Monday, July 31, 2006

Immigration- the cappuccino question

My picture shows a booklet detailing sailings to Southampton
in 1959 from Gdynia, Poland
I was having a cup of coffee this-morning with a Polish friend when he suddenly asked me, "Do you know how many Polish people there are in Southampton?" Well amazingly, I remember watching a news item on the BBc's Politics Show in June where the reporter mentioned that the Council estimated there were 20,000 in the city. My friend went on to say that the Polish community themselves think that the figure could be closer to 50,000. Thats rougly one in ten and an amazing, one in four of the population respectively. -The discrepancy being down to the number of people who only stay a few months, those that share rooms and don't put themselves on the electoral role and those that simply work in the black economy and don't want to be traced. I asked him if he thought that was as high a figure as it was likely to get- "Oh no", he replied, "I think you will continue to see huge increases over the summer, no end in sight yet".
With the average income in Poland £4,000 per year and over 20% unemployment, who can blame them? However, there are some implications for our public services in the city- do we have the right number of say schools and colleges and do they offer the right sort of courses (eg teaching English), can the NHS cope with the additional demands being put upon it and so on.
Another worry I have is that economically the Polish have integrated into the city remarkably smoothly- you don't see many Polish unemployed. But if the Labour market tightens up and interests rates risebegin to see resentment from theindigenouss British population and heightened tension? Amazingly these issues , will we do not seem to be discussed in the media locally at all.


Blogger Praguetory said...

I think the situation with the new EU countries is generally OK. These migrants are not entitled to benefits so their contribution is probably positive. However, those working in the black economy are a problem - which the Labour government ignores.

I think that the UK's wider interests in Europe are benefitting from these migrants as they are learning English and moving the centre of EU gravity away from Franco-German axis. Even after they have gone they and their families will come back as tourists. The carrot of EU membership has been a catalyst for significant positive reforms in these state.

However, the 2008 cases of Bulgaria and Romania are different. These countries are much much poorer than Poland and just as populous. If we repeat the arrangements we made in 2004, the migration flows from these countries to the UK will be a disaster.

We need other EU states to make more progress in opening their borders.

2:48 pm  

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