We Need To Talk About Migration

We need to challenge mainstream negative dialogue around migration argues Dan Silver from One North West.

Dan Silver, One North West

It is very difficult to have a reasonable conversation about migration. The dominant narrative is extremely negative. Polls suggest seventy per cent of people in the UK believe there is too much immigration. However, if you ask people if they have had direct problems  as a result of immigration, this figure plummets to around twenty per cent. We need to change this narrative and show that migration is an essential part of the future. Making migration work is critical to building a dynamic society and economy.

One North West and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration have started this conversation about migration and a paper will be out shortly.

Where is the local evidence?

One major issue that emerged was the absence of local evidence within national policy design and the wider narrative around migration. Local perspectives will allow a more nuanced and effective approach, which can lead to practical solutions for our communities.

If the government is serious about de-centralisation, then local evidence must surely be crucial to migration policy. The Migration Advisory Committee, which provides the evidence that supports government policy, is based upon large quantitative statistics, which can obscure what is happening at a local level. It seems as though local evidence is currently being overlooked.

For example, by 2016 the Government’s new strategy on migration includes an attempt to ‘break the link between employment and long-term settlement’. This neglects the regional dimension and the adverse impact this policy will have.

North/ South divide

The wage threshold of £35,000 is clearly much less common in the North of England. Therefore, many young, skilled and dynamic people will not settle in our region and will re-migrate to the South. This is a problem for the Northern skills base and the long-term viability of the labour market, which has already experienced huge difficulties due to the government’s actions of ‘rebalancing the economy’.

We must be clear about the impact that government policy is having upon our local economies. We must also develop a robust evidence base to drive locally informed policy and contribute towards a more reasonable narrative that challenges often uninformed rhetoric and policy from national government.

An inter-agency approach

Much of this local evidence  can be provided by our rich and diverse voluntary and community sector (VCS), which is often working on the front line with migrant communities. VCS groups have a vast amount of knowledge, experience and insight into the needs and capabilities of our new and emerging communities.

However, the VCS shouldn’t try to do this alone. It needs to be inter-agency and interdisciplinary, bringing together key partners from the public sector, universities and the private sector to develop evidence and fresh policy thinking in order to contribute towards building a more dynamic and resilient society and economy in the North.


Disclaimer: Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of Voice4Change England.

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