Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lord Carey on Immigration

5live this morning was reporting George Carey's call for more 'Christian' immigrants. A group of MP's has called for a cap on the UK's population of 70 million, thus ensuring that immigration is well and truly on the agenda for the General Election. Carey himself has signed the document, which calls for politicians to engage with what kind of society we'll become with continued high levels of immigration, and sees the popularity of the BNP as a warning sign which mainstream politics is ignoring. Full text here.

Carey is also reported as saying that there should be a preference for 'Christian' immigrants, according to 5live and various bloggers. But I can't find a quoted source for this anywhere: can anyone help?

He was interviewed on the Today programme this morning, clip starts at 2hr 49 mins in. "We welcome everybody, that's always been the general spirit of the UK population", but he does ask - quite reasonably - that people coming to the UK value the same things we value, including democracy, the English language etc.

Interviewer: "You're not suggesting that Christian people should be given extra points...." Carey: "No I'm not saying that".

So Carey isn't actually suggesting Christian immigrants be given preferential treatment. I'm not sure if 5 live, at any stage, clarified how they were reporting Carey's remarks. What he said on the Today programme sounded fairly sensible to me.

Update: Carey on 5 live with Nicky Campbell, "it's values that matter, not beliefs", but it's more likely that people from Christian countries will value what we value. That's probably just a matter of stats: are countries with a Christian background more likely to be liberal democracies than those which don't have one? Colonialism also comes to mind - several non-Christian nations which, when Britannia pulled out, were left with a legacy of democracy, some of which have done better than others. Is a Pakistani Muslim more likely to integrate into UK society than an Iranian?

Some of the key questions seem to be:
1. How many people can the UK sensibly accomodate?
2. What rate of population growth through net migration is the optimum? With an ageing population, we are going to have to rely on immigration to keep a balanced demographic.
3. How do we ensure that new UK citizens are integrated into UK society, rather than ending up in sub-cultural ghettoes? That doesn't mean people losing their own identity, but being Turkish/Jewish/Polish/Muslim/Chinese/etc. within British culture, rather than against it. It's also as much about us and how we relate to immigrants, as much as the migrants themselves.
4. How do we act with compassion towards those who are fleeing unjust treatment?
5. How do 'native' Brits learn from the good things other cultures bring with them? Many other cultures have a lot to teach us about hospitality, respect, family, community etc., and who in their right mind would want to fully integrate into a culture which prizes Big Brother, I'm a Nonentity Get me Out of Here, soft porn pop videos, and rampant materialism?

Carey seems to be dealing with question 3, but the original statement raises much wider issues. It would be a shame if the debate were narrowed down simply to whether immigrants should be Chrisitans or not. That's not the key point.


  1. ""it's values that matter, not beliefs", but it's more likely that people from Christian countries will value what we value."

    Wow, Lord Carey is really drawing a line in the sand between values and beliefs! But you don't get culture without cult.

    I don't see why immigrants should be discriminated against just because of their background. What about their skills? Their circumstances? Who are we to judge which countries 'values' are better than others? Are some immigrants more equal than others? Ah, the joys of ethical relativism...

  2. So what do you do? We could have an open door to everyone, which is completely non-discriminatory. Or we could let nobody in - ditto. But most countries draw a line somewhere: at the moment we import skills from other parts of the world, which raises another ethical issue of whether it's right to leech developing countries of their doctors, dentists (all our local NHS dentists are non-UK nationals) nurses, engineers etc. just because we've run a bit short.

    And we've been here before: Britain has opened up both to members of the Commonwealth, and more recently to EU countries. Both of them are blocks of nations which we had more in common with than others.

    So is Carey just suggesting a new version of what we've been doing for 50 years already?