The Guardian reports that the British are the only people in Western Europe who want immigration controls at the national rather than the European level, whilst at the same time having little confidence in the UK authorities’ handling of the issue, according to a survey of eight countries.
The poll suggests the British are more anti-immigrant and xenophobic than the rest of Western Europe – preferring a Fortress UK policy, blaming immigrants for unemployment, and split over whether to grant them equal social benefits.
One in five Britons, twice the European average, thought immigration was the most important issue facing the country. Only the Italians came close to sharing that view. While scepticism towards the benefits of immigration grew in all European countries, two out of three Britons, more than in all the other countries surveyed, thought immigration was more of a problem than an opportunity.
The survey of immigration trends by the German-Marshal Fund thinktank www.transatlantictrends.org surveyed opinion in six western European countries – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – as well as the US and Canada.
While 71% of Germans thought their government was doing a good job managing immigration, the same proportion of Britons believed the government was performing poorly.
Britons were uniquely sceptical over EU responsibility for immigration. A majority (53%) wanted the powers kept at the national level, almost double the European average of 28%. Britons believed the number of immigrants in the country was almost triple the actual level (27% compared with 10%).
In the EU, Britain is not part of the passport-free Schengen zone, retaining national border controls, whereas continental Europeans can travel from Poland to Portugal without passport checks.
Under the Lisbon treaty, which came into force this week, the EU will embark on more common immigration and asylum policies, although Britain has negotiated the right to exclude itself.
“There is considerable support in the continental European countries polled for addressing immigration at the European Union level,” said the survey. “A majority in all European countries except the United Kingdom favoured immigration policy decision-making at the EU level.”
Given the impact of the recession on employment in the west over the last year, the pollsters asked whether the crisis meant that immigrants were taking jobs from the native-born.
“Only in the United Kingdom did the majority (54%) agree with this statement,” the survey found. “In all other countries polled, majorities did not think that immigrants take jobs away from the native-born; 53% of the Americans, 67% of the Canadians, and 67% of the Europeans in the sample either strongly or somewhat disagreed that immigrants cost natives their jobs. Other studies suggest that immigrant workers themselves usually belong to the group of workers hardest hit by economic crises.”
On whether immigrants depressed wage rates, only the British and the Spanish agreed they did.
More Britons than anyone else (47% against a 27% European average) wanted to deny legal immigrants equal social benefits; more Britons than anyone else (44% against an average 24%) favoured reinforcing border controls to combat illegal immigration; and fewer Britons than anyone else (28% against a 43% European average) supported legalising the status of illegal immigrants. Source: The Guardian
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