Tom Brake MP, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and immigration expert Keith Best were key speakers at a meeting in the House of Commons on 24 November 2009 looking at the social impact of immigration.
"I have been described as the most hated man in England," said Keith Best, chair of Immigration Advisory Service UK, referring to a BNP website as an illustration of the vitriol and confusion which surrounds the immigration debate in Britian.
He compared the UK, where 10 per cent of the population were born overseas, to 12 per cent in the US, 14 per cent in France, 20 per cent in Canada and 25 per cent in Australia, adding that none of those nations are in danger of "immediate social disintegration". Yet the UK has a higher level of negativity to immigration than those other nations.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented that the media had surrendered the debate to the anti-immigration lobby and that the situation was as bad as in the 1960s, with both the centre left and the centre right uniting against immigration. She pushed for serious research into the effects of immigration highlighting changes in the UK since the 1960s.
During a wide-ranging discussion on immigration chaired by Tom Brake MP and organised by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), there were also presentations from Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Mark Brann, the Secretary General of UPF Europe, Baroness Uddin and Seja Majeed. Views from the Pakistani, Afro-Caribbean and Philippine communities were also expressed.
Lord Parekh explored how to frame effective discussion of the immigration issue targeting neither those vehemently for or against immigration, but those who remained to be influenced by accurate and logical debate. He emphasised that the immigrants who came to the UK were mostly resourceful and industrious, contributed £3-4 billion to the UK economy and added to the vitality of its culture.
Mark Brann of UPF said he could see the growing international familial bonds through globalisation, migration and inter-marriage. He emphasised the need for Christians to see Muslim and other faith communities as a positive challenge rather than a threat.
Seja Majeed illustrated the experience of immigrants. She came to the UK at one year old from Iraq via Algeria, became an active volunteer for many years and is now a face of the 'inspired' campaign while studying for her Master's degree and a legal practice course. Despite the dangers, she had returned to Iraq to do a documentary to highlight the humanitarian difficulties of ordinary Iraqis.