Immigration survey by Oxford academics

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The Migration Observatory, a team of academics attached to Oxford University, released a report on Sunday which seeks to uncover the British public’s real opinions on immigration.

The report, “Thinking Behind the Numbers”, is described by the Observatory as “the first systematic analysis of who people in Britain really think of as ‘immigrants’, and of how people’s views differ substantially toward different immigrant groups”.

Based on a survey of 1,000 people questioned in September, the report reveals that “seven in ten people in the UK (69%) support reductions in immigration”, a figure in keeping with previous surveys.

The findings highlight that national preferences for reducing immigration do not focus on the largest groups. Students coming into the UK make up the largest proportion of legal migrants, at 37% of the total immigrants coming into the country in 2009, yet are of the lowest concern to the public.

The report details that, “preferences for reducing immigration are most common where there are more restraints”. The Observatory announced that the “most commonly chosen targets for reductions include asylum seekers (56% of respondents) and low-skilled workers (64% of respondents).”

Dr Scott Blinder, the report’s lead author, comments that, “what this report shows very clearly is that the Government is stuck between a rock and a hard-place”, with the public in favour of reducing the numbers of the groups that the government can do little about.

EU membership and international conventions restrain the government from easily reducing the numbers of either group of immigrants.

The findings indicate that opposition focuses on illegal immigrants, with “a majority of those who wanted to see immigration as a whole reduced felt that reductions should target “only” or “mostly” illegal immigration.” There is also “broad opposition” to unskilled migrant workers, with 64% of the respondents agreeing, compared to only 32% against skilled migrant workers.

Dr Blinder commented saying that, “Blunt questions about whether the British public supports or opposes immigration in general do not capture the complexities of many people’s real views”, asserting that these findings will not give policy makers a real enough understanding of what the majority of the public wants.

The report finds relevance in the University given the number of international students and staff. 40% of the academic staff at Oxford are citizens of foreign countries, whilst over a third of the total student body are not British nationals, including 15% of undergraduates and 61% of graduate students, a total of 8,000 people.

Piotr Galeziak, a history and politics second year, originally from Poland, commented, “We must understand that there is no simple way for a government to limit the numbers or origins of migrants. The solution to the problem is to be found in comprehensive regulations and an education of the English society in the understanding of the potential benefits of immigration.”

He continued, “Having personally spent most of my life as an immigrant, and studied in international milieus such as the European School, or, to a lesser extent, the University of Oxford, I have been able to benefit from the incredible advantages of cultural exchange, but have also been faced with xenophobia, and institutionalized casual racism, promoted even by some major companies in the United Kingdom.

“Immigration can either be succesfully regulated, turning immigrants into tax-payers, or an attempt can be made to cut off the flow of immigrants, which can only result in the increase in illegal migration.”

Douglas Sloan, a second year History and Economics student, criticised the opinions revealed by the study, saying that, “Those surveyed clearly want to see immigrants contributing something meaningful to society. Surely, though, they’ve got to ask themselves if the average Briton would meet those same criteria. When Britain’s underwater in 30 years time do they really want only a few ‘skilled’ Brits to be allowed out?”

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