Although this country has the third biggest immigrant population in the EU (4,020,800) its unemployment rate is 8.5%. In Germany with 7,185,900 it is only 5.6%.
The immigration policies of the last 10 years have had the greatest effect on students and other immigrants from outside the European Union (EU).
Stringent entry requirements, slow processing and the need to prove sufficient funds are almost impossible for these people to comply with, if they want to settle in the UK.
However, now that the European economic crisis has worsened in countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, the debate about foreigners in the UK has shifted to include immigrants from within the EU as well.
So much so that proposals for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU enjoys a lot of popular support. Many people think that the presence of immigrants affects employment levels, and the economy generally.
Despite this a referendum would be rather pointless – as David Cameron himself has said – because leaving the EU now, when there are established British interests in the whole Eurozone – would be political and economic suicide.
For those in favour of closing borders, a more satisfactory outcome would be a control on entry of citizens from EU member countries, since each state according to the EU agreement, has the freedom to vary their immigration laws with respect to other member countries.
So, when the Home Secretary announced that she was considering creating an action plan to restrict entry of Eurozone citizens in case of a breakup of the common currency, she was not simply engaing in rhetoric. It was made clear that the government would be ready to close the doors to immigration from Europe in the event of a financial collapse.
The Labour Party too has hardened its position on immigration, something rather surprising since the desire to close borders normally originates from the Conservatives, whose leader today is David Cameron.
It was made clear in statements by Ed Milliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party. He regretted that in the past, when his party was in power, it did not do enough to stop the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe at the time those countries joined the EU in 2004.
Milliband has asked the government to impose controls on workers from Croatia when it joins the EU next year. His announcement might be less surprising, were it not for the fact that Milliband is the son of Polish Jews who fled to England during the Nazi holocaust.
Does it affect employment?
Although some political groups and sectors of the population blame the immigrant population for the level of unemployment, which has risen to 8.4%, the truth is that this is not the fundamental reason for the present economic crisis.
There are other more influential factors, such as the slowdown of the economy, which has happened across the whole EU.
Indeed, the unemployment statistics for the last 20 years show that unemployment was highest during the 90’s when it reached 10%. At that time countries including the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Poland, had still not joined the EU.
At the same time, neither do studies on European migration into the UK allow clear conclusions to be reached that would be sufficient to take it for granted that immigration was a threat to the stability of the country.
For example a report by the UK pressure group Migrationwatch UK established a direct relationship between the growing level of unemployment of young British people and increased immigration from Eastern Europe.
According to this group, by the third quarter of 2011, 600,000 new workers had arrived from Poland and Eastern Europe since 2004, while at the same time youth unemployment had risen by almost 450,000.
However the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NIESR) , stated in the Guardian that migration into the UK has had little or no impact on the general level of unemployment, even during the recent recession.
This study contrasted the figures provided by Migrationwatch UK on immigrants from the EU with a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the government on immigration affairs.
NIESR based its study on the number of new National Insurance numbers given to migrants between 2002/3 and 2010/11, comparing the two periods in terms of applications for unemployment benefit. They found no variation sufficient to establish that between the 2 periods unemployment had increased as a result of the arrival of new immigrants.
In attempting to analyze the relation between unemployment and the number of immigrants, and hence determine if the latter affects employment and the economy, it is also important to compare figures here with those from the rest of the EU.
One of the last reports from the European Statistical Office, Eurostat, shows that the EU has the third highest population of migrants (4,020,800) after Germany (7,185,900) and Spain (5,651,000). But while the level of unemployment in Germany is 5.6%, in the UK it is 8.5%. This shows clearly that the number of immigrants in the UK is less, although the unemployment level is greater than in Germany.
So altogether, it is not possible to blame immigrants for the problems of unemployment, it is necessary to take other factors into account which have a greater impact on the functioning of the economy.
Nevertheless, many people have tried to blame them for the present crisis, because they are an easily visible target for British people. And attributing responsibility for the crisis to them is the easiest way to hide the lack of effort by the state itself to improve the economy. Including the mistakes it has made in economic growth, equality and social benefits.
(Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)