Monday, December 13, 2004

Immigrants and the British

According to the Economist, the British are becoming less sympathetic towards immigrants:

THE British like to think of themselves as rather enlightened when it comes to immigration and race relations. Disputes over headscarves are left to the French. Ghettos, frank discrimination and the nasty notion that Britishness is a white characteristic endure only in coal-stained northern towns, which are stuck in the past in more ways than this. Everywhere else, a multicultural consensus reigns.

It's a view that is becoming hard to sustain. A YouGov poll for The Economist this week finds that 74% of people believe too many immigrants are coming into the country. Londoners, young people and the middle classes can normally be counted on to hold more liberal views, but not, it seems, when it comes to immigration. Their sentiments are virtually identical.

Most damaging for Britain's enlightened self-image, the nation has risen to the top of the European xenophobes' league. A Eurobarometer poll earlier this year found that 41% saw immigration as one of the two biggest problems faced by the nation—16 points more than in any other European country. Forget unemployment, terrorism or crime: the real threat comes from the man with the battered suitcase.

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