The Truth about Immigration: Introduction/Key Concepts


4:00 pm - November 23rd 2009

by Unity    


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This is the first of seven (yes, seven!) planned articles looking at the evidence base that lies behind perhaps the most poisonous political issue of the last forty years – immigration.

What I’m going to attempt here is a fairly detailed exploration of the facts of immigration and what the statistical evidence that is available can tell us about its impact on Britain over the last twelve years in particular, although some of the trend data extends back to as early as 1991, providing scope for looking at how a range of different factors over that period of time have impacted on patterns of migration to, from and within the UK.

For reasons of space, if nothing else, these articles are limited in scope. The purpose here is to inform the wider debate and provide a set of platforms and frameworks for ongoing discussion rather than attempt to encompass the totality of the public discourse on immigration. As such, important topics such as crime, social cohesion, multiculturalism and the tensions that exist at the intersection of different cultures brought into close proximity by immigration are likely to arise only tangentially. The aim is here is not to try and sway your opinions towards a specific view of the costs and benefits of immigration but to provide honest, unbiased, information of a kind that should, hopefully, help to arrive at your own, properly informed, position on this issue and the many other complex issue that spin off from it.

As such, comments of the ‘why haven’t you covered…’ variety are likely to get one of two answers, either ‘it’s in one of the upcoming articles’ or ‘that’s an interesting point – why don’t you go and write something about it yourself and link back to here?’. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so I really don’t have the time to go off on tangents or riff on issues that are outside the main scope of this series.

Key Concepts

Before we start on the meat, we need to bottom out a few important concepts that will run through this series and how these differentiate what I’m attempting here from the kind of coverage you’ll often see in the mainstream press, especially the tabloids and mid-market titles, i.e. the Daily Mail and Daily Express.

First, much of the data we’ll be working with relates to net migration, which takes into account the fact that migration is a two-way street. People come, people go and it’s the difference between the numbers going in each direction that matters not just the numbers coming into the UK.

Second, it needs to be understood, when looking at population demographics, that migration is not the same as settlement. Many migrants stay in the UK for only a limited amount of time before returning to country of origin or moving on another country. Even when talking about net migration and population growth it has to be remembered that a sizeable proportion of migrants currently domiciled in the UK will eventually move on elsewhere, taking their families with them.

Third, we’ll be dealing with trends and time-series data not annual figures, unless they can be shown to be linked to specific alteration in immigration policy/practice. The out-of-context use of annual figures and relative statistics is a common feature of coverage that intends to provoke fear and anxiety [to sell newspapers]. Readers are fed a ‘shock’ headline which tell them that something ‘bad’ has gone up this year by a certain (high) percentage without any reference whatsoever the prevailing trend. You’ll most often see this trick pulled by the press when reporting crime statistics, where you’ll be told that; for example, murders have gone up by 10% this year without any reference to the fact this follows a fall of a similar amount the previous year, so the 10% increase only takes you back to where you were two years ago.

Sadly this is a ubiquitous feature of almost all reporting of issues in which statistical evidence is a significant feature, across a broad range of public policy issues.

Reliance on the lump of labour fallacy to paint a negative picture of the impact of, in particular, economic migration is an all too common feature of media coverage of immigration issues and of contemporary political rhetoric of course. The BNP’s hard-line protectionist position on economic migration is predicated entirely on this fallacy as is the ‘British jobs for British people’ line for which Gordon Brown was rightly pilloried. We’ll pick this up fully when we get on to the subject economic migration but there is a need to mindful of the fact that examples of this particular fallacy at work can be readily found across the broad spectrum of issues that make up the wider immigration debate.

In evaluating the impact of immigration on local or regional economies, rather than on the UK as a whole, it has to be remembered that internal migration will also be a significant factor in terms of its impact on demographic changes to local communities and the extent to which this has a knock-on effect on everything from employment to local economies to the provision of local public services. A clear picture of the impact of immigration must necessarily take account of internal population movements where this is relevant to a particular set of local conditions and/or issues.

Finally, one needs to be cautious in drawing inferences about the ethnic origins of migrants from immigration data, which is recorded in terms of nationality and citizenship. South Africa is, for example, one of the main sources of inward migration to the UK from the ‘Old Commonwealth’ of countries granted de facto independence by the 1931 Statute of Westminster, yet one would be unwise to make assumptions about the ethnic origins of migrants from that country on nationality alone as one would when dealing with the inward and outward migration of British citizens.

Where next?

That’s the preamble over and done with.

In article two of the series, which should go out alongside this one, we’ll be looking at the core demographic evidence before moving on to examine the single biggest source of net migration to the UK since 1991 – students.

In article three we’ll be tackling the thorny subject of asylum and placing it in its proper international context before moving swiftly on to cover economic migration in article four.

As a follow-up to article four we’ll then move on, in article five. to look at patterns of internal migration and its relationship to patterns of international migration into the UK’s regions.

