Friday, April 15, 2011

Immigration - the thorny question that doesn't get debated

For the last few days the media have been full of David Cameron's comments on immigration and other people's responses, including Vince Cable's.
Sadly, neither the Cameron comments nor the Cable responses have been fully reported by most of the media.  As usual the debate gets lost in sound bites.
There's a real need for debate on the issue.  We had a good, open debate at our party conference what seems like a lifetime ago but it was a drop in the ocean compared to what's needed in the country as a whole.
There's no doubt that some immigrants fit in well to the town or city where they settle, learning the language and the customs, contributing to the community and becoming very much a part of it.  There's also no doubt that some don't learn the language or the customs of the place they live, instead spending their time in a ghetto style existence, surrounded by people who share their language and history, emerging only to visit the supermarket or go to work in some employment which doesn't need anything other than rudimentary English. Sometimes their school aged children become the interpreters for the family and the isolation of the adults is compounded.  The vast majority of immigrants probably fit somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum
So what should we as a country be doing to help people to move towards becoming part of the wider community?  In years gone by we talked of integration, then that became a dirty word and diversity was celebrated.  But neither can work in isolation, surely.  We need to appreciate and learn from and celebrate the diversity while helping people to become fully integrated into a wider community.  That might not be the "right" term to use, but while we argue about the terminology and try to pick holes in sound bites we're risking even more wedges being driven between communities.
Let's be brave enough to debate issues openly, honestly and with sensitivity.  Let's see if we can answer questions about who we want in the country and how many and to do what.  Let's see if we can be honest with ourselves about the impact of our membership of the European Union - the bad as well as the good, because not even the most committed Europhile can claim that everything's perfect.  And let's see if we can come to a conclusion about what's meant by the new buzz phrase "community cohesion" and whether that's what we really  want.
And as part of that open debate I wonder if this post could be the one where anonymous comments aren't made,  but people are willing to show their faces.  Or is that too much to hope for?

1 comment:

Joh Minard said...

I agree with you! What I don't understand is that I pay a licence fee to the BBC to have News reported rather than Tabloid headlines repeated - it's a shame!