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Spotlight on immigration

The UK is one of the most successful multiracial democracies in the world which explains why so many people want to come here. That said, it is Government policy to reduce our immigration numbers but that is easier said than done and those responsible for controlling our borders at airports, ports and rail terminals have an unenviably complex job of making it work.

 137.9 million people arrived in the UK in the year ending March 2018 but that figure has to be carefully analysed. It included British people returning from holidays, as well as Britons resident or working overseas visiting their relatives here. It also included 2.1 million non-Britons visiting their relatives or coming for a holiday. Another 223,839 were coming to study and 162,874 came with work visas.

Total immigration in 2017/18 was 589,000, well in excess of the tens of thousands that is supposed to be Government policy. Recovering control of our borders is one of the main reasons for leaving the EU but Brexit alone will not achieve that objective for several reasons.

The first is the global refugee crisis. Tides of refugees are seeking to escape tyranny, religious persecution and acute poverty, risking their lives crossing into Europe. In 2017-18 a small percentage of them, 33,517, came to Britain seeking asylum. 8,555 were granted asylum or the right to remain for at least five years. The others will be sent back to their home countries where their fate is uncertain. One such family in the news is that of Maqsood Bakhsh and his wife and two sons, who came to Briton in 2012 to escape persecution for their Christian faith. They have been told that they may not remain but the Glasgow church where they have been worshipping is campaigning for them to stay.

The second reason is the need for foreign skilled labour. The BMA is reporting 71% of hospitals have chronic staff shortages and 47% of GP practices are short staffed, creating delays for patients in seeing a doctor. There are also 24,000 nursing posts unfilled. European doctors and nurses are no longer applying for these posts because of Brexit. For similar reasons the Construction industry is also short of skilled surveyors, bricklayers and plasterers. Similarly, the UK food and agriculture sectors are highly dependent on foreign labour and one in three growers were forced to leave crops unharvested because of labour shortages.

One immigration issue that we most certainly need to stop is the ‘tens of thousands’ of people being trafficked into the UK as slaves. The victims are mostly from Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Nigeria. Many are trafficked into Britain to work as prostitutes or in car wash or nail bar jobs. They are often brought into the UK in small harbours and private airfields to avoid detection. 3,800 victims were found in 2016/17and the National Crime Agency say, “The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought.”

Britain is the second most densely populated European country so there is a case for limiting immigration. We see evidence of this in the shortages of homes, class sizes in schools and NHS waiting times. On the other hand there are those labour shortages that need immigrant labour and Christian compassion cannot ignore the needs of genuine refugees. We should remember the compassion of Christ and pray for those with the demanding task of making and administering our immigration policy.

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