Friday, November 20, 2009

Immigration myths (1): "They All Come Here"

How many people know that Britain is actually 10th in the EU league of immigrants as percentage of national population?

A couple of weeks ago, a member of the audience on BBC Question Time (it was the edition from Weston-super-Mare) said something we've heard time and again: "why do all immigrants come here? Can't other European countries chip in and do their bit to take their share?".

Whichever your views on immigration, statements like the one above need challenging in the strongest, most unequivocal way. Simply, because they are ridiculously false.

Like Unity wrote yesterday, "[i]t’s not racist to talk about, and debate, immigration as long as you’re putting forward an honest and truthful argument". And what good can possibly come from perpetrating myths aimed at reinforcing the BNP-friendly notion of a beleaguered little island with hordes of "enemies at the gates"?

And yet the amount of people who think like the chap on Question Time is spectacular. I will never forget the look of shock in one of my colleagues' eyes when I cracked her the news that both Italy and France are home to a vast number of migrants. And yes, as much as -if not more than- the UK. And if you think responses like "REALLY?" and "IT CAN'T BE" are remarkable, surely the following beats them all: "Yeah, but they all want to come here eventually, don't they?"

So, let's just look at the plain facts.

France. Figures published in 2006 indicate that about 5 million people (8% of the country's population) are foreign born. In metropolitan areas the percentage approaches 17%. And no, they're not just walking through France with their evil sight cast on poor little Blighty. About 6.7 million current French citizens were born from immigrant parents.

Spain. Immigration to Spain since 2000 would have caused the Express and the Daily Mail severe apoplexy. In the last few years, foreign population has gone from just over 900,000 in 2000 to 5,268,000 in 2008. That's over 4m extra people in less than a decade. In the same period, the number of Spanish passports granted to foreign-born residents has gone up by 600%. 12 per cent of residents in Spain were born abroad. These include an estimated 761,000 Brits (according to the UK Foreign Office).

Italy. Similarly to Spain, Italy has attracted an enormous amount of migrants in recent years. Between 2007 and 2008 alone, an estimated 458,000 people moved to Italy. The number of legal immigrants in 2008 totalled 4.5m people (7.5% of the population, around 15% in metropolitan areas), yet it is widely accepted that the real figures are much higher due to a significant number of illegal or non-regularised migrants.

Germany. In 2007, just under 9% of German residents were foreign passport-holders. According to official figures, from 1995 to 2004, about 1,278,000 foreigners obtained German citizenship by naturalization. This means, that about 1.5% of the total German population had been naturalized during that period.

According to the International Migration 2006 UN report, Germany is by far the European country hosting the largest number of immigrants (10.1m), with France second (6.5m), the UK third (5.4m) and Spain fourth (5.2m).

If instead immigrants are viewed as percentage of the whole population, at 8.9% Britain is actually well behind Austria (14.9%), Ireland (13.8), Germany (12.3), Sweden (12.3), Spain (12), the Netherlands (10.5), and France (10.1).

This is not to deny the significant increase in migration to the UK in the last decade. There's no question. However, the phenomenon is perfectly in line with migration patterns across Europe, and the population at large could do with things being put into perspective as opposed to hysterical scaremongering.

But chances are the Sun, the Daily Mail & co will be too busy with their headlines about asylum seekers stealing British swans to mention any of the above.

Also read:
Immigration myths PART TWO.
Immigration myths PART THREE.
Immigration myths PART FOUR.


Simon said...

The figures on Australia add an extra perspective: 19.6% of the population. That's almost as many migrants as us in a far smaller population. Don;t hear them complaining about it...

...actually yeah you do, but not in a 'their stealing our swans' way

Stan Moss said...

The millions of Brits visiting Ibiza, Benidorm and Alicante each year are too busy buying souvenir sombrero hats to take a look around, arent they?

But what I wanted to say is mainly this: every day we hear the case for leaving the EU or stopping EU-immigration. But not once do you hear the same people mentioning the sheer number of Brits moving to other EU country.

