Geography Compass

A different spin on immigration

By Jenny Lunn

A migrant arrives in the country every minute and the UK population will pass 70 million by 2028. To keep the population of the UK below 70 million, immigration must be reduced by 70%. These are some of the basic facts on immigration in the UK, according to MigrationWatchUK.

Unsurprisingly, immigration is one of the hot topics in the current general election campaign. Each of the parties are trying to ‘talk tough’ with different approaches to tackling it – Labour with a points-based system and an extra charge on visa applications for non-EU migrants, the Conservatives with an annual cap on numbers and a tightening of the student visa system, the Liberal Democrats with the reintroduction of entry and exit checks and a stronger National Border Force.

The political canvassing and media coverage focuses our attention on the domestic aspects of immigration. Similarly, traditional theories of migration concentrate primarily on understanding the situation in destination countries, looking at the socio-economic impacts on a national or local scale. In contrast, Lusis and Bauder’s article in Geography Compass (January 2010) calls for a wider perspective. Rather than concentrating on the domestic impact, they look at transnational scale to consider how socio-economic processes that operate at the global scale also influence the employment trajectories of immigrants.

When we hear the speeches and spin over the coming weeks, which build on a sense of threat and fear that immigration poses to the nation, we would do well to think in a different light. Think about immigration from the immigrant’s point of view. Consider the country they have come from and the economic and educational status they held there. And consider how an immigrant feels when the only employment they can secure is dirty, dangerous or degrading jobs that no one else wants to do. Consider how migrants use networks of co-nationals for advice on finding employment and coping in a different culture. But equally, consider how migrants maintain connections with their home communities.

In reality then, migration is a complex web of transnational interactions. The domestic situation is only part of the picture; a full understanding comes from understanding the various linkages, flows and connections.

Visit the MigrationWatchUK website

Read Lusis and Bauder’s article in Geography Compass

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