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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Does Europe need to take in huge numbers of immigrants?

European Ministers are discussing a radical suggestion that EU needs to admit more than 75 million immigrants to cope with labour and skills shortages, over the nest 50 years.

The result - it is suggested - could change the face of the continent, leading to more racially mixed societies and a greater cross- fertilisation of ideas.

But could such a plan ever gain public acceptance, given the anti-foreigner sentiment witnessed in a number of European countries this year.

What are the risks of such an approach? Would it better to encourage European families to have more children? Or could mass-immigration encourage a new economic and cultural dynamism?

The Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.



Europe is a funny place to work

SJ, US, but Indian
Europe is a funny place to work. I went to Germany some months ago to work in a leading company as a research scientist. The very first day I was detained and harassed by some police people. The same week I was attacked by skinheads. I left to go to the US to work in another leading company. I found that the atmosphere is completely different. They recognize the talent irrespective of colour and race. No wonder this country is so far ahead.
SJ, US, but Indian

Yes, Europe needs a huge number of immigrant from poor countries to support their labour and skills market.
Mohammd Nazrul Islam, Bangladeshi Canadian

The comments expressed by a large cross-section of people are very interesting. This issue is more about economics perhaps as all of today's issues are. A more competitive Europe requires the right kind of workers soon, which is a fact. Outright transfers of such workers from under-developed countries, which seems to offer the fastest solution is fraught with long term economic problems for the poorer nations and social problems for the host nation.
Jac, Canada


Considering the unemployment levels there are in Europe, surely the answer lies in training the people we have

James, UK
Considering the unemployment levels there are in Europe, surely the answer lies in training the people we have. Britain is already becoming over crowded and it's cities cannot stand any more increase. And after all removing skilled labour from other countries to supplement our own just causes more problems for the country they left.
James, UK

MIKE, UK and others who think us non-white are no good for this country. I have just served 12 years for queen and country with the Royal Air force and now have a successful job in the IT Industry. The reason for my success was due to HARD WORK.
Sunjay Bhogal, London, UK

It's a migratory world, that's how it works. Not through isolation, but cooperation. People have always needed to move around and always will, obviously the more crowded the planet becomes the more people will feel threatened by their territory being encroached upon. But I'm in favour of it, it's natural, history shows us it works.
Chris C, UK

Talent and skill should always be welcomed, be it African, Indian or Korean. It is beneficial to the entire world as such.
R.Jagannathan, India


Immigration has allowed Canadians to develop friendships with different ethnic origins

Usman Bajwa, Canada
Being an immigrant to Canada, now over 27 years ago, I have a strong interest in the subject. Immigration has allowed Canadians to develop friendships with different ethnic origins which allows them to experience other traditions, events, languages, and cultures. Also, immigration has allowed Canada to employ people in menial jobs that average Canadians don't want to do. Furthermore, skilled immigration has and always will fuel the Canadian economy. Without it we would never be able to compete against our southern neighbour.
Usman Bajwa, Canada

Immigrants - why not? They can be potential assets if they have the right skills for the new country.
Lita Irsansaputra, Indonesian in USA

I do not agree that most Asians are uneducated, low skilled and desperate to migrate to European countries. Over the past few years, I have seen an increasing number of people coming from all over Asia to be educated in English in Singapore and Malaysia. Only a minority of these students have plans of moving away from home for good. Even when we work overseas, there will come a day when we return home to our roots. Instead of allowing more immigrants into Europe, why not start training low-skilled workers? Attracting overseas talent is not a solution to the problem in the long term. Our countries need us here to help them too. Would you like it if Europeans started migrating to Asia in huge numbers?
Jennifer, Singapore

Before looking at bringing people into the EU to work, perhaps we need to consider that the EU is not one state which operates under the same laws and has a unified taxation system. Because of this some areas will be targeted more than others leading, perhaps, to ghetto situations. As an ex-patriate British professional engineer, I can say that one of my last choices to relocate would be Britain because of the shabby way professional people are treated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Britain has so much talent that has left its shores. It could do itself an enormous favour by enticing it back again before looking to immigrants to fulfil its needs.
Harry, Germany

Because of lower pay levels and a perceived lower standard of living, the UK is not generally attracting the very best talent coming out of India and other Asian countries. The US and Canada are typically the first choice of destination for the best doctors, engineers and IT professionals. Yes, Britain does need higher quality professionals to fill the void created by the lack of home-grown talent, but not to the detriment of developing nations.
Alex Cutelli, UK


Germany issued 20,000 residency permits to attract immigrants to the country. The offers were not taken up in any great numbers.

