Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anthony Browne on immigration

A few years ago, Anthony Browne, an environment editor of the Times, wrote a most interesting article The folly of mass immigration.

Browne's article is a very effective rebuttal of a pro-immigration report, People Flow. He challenges the following four assumptions made in this report:

1) The People Flow report claims that mass immigration is normal. Browne points out that only 3% of people on the planet live outside the land of their birth, and that the current scale of migration from developing countries to the west is historically unprecedented rather than being a normal occurrence.

2) The report assumes that the migration flows which are now taking place cannot be stopped. Browne cites successful immigration restrictions enacted in the US in 1924 and more recently in Denmark and the Netherlands as evidence that migration flows can be deterred.

3) Browne also challenges the assumption that mass immigration is to be mostly regarded as beneficial. He notes that mass immigration adds to overcrowding in European countries and deprives developing countries of much of their educated class (with Africa having lost a third of its professionals to the west).

He points out too that the option of mass emigration can discourage poorer nations from adopting policies designed to create a self-sustaining society and economy. For instance, in 2000 the then president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, was asked how her country planned to feed, clothe, house and employ the many millions being added to the rapidly growing population. She replied: "We'll send them to America."

4) Browne also takes issue with the assumption that immigration is a right of individuals. He believes instead that it's a privilege and that those who profess to believe in democracy ought to allow a population to have democratic control over immigration policy.

Finally, Browne writes at some length on the question of hypocrisy; namely, that it is only Western populations who are expected to give up their own distinct existence through the process of mass migration.

For instance, in 2002, the British government gave full UK passports to 200,000 people living in British overseas territories, such as Montserrat. The inhabitants were allowed to live in Britain, but there was no right for the British to live in the territories.

How was this justified? The foreign office minister stated that giving British citizens the right to live in the territories would "risk fundamentally altering the social, cultural and economic fabric of the territories."

Here is a classic double standard: it's thought wrong for Britons to migrate somewhere and change the "social, cultural and economic fabric" of the host country, but right for the same process to occur within Britain itself.

I've only skimmed the surface of what's in Browne's article; I encourage readers to look through the entire piece.


  1. I reckon we should send all immigrants back where they came from,especially the ones who've stumbled on Australian shores since 1787. That'll fix the immigration problem.

  2. Anonymous, I hope you're not using the Aborigines as a bludgeon to attack Anglo-Australians. That is a longstanding and dishonourable tradition on the Australian left.

  3. Anonymous, the article was referring to the movement of peoples into established societies; not the act of independently starting a society. The magnet for migration in the modern age is societal infrastructure, not the quest for virgin soil as your ironic comparison alludes to.

  4. shane we didn't just "independently start(ing) a society" in the process we also destroyed one.

  5. Twoface, are you willing to be consistent in your attitude?

    It seems that you believe that the arrival of Europeans was a bad thing because of its negative consequences for the existing Aboriginal society and culture.

    But do you also believe that the similar process happening today in Australia (the destruction of an existing white culture and society by mass immigration) is also wrong?

    And what about countries like Denmark or Switzerland, in which Europeans are the indigenous population? Should we feel sympathy for the Danes and Swiss who are resisting mass immigration into their countries?

    You see, it makes no sense to be one of those people who celebrate multiculturalism as being of great benefit, and then to lament the effect of foreign immigration on Aborigines.

    If you are a multiculturalist, then you ought to celebrate the arrival of Europeans in 1788, as having brought cultural richness to a boring monocultural Aboriginal society.

    If, though, you are genuinely someone who supports the maintenance of ethnic and national traditions, then you have to apply this to everyone, including Europeans (and white Australians).

    So which is it?

  6. Another point in favour of limiting immigration is that it may help preserve the ability of countries like the US and Australia to supply food to the rest of the world. There would be mass third world starvation if grain harvests failed in the US, Canada or Australia.

    However, urban immigrants are competing with farmers for arable land, water, pertroleum imports e.t.c at a time when soils, aqaufers and global oil supplies are in decline.

    Immigration to the West won't solve third-world overpopulation but it could harm Western agriculture just as it is becoming more environmentally sustainable

    Geldolf and co don't seem to be worried about this issue though.

  7. Very interesting arguments in your latest reply, Mark. You've inspired me to finish reading your articles on the main site.