How should we talk about immigration?

I’ve never known a time when immigration has dominated the headlines in Britain as much as it currently does. As somebody who has adopted London as my home city over the past quarter of a century, I have to admit to finding this situation bizarre, fascinating, and worrying in equal measure. It is the incredible diversity of London which is one of the reasons why I love this city. I often sit on a tube train and look down the carriage at my fellow passengers – and feel excitement at their diversity. They hail from every corner of the globe. The only other city I’ve come across where I’ve experienced the same level of diversity is New York – and it is probably the only other city that I could imagine making my home.

In all of the discussion about immigration, migration and multi-culturalism that’s going on at the moment, the level of critical thinking and engagement in the complexity of these issues has been pretty poor. People seem entrenched in their viewpoints – and it seems to me – the anti-immigration perspective seems often to get the upper hand (probably through a combination of the success of lobby group Migration Watch and the power of anti-immigration newspapers).

So I’ve found it interesting to read the new publication by British Future called How to Talk about Immigration which provides a sober and thoughtful commentary on the issue. Two things struck me from what it says, in particular:

  • Roughly speaking, you can divide the British population into three groups when it comes to immigration. About a quarter are broadly comfortable with immigration, in that they see it as a good thing. Another quarter (and possibly the ones getting most attention at the moment) are the opposite of this: they see it as generally a bad thing, and want to largely stop it. The third group – roughly half the population – don’t have strong views either way.
  • If you are university educated, live in an ethnically diverse area, and are under 30 you are much more likely to fit into the first group (comfortable with immigration). If you didn’t have higher education, live in an area with few immigrants and are over 65, you are far more likely to be in the second group (uncomfortable with immigration).

The report poses some interesting challenges on how the debate on immigration can be framed. I won’t give any more away – have a read.

In the meantime – we’re thinking about whether it would be helpful for Think Global to engage in the discussion from a global learning perspective. Let me know what you think.

Tom Franklin, Think Global CEO

By Tom Franklin, Think Global CEO

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