Michael Duhig, Germany
The economic imperative of 300,000 IT jobs in the EU unfilled in 2000 due to skills shortages, seems to point out that no amount of immigration alone will meet this need. Recently the government in Germany issued 20,000 residency permits to attract immigrants (they targeted Indian IT personnel) to the country. The offers were not taken up in any great numbers. Why? It was not the country of choice - most Indian IT personnel wished to emigrate to the UK. All EU countries face a shortage of skilled workers in the IT area - the answer is a combination of immigration, training, access to job markets inside an economy and governments that are foresighted enough to recognise the need for a proper living wage as a reward for work undertaken.
Michael Duhig, Germany

Immigration should be closed for the next 3-4 years to let the authorities sort out the current mess and put in place procedures that will provide a quick and fair process for future immigrants. During this time immediately deport anyone who comes in. You've got to be hard to be fair.
Mike, UK


EU should follow the example of USA and Canada where they have a systematic way of inviting immigrants

Divyesh, Tanzania
EU should follow the example of USA and Canada where they have a systematic way of inviting immigrants that can benefit their countries positively with fresh/new skills. As for USA they have the DSV visa lottery systems and as for Canada they have a well-defined straightforward immigration system to allow skilled workers, entrepreneurs and investors, which they run without any bias. This will in turn enhance their economies positively. EU can also follow suit. This will also curb the unnecessary and costly Asylum seekers problems EU faces at present.
Divyesh, Tanzania

I am surprised at the number of Irish who have spoken out against taking immigrants - you would think that a country with their history of emigration would have a lot more sympathy for immigrants.
Neil, Scotland

The topic of racism is one that seems to crop up frequently here. My main concern is that there are a great number of people with racist prejudices in the UK and I worry about their reaction. Too many times have I heard the idiotic chant "they come over here and steal our jobs...". This nearly always comes from people who don't have the nonce to get on and work for themselves. We need to ensure that neither immigrants nor existing citizens can just sit back and be carried along. We need to re-educate the idiots who feel they're losing out and make sure that they have no reason to feel this by removing any loopholes that could be exploited.
Chris, England

Surely there is as big a problem finding people to do LESS-skilled jobs. University entrance has vastly increased in recent years, and many of the unemployed do not seriously consider more menial work. It is a universal (though not publicly acknowledged) truth in the USA that migrant Mexican workers make the South-West tick - and an awful lot of them are illegals. As long as migrant workers are prepared to do more menial jobs (at least at first), then all countries should take in as many of them as possible. Again, America is a prime example of such a policy really working.
Paul, UK


The point is that mass immigration to "make up the right numbers" is not the solution. A long-term plan is needed

Michael, Ireland
We know mass immigration does not work. Saying that we will be importing a certain amount over so many years is sending out the wrong message to the wrong people. I definitely think that developed countries should sponsor underdeveloped nations, which could perhaps have a sort of exchange program of skilled and unskilled workers going both ways. The point is that mass immigration to "make up the right numbers" is not the solution. A long-term plan is needed.
Michael, Ireland

While we still have unemployment in the EU we don't need to make it worse. However, there are still people in Britain for example who will not work. This attitude has to be made unacceptable. I am convinced that unemployment is at the root of society's ills, so I think these people should be hounded INTO work. Countries like Australia take a sensible approach to immigration. They will only accept those who are useful to the economy. That, I think, is a more practical view.
Phoebe, England

How will developing nations ever develop if their best and brightest leave? They will only become poorer. Europe has plenty of people for a small continent, nearly 400 million! And enough unemployment too. Why don't some talented and bright Europeans offer their services to a developing country? This would help bring a better standard of living so that people would not want to go somewhere else for economic reasons.
Richard, US


