Other countries don’t worry this much about immigration – why does Britain?

The government's dishonesty is fueling public anxiety


Britain is leading the world when it comes to immigration-related worry, new polling published today shows.

In Ipsos MORI’s What Worries the World? study, immigration was the most significant worry for British people, with 42 per cent of British people highlighting it as a concern.

That’s a higher rate than any of the other 24 countries polled, including Germany, home to over a million refugees, and Turkey, which has over three million. Overall, immigration doesn’t even appear in the top five issues for concern.


Of course, we shouldn’t dismiss people’s fears about immigration out of hand, or refuse to engage with them. But since Britain does not actually have unusually high immigration levels by European or global standards, we should surely question why people are so disproportionately anxious about it.

Today we’ve learned that the government has tried to suppress information that undermines its outlandish claims about foreign students outstaying their visas.

As the Times reports, ‘official statistics have been used to suggest that tens of thousands of foreign students “vanish” each year after finishing their degrees, but the latest study would suggest that the true figure is 1,500.’

In other words, the government has stoked public concern about a problem that doesn’t actually exist in order to justify extreme, economically destructive policy.

And this isn’t an isolated incident. Look at the Leave campaign’s ludicruous claim that Turkey was on the brink of joining the EU, or Amber Rudd’s decision to embrace David Cameron’s economically and politically incoherent target of net migration in the tens of thousands.

The Tories have fabricated an extreme problem with immigration, feeding public anxiety and distracting attention from their own economic and social failure. And it works: the areas with the highest numbers of Leave voters have very low numbers of immigrants. People voted based on a problem they have been told exists, but that doesn’t significantly affect them.

That said, it may be the case that even with the full facts British people would want a tougher line on immigration. But honesty with the public is a basic requirement of any government, and the sooner this one tells the truth about immigration, the sooner it can take its proper place among voters’ concerns.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

6 Responses to “Other countries don’t worry this much about immigration – why does Britain?”

  1. NHSGP

    Very simple.

    They have a pay before you get services like the health system

    Here we have a free at the point of use system.

    Free movement and free access are incompatible.

    The state spends 12K a year on average per person.

    The public worked out that a min wage earner isn’t covering that cost. They are paying the difference and their services are salami sliced thinner.

    That’s without touching cultural issues, and housing shortages caused by large influxes.

    Even your, “leave voters aren’t affected” argument is bogus. They see what’s happening and don’t want that happening to them.

    They picked the NHS over immigration. You can’t have both

  2. NHSGP

    If you want to be truthful. Put information out there.

    Publish the average cost of a migrant. Here’s some starters.

    NHS insurance 3K per head per year.
    Common goods enjoyed by all, 2.4K
    Schooling 6.5K
    Increase in the pensions debt [working adults] 20K per year.

    It adds up.

    Now publish the average tax generated. If they are young, they earn less. With redistribution those that earn less cost more.

    On education. Are there cherry pickers with PhD’s in cherry picking? No. Lots aren’t qualified.

    You’ll discover most migrants, like most Brits are net consumers.

    What we need is a proper migration policy, and Brexit was required to put that in place.

    1. No criminals.
    2. Net contributors only
    3. No discrimination on grounds of nationality [as there is now], race, colour, gender, reliigion, sexual preference, …

  3. CR

    Because our public services are available to all !!!!

    We need a strong Id system so that non-British citizens are not provided with our benefits without contributing first. And that the NHS charges back to foriegners insurance companies or country of origin.

  4. Imran Khan

    Would you like to comment on the comments Niamh?

  5. Ignore Amber Rudd – British voters welcome foreign students | Left Foot Forward

    […] this week, it was revealed that the Home Office refused to release a report showing that just one per cent of foreign students […]

  6. Michael WALKER

    A five year period before immigrants are entitled to any benefits/NHS would solve voters’ concerns and be fair to taxpayers..

    Until then, the more you complain, the less people will listen.

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