6.7.4.1 Managing Immigration

Immigration is unavoidable.  At a minimum it will include filling skills shortages and, if the country is one of the 142 signatories to the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951, providing asylum for refugees (5.4.7.6).  It is going to increase as a result of economic pressures, including climate change.  It can have broadly positive effects on an economy (3.4.3.3) in the medium term but, especially when large numbers of people are involved, public hostility can be aroused (4.4.5) and there are practical issues to address.

Politicians are responsible for setting an asylum policy that is compatible with the country’s international undertakings and the population’s capacity to assimilate the refugees – taking the rights of current citizens into account.  Asylum-seekers have to be housed immediately, at least on a temporary basis, whilst their requests for asylum are being assessed.  If this results in them ‘jumping the queue’ for social housing, those who would otherwise have been re-housed are understandably upset.  They also need jobs if they are not to need benefits; many are keen to work and, if allowed to, quickly find employment. 

Asylum-seekers need an induction into society.  They may find that it is easiest for them if they settle near to people from the same ethnic group, so that they can receive moral and practical support and can speak the same language.  They need different lengths of time to adjust, but it is preferable that they don’t remain separate from the rest of society for any longer than necessary because that undermines social cohesion (6.6.3.4).  If they are allowed to find work wherever it is available, they will gradually disperse and can be absorbed. 

Security checks are necessary at a country’s borders, or at the borders of the EU’s Schengen Area, so that people who are a threat to national security can be turned back. 

Economic migrants might be deported if they fail to find work soon enough, to prevent them from becoming “an unreasonable burden” on the social assistance system – within 3 months, for example, as catered for in EU directive 2004/38/EC

Arbitrary national targets for immigration are impractical.  Employers should be allowed to fill their vacancies – but local politicians should take account of the availability of public services and accommodation before granting permits for economic expansion, to prevent job-seeking immigrants from overwhelming an area such as Shirebrook in Derbyshire for example, as described in the BBC article Immigration: threat or opportunity.

A system of residence permits, such as that described in the “Guide to French visas and permits,  can enable local government to ensure that incoming economic migrants can support themselves; it would also enable a check to be made that there is adequate housing, infrastructure and public services for them.  The French residence permit (carte de séjour) required for non-EU citizens wishing to stay in France for more than 3 months contains these requirements:

“…you have to go to the local préfecture and apply for a renewable residence permit.  You may have to provide details of your family situation, financial resources, health insurance, proof of your address in France and an employment contract.”

All immigrants create an immediate pressure on public services, as they may need access to medical care and their children need schools.  If the authorities have made insufficient provision for receiving people, it is they who deserve criticism – not the immigrants.

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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6741b.htm