Europe is allergic to immigrants W

Anil Sharma, USA/India
Europe is allergic to immigrants. Wasn't WWII a costly war precipitated by intolerance? Europe and immigrants should stay away from each other - for their mutual benefit. Frequent anti-immigrant sentiment and the dangerous rise of Neo-Nazism is proof that Europe (at least some parts of it) needs some more quarantine time.
Anil Sharma, USA/India

Encouraging development and democracy in the immigrants' home countries is the better and more appropriate long-term solution. Otherwise how will civilisation develop?
Rich, UK

I don't live in Europe anymore. The continent is too crowded, and I don't think anyone should be encouraged to have more children. Sharp population drops can mess up the status quo in industry (Is this a bad thing? An alternative way of living could be adopted, like a simpler lifestyle), and to fix that problem, I think enough immigration to keep the population only slightly would keep the standard of living where it's at, with improvement in the future for the common folk.
Morgan O'Conner, USA


Apparently most of your respondents have been blinded by racism

Salah, USA
Apparently most of your respondents have been blinded by racism. They fail to see immigrants' success stories such as that of the renowned London heart surgeon Magdi Yaqoub, of Egyptian origin. In the States, foreign workers are fuelling the new hi-tech economy. The EU is simply trying to catch up. If the Europeans don't push their fears, and prejudices aside, they will fall further behind.
Salah, USA

Immigration to developed countries is mostly sapping developing countries of their skilled people.
Garth, Zimbabwe

Welcoming immigrants is a two edged sword. One way it may bring skills which are not sufficient in European Union. But immigrants who are coming to EU cannot change their lifestyles. For example European countries didn't change their way of life in their colonies. Welcoming immigrants and want them to change their way of life is not possible. So why can't you just train your own people? There will be no problems for future generations. Every body gains in long run, if you leave shorter gains.
Srihari, India

Shortage of workers, especially low skilled workers should be seen as a boon and a means to increase automation in our lives. Certainly, robotics and computer science can deal with this today, only, and this situation should provide the motivation for increased investment in this area.
Shyamlal Ghotaklal, USA


If the unemployed people in the country are not skilled enough, I think we should train them up and give them the skills

David, UK
Why do we need to invite more immigrants to the country when we have a moderate level of unemployment in this country at the moment? If the unemployed people in the country are not skilled enough, I think we should train them up and give them the skills.
David, UK

The way to resolve a skills shortage is to introduce extensive training not add even more foreign immigrants to one of the smallest and most crowded places on earth - England being the ultimate destination for the majority of European immigrants .
Kevin, England

It's only fair that the other nations in the EU should take in immigrants and refugees as Britain has. Actually, I think that a certain number of refugees and other immigrants should be a condition for joining the European Union.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK in US

USA is an immigrant country and look at the way it is dominating the world. If Europe wants to compete with the US then it has to add young, skilled immigrant population. Otherwise Europe will be left behind in the global village and US, Japan, China and with grace of God even India will overtake Europe.
Al Kel, USA/India

I seem to remember reading that if you want to live in Sweden you have to learn the language and have a job before you may enter the country. How about we do the same thing.
Shay Doyle, Ireland


Let's face facts, the wealth of Europe is based on the Colonial exploitation of Black and Asian People's natural resources and labour

Akhter Hussain, UK
I am fed up with the racist comments being expressed on this site. Let's face facts, the wealth of Europe is based on the Colonial exploitation of Black and Asian People's natural resources and labour. To start complaining about more immigrants is a bit rich. Your birth rate is falling rapidly and Europe is becoming a continent of old age pensioners. It is only immigrants and asylum seekers whose versatility and willingness to work, that can save your countries from economic annihilation from the tiger economies of Asia.
Akhter Hussain, UK

With a 10-12% unemployment rate in most EU countries, Europe should utilise the present labour skills. Worker retraining and extended careers before eligibility for retirement is a better option. Employers favour immigration because they get younger workers at lower costs. But the longer-run costs of non-assailable minorities are borne by the community. There is much in the business press about workers over forty not being able to find jobs. These people have a thirty-year work life ahead of them. With pensions as stingy as they are in the UK, People need more employment opportunities.
John, USA

Many of the correspondents on this page seem to think that the majority of immigrants are void of skills and can't speak English. But it is also true that many indigenous English people possess limited skills and struggle with the language. There are many immigrants who have achieved great success, through both their diligence and adroitness. Therefore to disparage immigrants is without good reason.
Yilmaz Mamedy, United Kingdom

