Immigration ought to be understood in the context of global economic injusticeby Rowan Williams / September 18, 2013 / Leave a comment
A parody of the government’s poster campaign targeting illegal immigrants, which “provoked fierce reactions.” (© Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century by Paul Collier (Allen Lane, £20)
In early summer, a poster campaign was launched in London to encourage illicit immigrants to return home. It provoked fierce reactions, not least from those who saw it as colluding with an assumption that immigrants are guilty until proved innocent. Others welcomed it as a move to bring into proper public focus a subject regarded by many as too hot to handle. The whole business made it uncomfortably plain that we are still in a serious corporate muddle on the subject.
Those who—for a wide variety of reasons—find it suits them to keep levels of anxiety about immigration high will regularly accuse the bien-pensant political and intellectual world of suppressing proper critical discussion of the question and thus building up huge reservoirs of resentment and potential discord. Such accusations may reference concerns about the working patterns and possibilities of the indigenous white working class, about the religious and cultural heritage of the United Kingdom, about the alleged drain on public resources constituted by immigrants; they may, at worst, appeal to racism and xenophobia. They may embody suspicions about claims to the right of asylum and perhaps also about the entire language of universal rights over against the particularities of a nation’s needs. But they have in common a vocal conviction that someone is not allowing a proper discussion to be had, and that the real voice of the population on this matter is effectively silenced. And it does not help that the implementation of national policy on immigration is often chaotic and appallingly badly monitored, so that accurate statistical information is hard to find.
Paul Collier, who has written pungently on how to enable the poorer nations of the world to trade their way out of poverty and whose credentials as a serious analyst of global privation are impeccable, offers this book as a contribution to breaking the “taboo,” conscious that what he has to say will not please either left or right in certain respects. As he says, the question is not and never should be whether immigration is a good thing: it happens and will go on happening, and the question is…