It's a one-way immigration issue with them, isn't it? We can go and take other people's land, jobs, services. It's our right. Because we are BRITISH. The others can't.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Great myth debunking Claude, you add to this fine post the fact that, even though the UK is tiny, we are not as overcrowded as people think, coming in 55th out of 200 nations with regards to people per square mile (640 if you want to know) with many nations far in advance of us and considering how small we are, we're doing okay.

Newmania said...

I think you may find this equation handy

Only in line with Europe = Some shite New Labour want to shove down our throats

Its 100% accurate

Neil said...

Following on from DHG's comment, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong all have a higher population density than London (that's *London*, not the UK as a whole) and they also have larger GDP per capita, by some margin.

I can only conclude that these right-wing anti-immigrationists want us to be poor.

[that popping noise you hear is the sound of Tory heads asploding]

Newmania said...

England is already the most crowded country in Europe except Malta ( says migration watch although I think the Netherlands are also more crowded if you only count land area … )England’s population density is 1,010 people per square mile but by 2056 the figure will 1,349 . England comes just under Martinque and above Lebanon at 25th on the most crowded list but if you take a close look with one or two eye popping exceptions we are about as bad as it gets .
Monaco San Marino Jersey Gibraltar Nauru and Tuvalu for example which to your satisfaction push us down six places have a combined population slightly less that that of Croydon . The majority above us are City States not countries and there are only three actual countries in the whole world more densely populated than England today .Bangladesh Taiwan and South Korea Otherwise there is no country above us as large as London and the overwhelming majority smaller than the actual City of Birmingham with under a million
If , more reasonably you compare us with France with a similar population and migration problem there have 289 per square mile .
To try and put it into an overall context the population of the world last year was 6.69 billions and the countries more densely populated than England even including the astonishing Bangladesh have a combined population of about 263 million .3.93% of the world then lives in more crowded conditions than the English and that includes the staggering Bangladesh ( a proverbially wealthy place …)_ Its crowded and set to get much much worse because of immigrants and the high birth rates of migrant communities
Comparisons with Mainland Europe and misleading and of course deliberately so . If you look at a map of the Continent you will notice that there is a distinct lack of sea around these countries 150 and fifty tears ago there was a distinct lack of countries …In Germanys case for example they are host to Turkish and EU migrant Labour which is a quite different phenomenon to that experienced by the post colonial countries . France a more pertinent example has a truly dangerous far right which has polled up to 16%. If you think of the Lib Dems and their role around the country that will give you some idea . The Netherlands is also similar ands Wilders Party took 17.5 % in the EU elections equivalent to the high water mark of French Fascism
With a proper perspective the Britain you effect to despise is remarkably tolerant country which ahs had unwanted and intolerable pressures forced on it by the hold bourgeois internationalists have on the Labour Party a stark contrast with the Labour vote 35% of which name the BNP as their second choice Party.

As I was saying “In line with Europe” is a meaningless phrase only ever used for the purposes f misrepresenting the British position .It is always the recourse of those who hate Nationalism and Nations and the left always have and will not admit to their own agenda whilst busily casting quite unwarranted aspirations at everyone else’s . The Englishman historically looked at the despots of the Continent with disgust and fear and right now nothing is more dangerous than the practice of holding referendums where only the right answer is accepted , that’s Europe for you . I do not wish to be brought into line with Europe any more than Churchill , Wellington or Queen Elizabeth the First did and do not accept any place for Europe as a valid point of comparison in the first place.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Newmania is perpetuating some myths, for some reason and being anti-EU doesn't win an argument by default, a look at blog paints a clear picture as to your politics.

Also, the UK population density is 640 per square mile, which leaves us at 55th, with Holland and Belgium above us and many other nations.

And you also make-up what our population will be in 2056 but you comment has a quote mining feel as if you've cut and pasted it so I'll see if I can find where it is from.

What is it with immigration posts drawing out the odities from the wood work?

Stan Moss said...

Yawn...Newmania you've already spammed a few sites with the same cut & paste stuff...

Quoting migrationwatch is the equivalent of asking steve gerrard to come up with an objective opinion on Merseyside football clubs.

