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Thursday, July 15, 2004
When immigration can benefit us all

One of the reasons I find Britain's current immigrant policy so exasperating is not only because I think the numbers of unskilled immigrants who come to our island every year has a damaging effect on race relations, social cohesion and Britain's economy, but because I think the right immigration policy could be greatly beneficial to this country, as well as to the people we would accept. Skilled, educated immigrants could benefit us all by their talents, while coming in small enough numbers as to integrate easily into British society.

With that in mind, I am very pleased to see how many would-be students from the ten new EU member states are expressing a desire to come to Britain to take their degrees. Every one of them who succeeds in doing so increases the competition for places, and at the margins gains a place at the expense of British school leavers who would be better taking vocational courses or entering the workplace. Our universities are then put far more to their proper use - educating those whom a degree will benefit in a course that actually means something - rather than what is increasingly their current use - a means of soaking up youth unemployment. If these students choose to stay in Britain, as some will, this benefits us still further, as they can then put their skills and knowledge to good use in this country, creating more jobs and wealth.

That is the sort of immigration policy we should hope to apply to everyone - a way of enabling and encouraging the brightest and best from all over the world to come to Britain, to assimilate, and to build their lives and careers here. If we had an immigration policy that benefited not only would-be immigrants, but those who already live in Britain generally, we really could have the best of both worlds. What a far cry from our current system.

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