If immigrants had skills and language competence in English, then great lets encourage them to come. The reality is that the vast majority have little English, low skills and poor educational level. This is not bias it is the facts from the governments own RDP. Most immigrants consume far more in services than they will ever repay.
Justine, UK


Surely the answer is training, and in some cases retraining

John, France
I don't understand - 10% unemployment in France. Somewhere around 5 to 6% in Britain and Germany. Surely the answer is training, and in some cases retraining, the available workforce rather than using the quick fix, bring someone else in to do the job, method.
John, France

What are the interest groups pushing these hair-brained ideas? I think that African and Indian immigration should be channelled to some of the economically prosperous parts of China.
VB, Canada

Skilled people will always have mobility if their skills are valued. That's one of the benefits of the free market. I have no problems at all with encouraging people who do not feel their skills are valued in another country to move to where their skills are justly rewarded.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK


As a so-called Developed nation we should offer these people the opportunity to find success and prosperity here

Dave Jones, UK
By all means let more immigrants into the UK. As a so-called Developed nation we should offer these people the opportunity to find success and prosperity here. However, we must be careful that we avoid the problems that have arisen from allowing asylum seekers relatively free access. By all means allow immigration but let's ensure that new immigrants don't end up living off the welfare state or begging in the streets for the rest of their lives. We should at least ensure that they have a grasp of the English language and some skills. Should learning centres be set up in their own countries to give them a suitable skill set which will be of advantage to the UK if they come here, and of advantage to them and their home country if they decide to stay put?
Dave Jones, UK

Judging by the pay that politicians/lawyers/accountants/city people earn, can we assume there is a skills shortage there also. So why haven't they recruited foreigners to help put more people in these positions. This is just a ploy to keep the money amongst the rich. They do not like to see working class kids who are good with computers earning so much money.
Kieron Kane, Germany

I think Mohansingh from India makes a fair comment. If we need skilled workers why do we not train our own people rather than poach the workers from poorer countries. We should also be making better use of the labour we have - work smarter, not harder.
Rod Maxwell, Scotland


The proper solution is to train our own people to do these jobs, so let's not make the same mistake twice

Paul R, UK
England, for a change, has a lesson the rest of Europe can learn from. We have already forced different races together all over the Commonwealth to solve skills shortages, and whilst it was a well-meant idea at the time I think history has shown that it caused more problems that it solved. The proper solution is to train our own people to do these jobs, so let's not make the same mistake twice.
Paul R, UK

If they have the skills which are in short supply in their country of choice for immigration, then fine, otherwise slam the door firmly shut. It would be better to spend tax payers money on education, the NHS or pensioners instead of handouts to immigrants, who cannot even be bothered to learn the English language.
ND, UK


This will leave only a hollow shell in the developing world, for them to wither away in continuing poverty and deprivation

Mohansingh, India
The affluent west will take the skilled workers, trained by the poorer societies who devote their scarce economic resources to the development of human potential. This will leave only a hollow shell in the developing world, for them to wither away in continuing poverty and deprivation.
Mohansingh, India

The effect of the west taking all the best and brightest from developing countries is a hundred times more detrimental to those countries that the huge debts are. The effect of this brain drain should not be ignored.
Ken, UK

But we don't bring in skilled labour, skilled foreign friends of mine have some difficulty staying here, even though they have support themselves. You only seem to be welcomed into the UK and Eire with open arms if you have no money, no skills and want to be given everything for free. No wonder people get resentful! We should ONLY let in skilled workers.
STB, UK


Beats me why immigrants want to come here. I want to go to Australia!

