A broken immigration 'debate'

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Commenting on the exchanges between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown in the prime ministers' BBC TV debate on 29 April 2010, Simon Barrow, co-director of the thinktank Ekklesia, said:

“The party leaders’ exchange on immigration was a depressing example of the way in which mainstream politicians and much of the media are hyping fears and problems associated with migration – while bypassing the real global challenges, ignoring the human beings involved, and competing with each other in their negative stereotypes. Even the word ‘amnesty’ is now being used pejoratively.

“Migration in and out of Britain has produced huge benefits. We now live in an irreversibly mixed society, and that is exciting as well as challenging. It is something we have to face together, rather than dividing people in terms of ethnicity, and whether they are settled or moving. The genuine problems we need to address are the forces – like war, climate change, human rights abuses, huge inequalities, poverty and joblessness – which force some people to move in chaotic and unmanageable ways. Barriers and barbed wire have no answer to this.

“Special support needs to be given to communities where population transition is putting resources and people under pressure. But anti-immigrant sentiment, hostility rather than hospitality, and the relentless pursuit of ineffective get-tough policies which cause human suffering resolve nothing. They are hopelessly short-sighted.”

“The current ‘immigration debate’ is broken and on the wrong tracks."