And...also, newmania. If you think European figures are pants by default just because they refer to Europe, then two things:

1) stop flying ryanair/easyjet/etc and just bog off to butlins or pontins;

2) more importantly. Take a look at immigration figures related to New Zealand, Australia and/or the US in the last 10 or 15 years. It'll make the EU look like East Berlin by comparison.

Newmania said...

DHG I was referring to England not the depopulated Mountains of Scotland and Wales both of which arguably need inward migration . England is where the problem is a the suitable point of comparison .If you are happy to include a country with a population of 31,000 in your representation but unhappy with ‘England ’ then I doubt the thick crust of partisan sanctimony will be penetrated by facts .From my perspective and the vast majority you are the nutty messiah .As far as my politics is concerned I am a Conservative .So what, tell me , what do you mean by that ?
Stan I just I just wrote that akshewully .Migration Watch use Government data. While they have been vastly more accurate in extrapolating trends than New Labour the raw material is not dispute. I am not quite sure what you mean here ‘stop flying ryanair/easyjet/etc and just bog off to butlins or pontins;“ Are you under the impression that in order to appreciate Goethe Beethoven Michelangelo'
you must also appreciate Adolf Hitler ( Godwinslaw prize for me please..) ?
Alright take New Zealand, Australia and/or the US . You are not remotely comparing like with like . Population density over the three delightful places you mention is nearly eight times the space per person on average as compared to England. New Zealand ,26 times the space is only a bit over half the size of London in population There is more wilderness in the US than in Africa .Australia (33 times the space ) for example which has similar tax code to this country is a much favoured destination for the beleaguered middling tax payer because housing is so much less of a cost . All are countries created by recent immigration whose settlement rather than stability is their defining character perhaps you have heard of the “Frontier”. people go to become. There is a major exception to that of course , the black population of America . I `m not sure that this has been an entirely trouble free experience , did you notice ?
I notice that the people who publicly cheer on the multicultural revolution rarely send their children to school struggling with eight languages Nor is it edifying that New Labour are quick to run outright racist by elections in Crewe when it suits them . It is all too obvious that the cat really was let out of the bag by Andrew Neather ie that New Labour want to populate the lost South with immigrants (90% of whom vote Labour ) as an act of aggressive settlement .
The rate of change is lunatic .Of the 3,000,000 houses that were at one time to be built 2,000,000 of them according to government figures would be occupied by immigrants yet to arrive (N Somes ;/F Field )

This game of artfully picking a perspective to misrepresent a correctly perceived phenomena and then flinging what are actually class based sneers at the lower orders is New Labour all over.

Newmania said...

And you also make-up what our population will be in 2056

Thats the ONS.. whose projections were widely reported.Yeeesh

Stan Moss said...

I have news for you.

Andrew Neather's alleged "quote" is bollox.

It may have eluded you, but Neather himself said he was misquoted and his words were "twisted out of all recognition".

Look here.

As usual, the tabloids poisoning the well. Neather insisted he never said there was "a plot".

Another instance of tabloids successfully spreading a myth (and some dimwits buying it without questioning a word) and not rectifying it when they're caught red-handed.

As for your obsession with Europe, it's interesting how you're trying to force the equation EU=immigration. As though inward migration started since Maastricht or -even better for you- only under Labour (since 1997). As if migration patterns were a product of "Labour" and "the left".

But if you believe that as well as conspiracies to "engineer multiculturalism", then you'll also probably believe that pigs can fly. In which case then there's little point in continuing this.

Newmania said...

I know what he said and I have seen his hasty retraction. I am capable of drawing a reasonable inference from both . I notice for all your disdain for popular Newspapers you do not question the Guardian , by far the most politically committed of them all
Quite aside from its history as the mouthpiece of the left it relies on Public Sector Appointment ads to survive and as such works for New Labour . The Conservative Party have said they intend to stop this ridiculous distortion …and yet you are happy what you read there is gospel ..Thats sweet

Inward migration has quintupled under New Labour since 97 and largely because of quiet deliberate policy on marriage qualification Eastern European rights and above all the approach to the border. I am not against all immigration 97 levels would be fine . On Europe I am questioning the mis use of Europe as a suitable comparison because the experience of each country is particular and different to ours in general. It is not the main problem in this case . The argument of the post however is familiar from excuse for the imposition of tax regulation and our “Post Democratic age” as Mandy put it
The reason you do not want to continue this conversation is that you correctly detect I know a vast deal more about than you Stan . Wonderful learning tool the interweb isn’t it .

