparty system in this country … then that person can think of such things in another world.

International criticism of the Eritrean regime has not been especially forthcoming, if western nations think of the country at all they think in terms of the unwanted asylum seekers it brings to their borders. The European response so far has been to try and stem the flow of asylum seekers by preparing a large aid package to develop the country, and not to try and dismantle the repressive government which is causing the exodus. Meanwhile the tragedy that is the plight of the Eritrean people continues unabated.

This post is written in collaboration with The Richardson Institute.