Article six will deal with patterns of settlement and citizenship, after which we’ll wrap up the series in article seven by looking at how immigration issues are presented in the press and how this affects public perceptions of migrants and the wider immigration debate. For any BNP supporting trolls looking in, this will be the one with the Daily Mail-bashing in it, so you can feel free to skip the rest as I know that statistics really isn’t your strong suit.

That’s the battle plan for this series; now let’s get on with the show…

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


As such, important topics such as crime, social cohesion, multiculturalism and the tensions that exist at the intersection of different cultures brought into close proximity by immigration are likely to arise only tangentially.

That’s a shame, with respect, as I think these are just as important as the numbers.

UKL:

There is scope for others to fill in the gaps in the main series, not to mention a likelihood of further articles in the future, especially as we get closer to the election.

For now, the need is to bottom out the main demographic evidence before moving on to some of the qualitative consequences of immigration.

“Reliance on the lump of labour fallacy to paint a negative picture of the impact of, in particular, economic migration is an all too common feature of media coverage of immigration issues and of contemporary political rhetoric of course.”

Although, the idea that the influx of millions of EU workers since EU expansionism in 2004 has resulted in an increase in employment opportunities today is quite demonstrably false.

Although, the idea that the influx of millions of EU workers since EU expansionism in 2004 has resulted in an increase in employment opportunities today is quite demonstrably false.

Actually, all its resulted in is people like you talking out of their arses.

Article four covers economic migration properly, but without giving too much away, net migration from the EU after accession (2004-2007) totalled 404,000 for the whole of the enlarged EU, not ‘millions’ and you’ll find some of the other evidence really – and I do mean really – surprising.

[i]Unity – As such, important topics such as crime, social cohesion, multiculturalism and the tensions that exist at the intersection of different cultures brought into close proximity by immigration are likely to arise only tangentially.[/i]

Echoing the initial commenter above, that’s unfortunate because the debate has shifted away from simple economics and having ‘fun with numbers’ to the deeper, societal concerns associated with the demographics transformation now underway in the UK. Even ‘moderate’ restrictionists like Bob Rowthorn who concede the that mass migration may be no worse than ecnomically neutral take the stance they have because of the socio-cultural effects.

[i]… ‘that’s an interesting point – why don’t you go and write something about it yourself and link back to here?’[/i]

I have, but immigration promoters will probably find it far outside theirr comfort zone.

http://majorityrights.com/index.php/weblog/comments/the_immigration_industry_tacks_into_the_wind/

[i]First, much of the data we’ll be working with relates to [b]net migration[/b], which takes into account the fact that migration is a two-way street[/i]

This is true. However a focus on net migration numbers is unhelpful, since it fails to take proper account of the constituent components of the two-way migrant stream in terms of ethnicity, and does not properly identify permanent settlers.

[i]Second, it needs to be understood, when looking at population demographics, that [b]migration is not the same as settlement.[/b][/i]

This is also true. The settlement statistics are far more revealing than the net migration figures. They demonstrate very clearly the demographic transformation that is underway: native Britons are leaving and their places are being taken by migrants from the third world.

However a focus on net migration numbers is unhelpful

Only if you fail to make the distinction between migration and settlement, the latter of which I’ll tackle later in the series.

For all this to make sense, there’s a need to establish that population demographics are dynamic, not static. Once that’s sorted, then I can out settlement and citizenship patterns into their proper context.

One thing I’m trying to put over is that different types of migration have very different impacts and demand very different policy responses.

It’s important also to be clear about the statistical bases from which the various sets of figures are derived.

The net migration figures are based on the International Passenger Survey, in which a very small number of airline passengers are questioned as to their movements. The survey results are then ‘massaged’ by the ONS to form the officially-cited figures for net migration.

The Control of Immigration Statistics report which is updated by the Home Office each quarter counts in every non-EEA arrival given ‘leave to enter’, but notoriously does not count them back out again.

All we know for sure is that in 2008 12.7 million such arrivals were admitted.
Of those 12.7 million, around 675,000 technically fall within the UN definition of migrant. How many of the rest simply disappear after arrival, nobody has the slightest idea, nor is there any reliable data about the numbers admitted through the myriad migrant channels simply stay on after their official stay expires.

You need to be honest and straightforward about the statistical reliability of the claims that you will be making.

8. the a&e charge nurse

[7] “You need to be honest and straightforward about the statistical reliability of the claims that you will be making”.

Yes, an important point, and one that might rather invalidate an otherwise worthwhile exercise – is there a ‘gold standard’ or is the plain fact nobody can really be sure of the true numbers?

Given that immigration has become the battleground for intense cultural conflict who do we trust to capture the data in a non-partizan way?

Forget us about races and colors, we must work more in the race relations and the ethnicity issues which is the most important in this world…no more racism in the world would be the solution…


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