As I have no doubt you will assume I am closet racist, with some misgivings , I am going to mention the fact that I have the mixed race sons and that me and ‘er have been integrating horizontally quite nicely . It may comfort you to paint people who do not agree with you as wild eyed extremists , it is not the case.

Stan Moss said...

I am going to mention the fact that I have the mixed race sons and that me and ‘er have been integrating horizontally quite nicely

Of course. And you also get on alright with that gay bloke at work.

As for Neather. I've linked to the Guardian because that was the first link I could find, but I also watched his interview on Channel Four News last month.

Try again.

But of course you "know a vast deal more", don't you big man?
Washed the car yet this morning?

Neil said...

Loads of cut'n'paste bluster from Newmania, but after all that he fails to refute the fact that greater population density can, and does, go hand in hand with greater wealth.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...


Mania indeed, wow, your posts are a car crash of words and bad ideas, nicely taken down by Stan Moss and Neil.

I love how for a conservative you isolate out England even though as a country it doesn't exist but are no doubt pro-union, so your concepts are as disjointed as your bigotry and writing.

Well done on that front.

The rest of your comments are typical prejudiced trash, littered with quote mining.

But what I'm curious about is how come bigots always find themselves at immigration threads, you'd think they'd be happy using their own little blogs of hate to chat this shit, rather than visiting more intelligent places and getting taken apart.

Oh well.

Haud Yer Wheesht said...

Try telling people who live near the border that Scotland and England don't exist "as a country".

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Don't worry, I'm not but as a device for measuring anything from GDP to migration or levels of unemployment is done with the unit as the UK, whether you believe in the union (I don't) or not.

Aye, but... said...

But the situation is different, Scotland is only part run by Labour now, and the SNP has been more willing to openly call for immigrants to fill certain kinds of job, recession notwithstanding. German dentists have been known to tour the Highlands in mobile surgeries.

Anonymous said...

Good job

Bill Quango MP said...

The problem seems to be statistics.
Nobody cares.

London does not even rank in the top ten largest cities. Its normally around 20th. Often after Paris.
Yet ask any Londoner is London overcrowded and the answer will probably be yes.

Absolubte populations aren't the issue. Overcrowding is the issue.
If the UK has low waiting times for surgeries, access to the school of choice, empty roads,terraces and terraces of affordable housing, under used public transport and millions of jobs waiting to be filled, then if the UK took in 5 million immigrants a year few would care.

On a recent poll on our blog, an economics blog, immigration was the surprise culprit for mistake of the decade. Not banks, not gold, not PFI. Not Iraq.Immigration.
Its all very well to say bigoted right wingers hate immigrants but the question has to be why? Why do people think immigration is such a problem? I believe your figures are correct and you present them well but saying its worse in America doesn't really help.

Philipa said...

I think Newmania raises some very good points. Ad hominem attacks don't really address these points. As for Australia and the US comparison - ask an Australian Aborigine or native American what they think of immigration?

Electro-Kevin said...

People seem to conflate population density and wealth in this thread.

Arguably SOME people get wealthy during times of overcrowding.

Oh, I forgot. We're not overcrowded. I must keep repeating that to myself until I begin to feel better.

Electro-Kevin said...

BQ - Few people hate immigrants. However, it seems that anyone who questions the issue of uncontrolled immigration is smeared as xenophobic by those who wish to stifle the debate. This is where the false impression of widespread racial hatred is created.

Had your poll asked us if we hated immigrants we would have given a resounding 'no'. But that's not what we were asked. Bigotted right wingers in Britain are, in actuality, very few and far between. It's not regarded as cool.

