Big Debate: Immigration policy

PUBLISHED: 13:08 03 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:44 03 December 2013

Picture: Press Association.

Picture: Press Association.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

This week Paul Oakley, UKIP MEP candidate for London 2014, and John Biggs, London Assembly Member and Labour candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor, debate the government’s policies towards the expected new immigration from Bulgaria and Romania.

John Biggs, London Assembly Member for City and East

A closed door policy to the world would be disastrous to Britain. Too often politicians have used over-simplified stories about immigration, quickly reverting to a message heavily laden with blame and division, spreading fears and based on stereotypes for which little evidence exists.

You need only look at the recent controversy over the government’s “go home” vans. Did they actually make a difference? No. Did they make right-wing Tories feel better and help to further polarise debate on immigration? Without a doubt.

John Biggs, the London Assembly Member for City and EastJohn Biggs, the London Assembly Member for City and East

Of course we must have strict and strong controls on immigration. Our country and its

resources are limited. We cannot just throw open the borders.

But as a country we have chosen to look outwards and we depend for our economy on trade and connections around the world. We should be able to manage a policy on immigration which

encourages people with skills and energy and which also respects family ties.

Paul Oakley, UKIP MEP candidate for London in 2014Paul Oakley, UKIP MEP candidate for London in 2014

The few who wish to take advantage of us with no intention of doing their part shouldn’t be welcomed. But contrary to newspaper headlines they are very few.

When I look around east London I see many people who have come with an ambition to improve their lives and the lives of their families. And who then go on to make a great contribution to our community.

Overall, I think we are “up on the deal”, but we shouldn’t ignore there are challenges – such as school places or the supply of housing, or that some feel left behind by a changing area. We need to meet these challenges.

But when the hate-preaching English Defence League came to our streets people of all colours, races and backgrounds united to oppose them. We showed the strength and resilience of our community.

Immigration is an issue which rightly and understandably concerns people.

But we need a serious debate, not a race to the bottom.

Paul Oakley, UKIP candidate for MEP for London 2014

There are under five weeks to go until every

Romanian and Bulgarian citizen gains unrestricted access to live and work in our country.

The government hasn’t bothered to give an

estimate of the numbers who will come. This might be because they have no idea. Alternatively, they don’t want to alarm us.

Back in 2004 the Labour government said that between 5,000 and 13,000 new immigrants would head to Britain when we opened our doors to Eastern Europe. In fact, 550,000 people from Poland alone had settled here by 2011.

The respected think-tank Migration Watch has calculated that 50,000 people will arrive from these two countries each year.

This is on top of the 503,000 other immigrants that the Office of National Statistics has just

announced came to the UK over the last 12 months.

Even in an economic boom, this would be far too many. In a state of continued economic torpor when housing, jobs and school places are in short supply, the prospect is deeply disturbing.

Redbridge Council’s draft Preventing Homelessness Review 2013 shows a 24 per cent rise in homelessness

between 2010 and 2012 in the area.

The Office of National Statistics recorded 2,600 unemployed

local youths in 2012. And the Local Government Association says that a 20pc increase in Redbridge school places will be needed by 2016.

At the last minute David Cameron has proposed measures to restrict state benefits to the new arrivals. The European Court of Justice will tell him, humiliatingly, that he cannot do this under EU law. And they will be right. It is only when we leave the EU that Britain will regain control over its own borders.

UKIP would love to be proved wrong about the effects of this influx on work, homes and public services.

But fear that we won’t.

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