8 May 2009

Immigration is Not About Economics

Foreword: This is the second time of writing, and in my head it is crap compared to my first go. Note to all: Do not use iGoogle's Blogger gadget to write posts. Grrrrrr. Now how the fuck did I start?!

So the government is now forced to back down over the right for Gurkhas to settle in the UK. People of all political colours meant the government were always onto a loser. Nick Clegg's catchphrase "people who were prepared to die for this country should be allowed to live in this country" summed up the moral position that was taken by the pro-Gurkha-immigrants. The argument about cost lost. So why doesn't this happen over the wider debate over immigration?

The debate over immigration is usually framed in terms of economics. How much will a person benefit the UK? What skills will they bring? How much may it cost the taxpayer? It allows the discussion to be objective, so in these terms a conclusion can always be drawn about an amount that immigration needs to be limited. The debate often sounds like a board meeting about the number of widgets that are needed to ensure the optimum running of a business. Human beings are not widgets.

Lets widgetise the debate over the Gurkhas. The government's proposals allowed for 4,300 widgets, but the Widget Justice Campaign argued it would only allow for 100. But the government said up to 100,000 widgets would need to be allocated for if they had their way, costing £1.5bn, a figure disputed by Joanna Lumley (who I have more than forgiven for her appalling Scottish accent in Lewis on Easter Sunday).

If this wasn't about human beings, the government's case sounds quite reasonable. But it is the moral case that has won the day. Now in this case the campaign was supported by nationalists who felt Gurkhas had earned their right to live in this ONCE PROUD NATION! But again when you start talking about earning the right, the gate is left wide open for inhumane quantifying.

So whenever a big fuss is kicked off about how much immigration can be allowed, can we please remember we are talking about the lives of human beings. Please thankyou cheers.

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