Immigration: BNP's Green Disguise

By O'Neill, Brendan | New Statesman (1996), August 27, 2007 | Go to article overview

Immigration: BNP's Green Disguise


O'Neill, Brendan, New Statesman (1996)


Opponents of asylum and immigration once talked about "rivers of blood". Now they talk about "tidal waves of concrete". Enoch Powell and other early advocates of shutting Britain's borders argued that too many immigrants would shred our social cohesion. Today's anti-immigrant lobby is more likely to complain about immigrants' carbon footprint and their noxious impact on our green and pleasant land. The close-the-borders brigade has co-opted environmentalist arguments, and it is using them to demand tougher restrictions on the right to asylum in the UK.

One reason why anti-immigrants are wrapping themselves in a pseudo-green cloak is that their old arguments--about Britain being invaded by swan-eating asylum-seekers and migrants--are transparent tosh. On 21 August the Home Office published its Asylum Statistics for the second quarter of 2007. These showed that applications for asylum have fallen. Between April and June this year, there were 4,950 applications, a 13 per cent drop from the first quarter of the year.

There were 10 per cent fewer applications in the second quarter of 2007 than there were in the second quarter of 2006, when 5,495 people applied for asylum. What's more, 2,980 asylum-seekers were deported in the second quarter of 2007. This means that the net number of asylum-seekers added to the population between April and June was a measly 1,970. If this quarterly figure was averaged out over a year, it would add up to roughly 8,000 asylum-seekers--enough to fill eight streets in your average bigcity suburb. Britain swamped by asylum-seekers? Get a grip.

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Asylum applications have fallen steadily over the past decade. In 2006, 23,520 people applied for asylum in the UK, the lowest number since 1997. In the same year, 18,235 failed asylum-seekers were removed from the UK. We are no "soft touch": 80 per cent of applications are refused.

The number of immigrants (rather than asylum-seekers) from eastern Europe continues to rise--but not nearly by as much as the scaremongers predicted. In the first quarter of this year, after Bulgaria and Romania acceded to the European Union, 7,935 of their nationals were granted permission to come to the UK; in the second quarter 9,335 arrived and a further 3,980 were accepted under the seasonal agricultural workers' scheme. It's a far cry from the "flood" of 300,000 predicted by some tabloid (and broadsheet) writers. One reason why the Bulgarian and Romanian numbers remain low is that the government imposed stringent restrictions on who can come from those countries--skilled workers, maybe; low-skilled workers, not so much.

The number of eastern Europeans who have come to the UK since the A8 countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) joined the EU in May 2004 has reached 683,000--the figure that most frightens the anti-immigration lobby. …

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