CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH?: (From left) Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have all been criticised for their stance on immigration
SPARRING BETWEEN Britain’s main political parties is to blame for the anti-immigrant sentiments that are dividing communities in the country, campaigners say.
Their comments follow defence secretary Michael Fallon’s withdrawal of his “careless” warning that some areas of the UK could be “swamped" by immigrants unless changes to European Union movement were made.
The Conservative cabinet minister, who also said that Britons were “under siege”, was criticised by Labour who said his remarks were “desperate". The Liberal Democrats raised concerns that the comments were “not based on facts”.
Senior Labour politician Keith Vaz said: “When discussing immigration, using words like ‘swamping’ are wrong, nasty and inappropriate. Such comments are a result of the current ‘arms race’ to be seen as tough on immigration.
“We need to conduct this serious debate on immigration in a calm and grown up way. Words like ‘swamping’ carry connotations and a tone which is deeply unhelpful and polarising.”
The MP for Leicester East added: “Senior cabinet ministers should do well to fully understand the issues before using words and phrases which do not advance this discussion, and indeed may cause offence and show our country as being intolerant which we are not.”
But community activist and trade union leader Zita Holbourne said both Labour and the Lib Dems, in their pre-election scramble for votes, are “pandering to anti-immigration party UKIP” and are just as guilty of fuelling xenophobic feelings.
She said: “What Fallon said was offensive and it will fuel the hatred and scaremongering and scapegoating that is going on right now. While it is helpful that the other parties are speaking out, we have to remember that they are also part of the problem.
“They supported the Immigration Act, which is being rolled out in stages, and is an offensive, xenophobic piece of law that will create an apartheid state and return us to the days of the ‘no black, no Irish, no dogs.’”
Ruth Grove-White, Policy director of migrant support NGO, Migrant Rights Network, called on politicians to make “sensible and thoughtful” contributions to the immigration debate instead of “careless” statements like Fallon’s.
REMARKS: Michael Fallon
She said: “We were disappointed by Michael Fallon’s comment - which seemed more like a knee jerk reaction, than a sensible and thoughtful contribution to the debate on EU migration.
“All the evidence suggests that EU migrants have made huge contributions in the UK, and politicians will do well to reflect that in their comments, rather than stir up anti-immigrant feelings.”
She added: “Immigration is going to be a big issue in the run-up to the elections, and we think the public deserves to have better evidence, better arguments and a better variety of viewpoints to support debate on what is a really important issue.”
SEPARATING IMMIGRATION FACTS FROM FICTION
Myth: Foreign-born immigrants constitute more than a third of the UK’s population
Fact: Migrants make up 13 per cent of the UK’s total
Myth: Relaxing immigration laws would lead to an influx of immigrants
Fact: It was predicted that hundreds of thousands of Romanian and Bulgarians would come to Britain when labour market restriction were lifted. In reality, only about 7,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians came to work in Britain in the first three months of 2014 compared with the first quarter of 2013
Myth: Migrants are a strain on Britain and are depleting the country’s welfare budget
Fact: A November 2013 study by University College London (UCL) revealed that immigrants are making “substantial" contributions to public finances, and are less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than those born in Britain
Myth: Migrants are stealing our jobs
Fact: Numerous studies have shown that migrants often fill jobs where labour shortages exist and employers have praised them for being “good workers”
Myth: Migrants are causing the collapse of basic services like hospitals and schools
Fact: The Centre for European Policy Studies, one of the most influential thinktanks in Europe, has said studies have not shown a link between immigration and the abuse of social services