6.7.4.1 Managing Immigration

Immigration is unavoidable, but public hostility can be aroused if large numbers of people are involved (4.4.5) and there are practical issues to address.  Three categories of immigration are considered here:

●  Employers need to fill skills shortages.

●  Economic migration is driven by people seeking better lives.  It is going to increase as a result of climate change (3.5.7). 

●  A country which is one of the 142 signatories to the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 has committed to providing asylum for refugees whose lives are in danger (5.4.7.6). 

Checks for all immigrants 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 and to check whether they meet other criteria for admission in accordance with national policies.

Economic migration is the most contentious category because it can be seen as competition for employment, although it can have broadly positive effects on an economy in the medium term (3.4.3.3).  It is possible to try to prevent economic migrants from entering the country, as reported by Reuters for example: Trump says Mexico ‘eventually’ will pay for border wall, or they 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 and it allows 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.”

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. 

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.  Policies for absorbing the immigrants need to be localised to be effective.  Local politicians need to visibly manage the immigration: ensuring that there are adequate public services and infrastructure, and consulting with local community leaders and the immigrants themselves about cultural adaptation.  The problems are radically different in Dover (where refugees might arrive), London (which has a rich history of successfully absorbing immigration) and East Anglia (where immigration is necessary to pick fruit but there is now Fear and anger in once-wealthy town divided by insecurity and immigration).

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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/edition03/6741c.htm