The coalition has been under strain this week as UK immigration policies are questioned from both sides. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has called the government’s new campaign to cut the number of immigrants in the country “offensive”, stating that the Lib Dems were not consulted on the scheme before it was brought into action.
The new posters in London boast a slogan which reads ‘Go home or face arrest’, a slogan which Mr Cable calls “stupid”. The Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnston has claimed that the advertising is not racist, calling for more to be done about illegal immigrants.
However, even Boris seemed to be a bit wary of the new marketing, admitting that it could have been more tactful. But this is not just about semantics. The question is to what extent is illegal immigration a problem in the UK?
The worrying thing is that no-one seems to know the answer. The statistics on people entering and leaving the country seem to be somewhat blurred, which is a cause for concern in itself. However, The Guardian published an article actually stating the opposite- that we know more about the figures than we ever have, showing signs that we should be trying to curb immigration.
The article then goes on to say that the flaw comes when we misuse this information, not when collecting the information. This means that, although the collection of data is becoming much better we are still rather missing the point as a country.
Despite other sources claiming varying degrees of discrepancies, in fact the Telegraph suggest the figures could be wrong by up to 50 per cent, the article raises a good point. Perhaps it is not the numbers that we have to look at but what each number actually means for the economy. What are and how do we measure the positive and negative effects of immigration both for the country and the individual? Is it possible to match policy with individual cases? The whole question is undeniably made harder when the immigration in question is illegal.
It is probably true that we need to curb illegal immigration. Mark Reckless MP has suggested that using these adverts will prompt a ‘culture of action’ and it could be argued that this is needed. So far the government has become better at collecting data yet more could be done. In addition, the data collected is often not used effectively.
Surely then we need to tackle these root problems before there can be any real change in the UK. Solving this will help the government see how much of a threat illegal immigration is. Then they can move forward in effectively targeting the problem, working towards policies that are best for the nation and hopefully the immigrant too. If necessary we have to be willing to send people home but as a democracy this should ultimately be through democratic means and effective policies – not offensive posters on the sides of vans.