MigrationWatch: a short history of spin, shoddy statistics and downright dishonesty

MigrationWatch don't 'talk truth to power'. They tell it exactly what it wants to hear: that it's all the fault of the immigrants.

MigrationWatch don’t ‘talk truth to power’. They tell it exactly what it wants to hear: that it’s all the fault of the immigrants

With it being reported yesterday that Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch is to receive a peerage, commentators have been queuing up to praise the man who was ‘brave enough to talk about immigration’ etc etc.

It is, apparently, now a sign of unmitigated courage to talk about something the tabloids never shut up about.

So is MigrationWatch – and by extension Sir Andrew – really a brave vessel for truth telling?

Not really.

Here at Left Foot Forward we’ve taken a brief look back at some of the spin, bad statistics and downright dishonesty that MigrationWatch have deployed over the years.

The Migrationwatch report that was ‘simply wrong’ and a ‘stark misapprehension’

‘Immigrants cost Britain £3,000 a year each’, boomed the Daily Telegraph back in March.

“Immigrants have cost the taxpayer more than £22 million a day since the mid-1990s, totting up a bill of more than £140 billion,” it added.

The ‘findings’, if you could call them that, were from a report by MigrationWatch. The report claimed that a paper by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), which appeared to show that immigration was a net benefit to the UK, actually showed that immigration had cost the British economy hundreds of billions of pounds over 20 years.

The Telegraph had predictably regurgitated a MigrationWatch press release for a story.

The problem was that the MigrationWatch report was based on a ‘stark misapprehension’ and was ‘simply wrong’.

Not my words, but those of one of the authors of the original study on which MigrationWatch had based its findings.

Not understanding the term ‘net contribution’

In 2010, MigrationWatch published a report which argued that the UK’s education budget was being stretched beyond capacity due to migration.

The problem was that MigrationWatch ignored the contribution migrants were making to the public purse through things like income tax. As we noted at the time, the evidence suggests that migrants contribute more in taxes than they consume in public benefits or services.

More recently, a study by University College London found that migrants who have come to the UK since the year 2000 have made a ‘substantial’ contribution to public finances.

Using shoddy data to push an anti-immigrant narrative

In a 2011 report entitled ‘Mass Immigration: Labour’s enduring legacy to Britain’ (and laughably billed as a ‘forensic’ analysis of immigration trends’), MigrationWatch got confused over some fairly simple datasets.

As Ruth Grove-White of the Migrants’ Rights Network pointed out on Left Foot Forward, a graph produced by MigrationWatch, which claimed to represent the ‘Sources of Net Migration’ between 1997 and 2009, appeared to attribute all net migration for this period to non-EU sources. Meanwhile the accompanying text claimed that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of foreign immigrants derived from non-EU sources.

And yet according to the ONS, while in 2009 non-British citizens accounted for 83 per cent of all long-term immigrants to the UK, a third of these migrants were from EU countries.

MigrationWatch also claimed in the same paper that:

“…illegal immigrants could number almost one million.”

This figure was not borne out by independent research from the London School of Economics, which put the figure at approximately 625,000 – too high certainly, but significantly fewer than the MigrationWatch estimate.

Falsely accusing migrants of driving down pay and taking our benefits

In 2013, MigrationWatch published a paper calling on the government to remove the ‘pull’ that attracts immigrants to Britain.

By ‘pull’ they were referring to the UK’s minimum wage and benefits apparently “worth up to five times more than those in Romania and Bulgaria”.

However as was pointed out at the time by Thomas Southern, migrants do not come to the UK for the benefits – nor are they ‘stealing our jobs’. As Southern put it:

“Out of the 2.2 million EU nationals in the UK in 2010, 4.21 per cent claimed working benefits. By contrast, 14.32 per cent of British nationals within the age range were doing the same.”

And to quote economist and head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, Jonathan Portes, on wages, EU migrants “don’t appear to have a negative impact on the employment prospects of natives – several different studies have failed to show any link”:

“However, there is some evidence that migration, while having some positive impact on wages overall, might have a small negative impact for the low-paid. But these impacts appear quite small – other factors, like general labour market developments, or the minimum wage, appear to be considerably more important.”

 

So much for MigrationWatch ‘talking truth to power’.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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