Walaa Idris grew up in Sudan but has lived in London since 1991, where she is a Conservative activist and former ward chairman. She blogs here.
Immigration has always been a lively and controversial topic. Ever since Enoch Powell's infamous "Rivers of blood" speech in 1968, the subject has been made more difficult to discuss in dispassionate terms. In fact, it became a taboo subject. But we must discuss immigration, and it is not racist to want to do so. I caution all parties though to use sensitive and thoughtful language when doing so.
For too long immigration has been used as a crude political football during General Election campaigns. All parties try to outbid each other with stronger and more aggressive language on the subject, and usually in a desperate attempt to win the "popular vote". The danger of this attitude is that it makes the subject emotive, and its appeal is to the voters’ basic instincts. These instincts are usually dangerously flirting with racialist over-tones.
Let me be clear: immigration is a force for good. Our membership of the European Union is as much about immigration as it is about trade. Citizens of the EU are able to move freely from country to country and live, work and vote in countries from which they do not hail. London is the financial centre of the world because of the significant benefits immigrants in the financial services sector have brought with their international business knowledge. But immigration is more than about free trade. It is about a way of life. It is about religion. It is about cultural identity. It is also crucially about national loyalty. This is where the subject becomes more complex.
That said, the host country has the right to attach conditions to entry. It has the right to demand loyalty to national institutions – the rule of law, Parliament, our courts – whilst the right to peaceful protest is also enshrined in British values. But there must also be an acceptance that unlimited numbers of immigrants wanting to come and live in the UK is not acceptable. Just as you limit the number of passengers allowed in a taxi, so too is it essential to limit the number of immigrants wanting to settle here.
This mechanism for control is colour blind. It is about social cohesion and not about pigmentation. All parties can surely agree with that? Conservatives have long believed that we do not have the right to say 'choose our good life'. We have always accepted that each community is internally different. Moreover, Conservatives believe that differences are a cause for celebration. This does not mean that you can operate society at two levels. One law must fit all. One law applies equally to all subjects. If this common belief can be shared by all new arrivals, then Britain's multi-racial future is one that can be the envy of all civilised nations.
With reports that in the last ten years net immigration (that is the difference between those arriving here and those leaving) has averaged 160,000 a year, adding 1.6 million to the population, immigration is a hot potato again. Politicians must look for and find ways to manage the system of immigration in the country, because at this rate a good thing can quickly turn to a major problem. In addition, at the current speed the population of Britain will reach an ‘unsustainable’ 70 million before 2030, with the majority of that increase in England. This rate of increase would be a disaster for immigration and it will not work.
There are three types of immigration:
- Illegal immigration. This needs to be monitored and promptly squeezed out as it will only damage the cohesion and stability of the existing community and offers nothing to the country.
- EU-economic migrants. Contrary to popular belief, these migrants can and should be managed and the net numbers in future can be controlled, but they must be monitored. The Conservative view is to have set limits and targets for any future agreements with Europe. They will also in the future endeavour to relinquish fewer rights to the EU with regard to numbers or targets imposed on the UK.
- Non EU-immigration. These numbers are fully under the control of the UK. Non EU–migration can only be successful and beneficial if managed properly and correctly – and numbers must be capped. The Conservatives have promised a flexible cap – meaning there will be an overall 5-10 years target limit imposed on numbers with a flexible annual limit to fill that quota. This way there is room and flexibility for migration trends without the rigidity of a fixed annual cap alone. The Conservatives have also promised to apply transitional controls as a matter of course.
The contribution migrants make is and has always been visible in every aspect of our daily lives in Britain, and for this to continue our existing immigration policies must be reviewed and reformed. The current limitless open door policy pursued by Labour is damaging and will be disastrous in the long run. It is destructive to our economy, security, cohesion and way of life and it must be carefully and quickly amended.
Before Labour came into power in 1997, the culture of immigration and the attitude of immigrants were totally different than what they are today. The process was more systematic, orderly and watched over. Immigrants arrived in the UK and willingly assimilated themselves; they embraced the culture and became a part of society and their communities.
As far back as the 1950s a lot of settlers from the Caribbean, Asia and other parts of the world made the UK their home. They did not arrive on these shores to divide or disunite us; they came to become one with us. They either already spoke some English or learned it; they lived within communities and became a part of them. That kind of immigration and resettlement carried on until the late 1990s before Labour took office.
The big change in immigration trends and the largest unrestrained influx came after Labour was elected in 1997, when, according to a recent report by former No 10 adviser Andrew Neather:
“the huge increases in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country”.
That irresponsible flood of immigrants into the UK is the main cause of the disharmony we see in some parts of the country today.
It is the reason multiculturalism became a divisive notion that kept people apart rather than united them: under the banner of multiculturalism this Government deliberately segregated groups of immigrants into separate communities where English was not spoken at all and huge resources were diverted into translations, and into sustaining a way of life that is limiting, isolating and uncohesive. This gave rise to identity confusion and the disenchantment of younger generations which, in turn, resulted in an increase in the search for an identity and consequently the birth of radical extremism amongst some groups.
In conclusion; becoming British was the biggest and most important decision I made for my family and I – but it was made with the belief and knowledge that becoming British meant embracing the British way of life with all its diversity, kindness and strong personal liberty; it meant respecting old traditions, the Church, the Monarchy, our Troops and their sacrifices; it also meant speaking up for the good of Britain. Although born Muslim, Christmas has never offended me and I don’t need Sharia Law to feel whole or to protect me. Arabic is a beautiful language but speaking good English has freed and liberated me.
Immigration is good; but only when it is managed, monitored and controlled by the host nation and when the immigrants have fully assimilated to their new home.