Mark Holley, Britain
There is an assumption that mass migration could deal with labour shortages, particularly for unskilled jobs. I see no evidence that second generation immigrants fill the unskilled jobs, and therefore further migrants are required to fill these. Immigration can put pressure on infra-structure in overcrowded areas - adds to traffic, housing needs, puts pressure on already over-stretched under-funded social services/teaching/NHS etc, - all of which pressures further degrade the environment.
Clare Thomson,

While the freebies and the benefits are so good here, all Britain is attracting is the type of immigrants with an in-built ethnic resistance to the work-ethic! Asians are world-renowned for their education, motivation, skills and desire to work hard. These are the people that Britain needs.
Sarah, UK

It seems foolish to look at immigration without looking at the issue of emigration. Highly skilled entrepreneurs and technical personnel are being driven away from the UK by stealth taxes such as IR35. It would make sense to look at the cause of skills shortages rather than just trying to fix the inevitable consequences.
Kevin Peacock, England

How about the training the native inhabitants of these countries being a priority? If you improve the unemployment situation, you improve the economic position of your country, thereby encouraging skilled workers from outside to come and find work in your country, instead of no-hopers looking to scrounge a honey pot of benefits.
Alex S, UK


This idea seems to rely on the fact that we have full employment and that our shortage is really that of labour

Kev, UK
This idea seems to rely on the fact that we have full employment and that our shortage is really that of labour. The shortage is, of course, of skill and introducing massive immigration would not necessarily remedy that. Education, specific training and a benefits system which financially encourages people to not become dependent would help move everyone up the skill ladder at least one wrung.
Kev, UK

Viable alternatives need to be explored first like; Outsourcing of work in areas where man-power and skills are required, setting-up shop in countries where there a lot of skilled workers. These would do a lot of good for both parties, e.g. increase interaction, push for better communication facilities and integrate the world into a true 'global village'. Mass immigration is certainly not in the best interests of any country, at least in the long term.
Kiran Annavarapu, USA


Maybe we need to set up skills tests. For example, if they were a skilled dentist, they would get exams to sit before they could practice here

Alex Banks, Wales
Maybe we need to set up skills tests. For example, if they were a skilled dentist, they would get exams to sit before they could practice here. Why not apply this across the board and reject anyone that doesn't come up to scratch? We also need to put the onus on them to really prove that they want to be here by learning our language first. After all, it's the most spoken language in the world, so it can't be that hard to learn. If they can't speak English they should be turned back. With a bit of luck, we could begin to understand them and their cultures better hopefully leading to a more integrated peaceful multi-cultural society.
Alex Banks, Wales

To Tom, UK. They do not want tolerance, they want acceptance. Try using the NHS and you will see that over 60% of doctors are from the Asian community.
John Nevitt, UK

The key word here is "skilled" - most immigrants seem to have no skills whatsoever, not even an ability to speak our language. These are the ones I object to. If someone can bring something of value into the workforce then yes, it would be a good thing.
Tracy, England


There is no doubt that immigrants if chosen for their young age and skills can add to the skill pool of a countries workforce and fill labour deficits

GH, UK
There is no doubt that immigrants if chosen for their young age and skills can add to the skill pool of a countries workforce and fill labour deficits. But immigration to solve a shortage of workers due to the high average age of the population is a short-term solution, the immigrants too will grow old, needing yet more people to support the country. Immigration is not the solution!
GH, UK

EU countries are simply taking the best step forward. At least for African countries. These are characterised by limited technology, gross unemployment and economic problems. It is much better for an individual to have a job even if it pays less than to stay idle and disorderly when there are vacancies elsewhere. It is time we forgot about the existing political boundaries and co-exist at least when it comes to the job market.
Grace Akello, Uganda

It seems that most skill shortages are due to people not wanting to work for low wages, thus encouraging overseas recruitment of a cheap workforce.
Gian Jones, UK


We have had a very tolerant attitude towards immigrants in the past which has lead to huge social unrest

Tom, UK
We have had a very tolerant attitude towards immigrants in the past which has lead to huge social unrest, particularly in the inner cities where crime and poverty are rife. Many who come do not bring any skills that are in short supply here and therefore go straight on to the dole queue. Many others do not speak English fluently and have no wish to improve this, instead hiding away in communities of people from their homeland. There will never be economic equality throughout the World as long as human nature is what it is - competitive. As such we should try to reduce the number of people in this small country and work on getting those who are already here in to work and integrated into one society - not multiple ones.
Tom, UK

More immigrants? What for? How about helping them to develop industry in their countries?
I am an immigrant in the UK, but I came here first to learn, then to work, and I love England. I have stayed here because I like it here, even though the weather is awful.
What annoys me are the people who come to the UK just for benefits. Or those who come here and after thirty years still can't speak English and live exactly the same way they did wherever they came from.
Jose Texidor, UK

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