Douglas Todd: Lessons from U.K. migration debate

posted on November 24, 2014

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Immigration is much more openly discussed in Europe than in Canada.

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Immigration is much more openly discussed in Europe than in Canada.

Yet there are many shared immigration trends between Europe and North America, especially in “gateway” cities such as Toronto, Metro Vancouver and London, England.

While most migration topics barely register in public, media and political discussion in Canada (except temporary foreign workers), polls show immigration has for two years been the No. 1 issue in Britain.

Almost every politician in Britain — of the left, right and centre — now weighs in on migration. One reason is the astonishing rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party, which seeks stricter controls.

The UK Independence Party performed strongly in national elections and scored ahead of both the Conservatives and Labour in the 2014 European elections. On Thursday, UKIP won its second successive byelection, setting off a media storm. Supported by lower-middle and working-class Britons, UKIP is tearing into the ruling Conservative Party and damaging Labour.

Immigration quotas

One of Britain’s foremost experts on migration and ethnicity is an acclaimed Canadian scholar: Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Kaufmann and Gareth Harris produced a 150-page report in September on immigration titled Changing Places, which was unveiled at the British Conservative Party convention.

Since Kaufmann was raised by mixed-race parents in diverse Metro Vancouver, he realizes the value of factual evidence about how countries handle influxes of migrants.

Polls show it is not only a majority of white British, but also a significant majority of second-generation Sikhs, Pakistanis, blacks and other minorities, who want immigration quotas reduced.

Exploring the complex manners in which Britain’s host culture interacts with new arrivals, Kaufmann has found some “white avoidance” of diverse neighbourhoods. He’s also seen “unconscious segregation” by all ethnic groups.

His aim is to pinpoint where immigration policies are failing in Britain and how they can be adjusted to aid integration.

Kaufmann was born in Hong Kong and partly raised in Japan before his parents, Steve Kaufmann and Carmen Villalobos Carn, who worked in the diplomatic corps, moved to Vancouver.

Kaufmann, who plays ice hockey for fun in London, has many cogent views on how Britons’ response to immigration is often mirrored in this West Coast city he considers his home.

Inspired by Albert Hirschman, author of Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Kaufmann finds people may respond to high immigration and ethnic change by fleeing it — moving to more homogeneous neighbourhoods (exit), expressing opposition to it through parties like UKIP (voice), or accommodating it through integration (loyalty).

The Britons most likely to accept high immigration rates, Kaufmann has found, are the highly educated, the well off, those who already live in ethnically diverse urban neighbourhoods, and people in mixed-ethnicity relationships.

It became a big story last year when the census revealed that, between 2001 and 2011, 600,000 white Britons had moved out of London. Who are they and why did they leave?

“While we find little evidence of ‘white flight’ in England, there are powerful unconscious forces preventing whites and minorities from becoming residentially integrated,” Kaufmann says.

His team of researchers discovered “areas with higher initial white British populations tend to attract white residents, while those with significant ethnic minority shares lose them.”

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