What the public really think of immigration

Bobby Duffy, MD of the polling organisation Ipsos MORI, is well placed to explain how complex the answers to this question are.

Speaking at a recent Migration Matters Trust roundtable, Duffy noted that immigration is a long-standing concern among the British public. Nevertheless, the issue is surrounded by myths and misconceptions – and people’s attitudes are surprisingly nuanced and flexible.

Asked how many immigrants there are in Britain, respondents guessed more than double the true total – 25% of the population, as opposed to the real figure (from the 2011 census) of 13%.

Asked why they thought immigration was so high, people gave as their top reason the view that those entering the country illegally weren’t being counted. When told the census figure, 46% of respondents said they still believed that immigration was “much higher than 13%”. 56% thought that people coming into the country illegally weren’t being counted.

Those interviewed also had a skewed view of current types of immigration, exaggerating the number of asylum-seekers and consistently underestimating those entering the country for study, work and family reasons.

Beyond these misperceptions, however, the views of the public on immigration are far more nuanced than is usually reported in the press. Only one in five respondents thought that immigration had adversely affected them personally. And while there was a strong majority view that immigration from the EU was bad for the NHS (55% as against 27%), a majority also believed that immigration was good for culture and society in Britain (42-36%) and for Britain’s economy (46-30%).

Overall, there are much more positive attitudes to the immigration of skilled than unskilled workers. For business, the key concern is the ease of visa-free recruitment from across the EU.

Our understanding of these issues is further deepened by a new study looking at attitudes to both immigration and Brexit. Among its startling preliminary conclusions is the fact that, in essence, the system is broken for everyone – a majority of those for and against Brexit think that the British economy is rigged in favour of the rich and powerful, and that life is getting worse. Differences arise over issues such as competition – leavers much more than remainers believe that certain groups are getting preferential treatment.

Finally, attitudes to immigration are strongly differentiated by age. The generation born since 1980 is much less concerned about the issue than older people. This finding is further backed up by an Opinium survey reported in the Guardian, showing that people aged 18 to 34 put immigration at the bottom of their list of priorities for the Brexit negotiations.


Refugee migration, the economic implications

Vaughan Jones reports on a recent study

In the UK, refugees are 18.3 per cent less likely to be in employment than native-born citizens. For EU and non-EU economic migrants, the gap is 4.3 and 8.2 per cent respectively. Refugees from North Africa, the Middle East and other African and Asian countries are less likelyto be employed than economic migrants from the same areas of origin. The level of employment of refugees from the areas where the current crisis is taking place, i.e. North Africa and the Middle East, is  32.5 per cen below that of people born in the UK.

This data is the centrepiece of a short article ‘On the economics and politics of refugee migration 


by distinguished economists Christian Dustmann, Francesco Fasani, Tommaso Frattini, Luigi Minale and Uta Schӧnberg.

Acknowledging the complexity of the current crisis, they recognise that an easy solution is not entirely within the control of the EU. In contrast to the time of the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s, the EU is less engaged in the conflicts that are producing refugees, and the internal political climate is now far less conducive to generosity. 

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NFU responds to Migration Watch on seasonal workers

Commenting on Migration Watch’s report on seasonal workers, NFU Horticulture Board chairperson, Ali Capper, said:

“The NFU is urging government to introduce a substantial trial of a permit scheme to allow workers to pick the UK’s fruit and veg in 2017, a scheme to allow workers to come in and go home again. We have seen a substantial decrease in the number of workers wishing to come here as a result of Brexit - the lower value of the pound makes the UK a less attractive place to work now than for other parts of western Europe. Without seasonal workers fruit and veg will be left to go rotten in the fields.

“Agricultural workers are well paid compared to lots of other practical skilled and semi-skilled jobs. In fact, seasonal workers can earn up to £12 or £15 per hour for harvest work. Workers have good benefits which often include housing and accommodation at well subsidised rates.

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"Open for business, closed to foreigners"

Sir David Warren exposes the economic dangers to the UK of confusing foreign students with migrants

A recent “Times” article, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2016-10-13/news/ministers-hide-report-on-migrant-numbers-dv8dbj7cz#main-container , revealing that only 1% of students break the terms of their visa by overstaying at the end of their course is yet more evidence undermining the assumptions behind government policy in this area.

