How to talk about immigration

Document type
Katwala, Sunder; Ballinger, Steve; Rhodes, Matthew
British Future
Date of publication
3 December 2014
Minority Groups
Social welfare
Material type

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While public arguments about immigration are often polarised between ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ voices, this research shows that most people are somewhere in between. They may be frustrated at how immigration has been managed but they hold pragmatic and nuanced views about it: that migration brings both pressures and benefits, and that it works best when we encourage migrants to become fully part of British society. This pamphlet highlights pro-migration liberals’ tendency to dismiss public concerns as simply based on misconceptions and myths, or to try to ‘change the subject’ away from immigration altogether. It also challenges the migration sceptics to move on from “why can’t we talk about immigration?” to showing whether they have a plan, with constructive answers that can work for Britain today. 

Finding a principled and workable approach to immigration that can secure public consent is challenging – but it is not impossible. How to talk about immigration offers a ten-point policy plan that could go some way to repairing public trust on immigration, while crucially meeting the key public interest tests of competence, fairness, identity and democracy.