I expect that last comment will cause some consternation on these pages but the fact remains that if tabloid writers and tabloid readers were the racialist bigots that is presumed then the BNP wouldn't be the marginal force that it is and that it will remain.

claude said...

Philipa, Quango and Electro Kevin:

This article was not about analysing whether "overcrowding" is good or bad, or whether the anti-immigration lobby is "racist or not". The word "racist" was not used once by me here. Not once.

If you look at the comments as well, the only person who used it was Newmania. Perhaps to create an aura of victimhood which is so typical of certain political viewpoints.

If anything, I agree with Electro Kevin that "Few people hate immigrants".

Your comments, by the way, EK, don't cause any "consternation". I'm all up for sensible debate as long as it's about facts and not myths.

What this article was about in the first place is the idea that most tabloids (as well as some people) have that all immigrants come to the UK, that Britain's a soft touch and that we are being swamped while other countries don't pull their weight.

That is a lie. Plain and simple. It's false. The figures in this article provide evidence of the sheer ignorance of the falsehood that "they all come here".

It is typical of people who don't travel. Or if they do, they go to an all-Brits residence in Benidorm or Ibiza.

Because if they did look around, especially around the EU, it would take them 5 minutes to twig that immigration is an international phenomenon, from Sweden to Spain, from France to Belgium, through to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. The percentages and the migration patterns are exceptionally similar to those of the UK.

Than, of course, we can discuss whether what is happening is good or bad, atrocious or irrelevant. But let's not cling on to lies. Because they are just not gonna do any good.

Bill Quango says:
"immigration was the surprise culprit for mistake of the decade. "

Susprise culprit? Not at all.

When, for ten years, you have 5 million copies a day of the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Express and the Daily Star publishing massive hysterical headlines (half of them lies) about immigrants cooking swans and eating children, it's no surprise at all. You'd have to be blind to believe otherwise.

If anything, tabloid hysteria goes against those who want a sensible debate on immigration. By turning it into a rabid, delirious issue, the red tops and those who actually believe every word they publish automatically poison the debate.

Electro-Kevin said...

Claude - thanks for the clarification. In my case I was commenting on statements which were made in the thread which followed.

I can assure you that if people didn't have a critical and balanced view of stories about swan eating and cannibalism they would have taken to the streets long ago. As it is the white, right-wing, xenophobic terrorist organisation remains the fiction of BBC directors who seem almost to be willing it into existence.

Happily the BNP remains a loony minority whose AGMs could still be held in a room above a chip shop. Even the Conservatives are by no means assured of the GE and this is despite all which has been published. Compare this to the very real threat that is the right wing in France today - or Germany's history and we are a model of tolerance and independant thought.

You cite the European levels of immigration as a comparison (which opens another sore - that of undemocratic EU convergence.) but we need to ask if their people are happy about it. I'm sure the chap on Question Time would remain disatisfied with your answer - like me he's probably seen his local (mixed race) community transformed into one in which English is not necessarily the primary language.

Have faith in the British public. They are much fairer than you seem to give credit. When we express our misgivings they need to be treated with respect as they are often based in first hand experience. Our greatest concern being that the welfare system skews the demand for immigration by keeping indiginous people out of work - and that it also has a direct appeal to people from around the world.

In conclusion I think it would be fairer and safer if we had a proper points system in place to balance population levels and skills and it is no coincidence - in my opinion - that the Anglophone countries which operate them have avoided the worst effects of the Credit Crunch. I feel that Simon (first comment) misses a vital point in his claim that Australia has 19.6% immigrant population. That 19.6% has passed rigorous admission tests to ensure that it adds economic value to the country - they are probably better skilled and educated than the average Australian.

(I came here via a Newmania post btw.)

Simon said...


I see your point regarding my comment but can I ask how you define 'immigrant'? Not all 19.6% of the immigrants are there by the vetting system to which you refer (which, I concede, is very good) and there are a fair number of refugees in Australia too: though I do not have statistics, one need only look at the furore over the Oceanic Viking interception of Sri Lankan emigrants in November last year to see that it is a bone of contention in Australia. Do refugees count towards your definition?