I woke today and thought I would write about internet dating when I learnt that in America (where else) a Democratic candidate was using Tinder to access voters, and hopefully persuade them to vote for him. He said he was following the lead of the Labour party in the UK who used this tactic at the last General Election. That was news to me and just a little too silly to reflect on.
I needed a topic with a bit more substance and as always President Trump and EC leadership gave me a way out.
After trying to arrest and repatriate illegal immigrants into the US, President Trump found he was splitting families and detaining minors. He recanted and is back now to something like the Obama policy. EC leaders have a meeting this weekend to get a European policy together with boats, loaded with would be immigrants lined up on the Libyan coast.
There is a very good reason why we should do something to promote immigration and that is compassion. Any immigrants escaping a war zone needs help. If you are a Syrian family or a Palestinian looking to survive you should be welcomed anywhere.
But, immigration is a hugely complex issue and there are at least 3 arguments used to justify restrictions.
First, there is the simple question if the recipient country can absorb more people. There is only so much land and there are limited resources. This is a real consideration in a society that is already stretched. Can the schools manage? Will the health service cope? However, history in the UK suggests that immigrants have in general been a net contributor to the economy. Certainly, there are sectors in the UK that rely on immigrant workers: the NHS and agriculture are two.
Secondly, there is the argument that an influx of immigrants dilutes national identity. Yesterday, I watched an interview with the Hungarian Foreign Minister defending his Government’s new policy to restrict immigration. He argued that Hungary would always be a country for Hungarians. It is important that this argument is always refuted. National identities are forever changing, and the stereotypes modified. All national identities need to change, develop and grow. Appropriate immigration can be the right catalyst. On the other hand, I understand the concern that it doesn’t happen too quickly and is controlled. Over generations this very issue has started wars.
Third, there is the simple issue of racism. The argument, although rarely fully expounded because it is so repugnant, is that we don’t want immigrants because they are the wrong colour, have the wrong sexual orientation or are the wrong religion. I can have no truck with that and I hope you don’t feel I need to explain the awfulness of this white supremacist argument.
EU leaders are meeting this weekend to try and work out their unified policy, but an agreement is looking unlikely. Italy has elected a new government committed to clamping down on immigration. Hungary has built a huge wall on its Southern border and passed new harsh laws. We may not like what they are doing but Italy, like Greece and Hungary is at the front line and getting little support. Italy may have refused to let a ship of immigrants come into an Italian port but few reporting this news add that already this year over 16,000 migrants have landed by sea in Italy.
These arguments are important to me because towards the end of summer, with my move to Ukraine, I will be an immigrant. Ukrainian immigration laws mean that on a simple tourist visa I can stay with Sasha for any 90 days in 180. Simply, if I go there for 3 months I need to come back to the UK for the next three.
The alternative is to acquire a long-term resident’s visa. It is expensive but the only real option. The commitment will be real because the visa will be based on uniting me with my wife. That’s right. Before the visa is issued Sasha and I need to be married.
I have worked and lived overseas for much of my life and I hope each time I have contributed my own little bit to the recipient country. So, I am not going to draw to a conclusion on the wider issues facing Europe, USA and the UK. They have to reach their own decision and so long as there is nothing racist and the focus is on economic viability I will understand.
I hope Ukraine treat me just the same.