Since the Coalition Government committed themselves in 2010 to reducing net migration to “tens of thousands”, Ministers have found themselves impaled on a policy impossible to achieve without doing serious damage to the British economy in the process. This is particularly true in the area of international students.

The Government argues that higher education is still high among its priorities. Why, then is it making it harder for universities to recruit foreign students, by insisting on including them in in its target to reduce net migration?

For a time, the Government argued that the aim was simply to maintain as much leverage as possible over overall numbers of people coming into Britain. Its aim is to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. It denied that the intention is to have fewer international students.

Amber Rudd’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month pointed in a very different direction. In suggesting that student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and educational institution, she appeared to be arguing that a way needed to be found to reduce the number of foreign students in Britain – despite the fact that higher education is one of our most successful exports. 

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Student visa numbers

Greg Hurst, The Times' Education Editor, and Richard Ford, The Times' Home Correspondent, investigate the controversy over foreign students in the UK. (£)




The Role of the Private Sector in the Global Refugee Crisis

PwC's Julia Onslow-Cole believes business involvement could help build trust

We are living in times of great geopolitical instability. There are currently more than 65 million displaced people, 90% from poor and middle income countries placing huge burdens on hosting countries. The majority of hosting countries are developing countries and 70-80% of displaced persons are living not in camps but in communities in cities.

We must support hosting countries and countries from where people are leaving. It is laudable that the UK government recently announced millions of pounds to support African countries where high numbers of people are being displaced.

However, we cannot assume that governments will do everything; governments alone will not be able to solve the global refugee crisis - the private sector must do more.

George Soros's recent announcement of a personal donation of $ 550m for Refugee Entrepreneurs and the 50,000 plus volunteers helping in the refugee camps in Greece highlight two examples of support. However, substantial support can come from employers in the private sector.

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James Kirkup on Theresa May's speech

James Kirkup of the Daily Telegraph gives his take on Theresa May's first speech as Prime Minster to Conservative conference. https://t.co/G9RNYQyY7q


Cause for optimism from New York summits

Danny Sriskandarajah reports on migration and refugees summits

I spent last week in New York where world leaders were taking part in not one, but two back-to-back summits on migrants and refugees. The first, hosted by the United Nations, delivered a process that will lead to the adoption of a new global compact on migration in 2018. The second, hosted by President Obama, delivered around $4.5 billion in additional funds for UN appeals and international humanitarian organisations working to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Many people have expressed their disappointment at the outcome of both summits. While I share their frustration in part, I cannot agree that the whole exercise has been a waste of time. Far from it. 

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UN's 1st ever Special Assembly on Refugees & Migrants

Vaughan Jones on the UN's recent deliberations

The United Nations first ever Special Assembly on refugees and migrants was held in New York yesterday 19th September. Whilst many of the planned events by civil society were disrupted by the discovery of explosive devices, leaders of the 197 countries met to endorse a non-binding international agreement on the treatment of those who need international protection or are vulnerable as migrants.

The Assembly was the conclusion of a process initiated by the UN Secretary-General in response to the burgeoning refugee crises on Europe’s borders and in the Pacific and the start of a process leading to a new international compact on refugee and migrants. This will come to another Assembly in two years’ time. 

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Japanese fears over Brexit

Vaughan Jones gives his take on the Japanese response to Brexit

The Japanese government has produced a comprehensive 15-page document outlining its priorities for upcoming negotiations surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the EU; it is a compilation of the specific concerns expressed by Japanese companies in the UK. Japan is an important investor and partner on the world stage. Japanese companies located here have created 440,000 jobs and been crucial to successive governments’ economic strategies especially in areas where industrial regeneration is desperately needed. Japanese commitment to the UK depends on this new UK/EU relationship being conducive to their businesses. A relatively liberal immigration system is key. They want to be sure their companies have access to workers with the necessary skills, there is acceptance of highly skilled professionals in the banking and other sectors and skilled power plant construction workers. This all needs an appropriate visa regime.

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