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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Who is right on immigration?
Immigration and Nationality Directorate offices at Lunar House in Croydon
Labour leader Tony Blair has defended his record on immigration and asylum in his first speech on the issue since the election campaign began.

Speaking in Dover he claimed that the Conservatives are trying to exploit people's fears on immigration and asylum.

Michael Howard has warned that there could be a repeat of the 2001 race riots if people feel that immigration is out of control. And the Lib Dems have called the asylum system a "substantial failure".

What do you think of Tony Blair's speech? Who do you think has the right policy over immigration and asylum? Are politicians right to focus on this issue?

This debate is now closed for polling day. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Ed, Scotland
Should immigration be an election issue?

Sadly, immigrants are being exploited by this county as cheap labour for those who want cheap cleaners, nannies, builders, drivers, carers etc. The fact is many British with families, mortgages etc cannot compete with taking such low wages. There are also millions of economically inactive Britons who want to work, but may not have skills, childminding or are older people where companies would rather take a younger European who they can pay a lot less. We must do more to get these people working before we bring in more people, not leave them to fester on benefits, while businesses grow richer and wages go lower.
Al, UK

The Conservative manifesto is clear enough and not full of fudged half promises. I think that they are right.
J Burdall, Matlock, England

Bringing in loads of immigrants to fill low paying jobs keeps low level wages depressed and makes it more difficult for poorer families to get out of the poverty trap. The beneficiaries of this are big business and shareholders. It is ironic that Labour is harming the group of people it most purports to represent. Unfortunately this fact has been lost on most people. If they realised the long terms consequences then they would vote for the Tory restrictions on this flood of cheap labour
Craig Belfield, Manchester

The one thing people seem to be missing is that if we take all the highly skilled and low skilled people from other countries, how are those countries ever going to get any better? We educate them in our universities and instead of sending them back to help their countries be better places, we let them stay in the UK. We should stop brain draining other countries for our gain.
Elaine, Malaysia

The CBI are the only people to get the issue right, not the politicians. If jobs need filling and there is no-one here to fill them then we need to import labour. The nationalist argument about identity is a red herring, how can a nation with no culture lose its cultural identity?
Adam, Stoke, England

Where are all these hordes of immigrants and asylum seekers? I haven't come across any of them. Perhaps it's a subliminal message about race from the Tories and the other right-wing fringe parties?
David, Colne Valley, West Yorkshire

I am totally against this issue being used as a vote-winning aid
Hannah Clawson, Oxford
I have to confess, that despite being absolutely against those who use and abuse the benefits, I am totally against this issue being used as a vote-winning aid. Yes, there are loopholes. Yes, we must have clearer and stricter guidelines for immigration and asylum. However, do we really want the world to see us as a country that prioritises border control over healthcare and education?
Hannah Clawson, Oxford

I believe the Tories campaign will lead to an increase in racial tension in some communities which really don't need it, as they try to build bridges and relations.
Beverly, Brighton

How can immigration not be an election view when it effects the economy, social life and ethics?
Martin Fox, Tonbridge, England

It isn't racist to raise the issue of immigration, nor is it racist to want tighter immigration controls. However, a large part of the reason it has been raised is because it does appeal to racist people. And people don't listen to reason. The argument that this island is over-crowded doesn't work - if we kick immigrants out the agriculture industry and the NHS will collapse. If we don't accept more immigrants by the time today's workers retire, there won't be enough new workers to support them in their old age.
Andy, Darlington

If you read what each of the parties is actually saying on immigration, they are not that far apart. It's just that Mr Howard is being a bit more honest about it. Genuine asylum seekers are not banned and even economic migrants are not ruled out. It's simply the illegal migrants that will be affected in much the same way they are throughout Europe.
JJ, Surrey

The Tories are running scared and have one desperate policy: asylum seekers. The only good thing about this approach is that the Conservatives, BNP and UKIP will, hopefully, squeeze each other out.
D Mitchell, Edinburgh

There are three issues that are being inappropriately wrapped up together. Firstly - racism is unacceptable and is defined as discrimination purely on the basis of race or colour. Secondly - asylum is acceptable from those countries recognised by the UN as being in breach of Human Rights as regards persecution for "political beliefs". Beyond this it becomes highly subjective. Thirdly - economic migration is desirable under a properly controlled system in which as a nation, we have the right to "cherry pick" the skills we require. All new entrants should have to integrate, conform to our laws (regardless of their prior beliefs or religion) and speak the native language, English.
Shaun Harrison, Nottingham

I have to laugh when I read all the comments about immigrants "having no respect for our culture" and "carrying on as though they were still living in their own country", in the light of a recent report in the Independent newspaper that two-thirds of all Britons living in Spain not only know no Spanish but don't know any Spanish people. Apparently we can behave how we like abroad but God help you if you come into this country and try to retain your own culture. Rank hypocrisy.
Dave, London, UK

The current system we have in place now is good enough
Martin, England
I don't think any of the political parties are right on immigration. The current system we have in place now is good enough. Changes to the system as proposed by the Tories are not required. I am especially against the quota idea. What is required is slightly stricter implementation of the existing immigration policy.
Martin, England

British immigration if quite different from north American in that the Canadian model always respects the diverse backgrounds of all races and ethnicities of people from all over the world. I have been to UK many times and upon comparison with the country where I live in (Canada) I found it to be a big melting pot for future immigrants. Immigrants contribute a lot to a country economic future, so there should be future immigration laws (particularly for asylum seekers) that give them a sense of relief.
Ather, Toronto/Canada

Genuine Asylum Seekers - yes, we should welcome our fair share and encourage other countries in Europe/the world to do the same. Economic migrants - yes, where needed, we should welcome them with open arms but I fail to see how the two Million plus unemployed in this country could not do the vast majority of the lower paid work, why aren't we giving them incentives to get off benefits? We need to take control of our borders again and make sure claims for asylum are processed quickly and anyone failing is deported ASAP.
Richard, Reading

Refugees/asylum seekers are supposed to claim refuge in the first safe country that they reach. We are an island and to be reached these people must pass through many safe countries. It's time this was addressed.
Pauline Yates, Suffolk

Mr Howard has the right approach; I get fed up listening to the other parties knocking the Tories' policy on this. They are not turning away people who can work and pay their way, they have even lifted the figure to 2000 a year, but we have to get rid of those who lurk about this country illegally.
Mrs P Simmonds, Wimborne, Dorset

No party has a sensible policy on how to address this issue
Ian, Bradford, UK
Bradford's Asian population rose 50% between the last two censuses, mainly because of very high birth rate in that community and dependant immigration. Most of the immigrants to this area are unskilled, do not speak English and go straight onto benefits. A large section do not integrate and are replacing the indigenous culture with their own religiously driven culture. No party has a sensible policy on how to address this issue.
Ian, Bradford, UK

To Ian from Bradford: how do you know that Asians in Bradford automatically go onto benefits? What source are you quoting? Do you have any Asian "friends" who you know abuse the system? Do not become a victim of the right wing parties who use this method to create hysteria and hatred towards ethinic minorities.
Imtiaz, Bradford

As a Brit who now lives in New York, I can testify that immigration leads to a vibrant society. In ten to twenty years most European countries won't have a large enough working population to support the welfare state; if the UK continues to welcome committed immigrants, it can only lead to a stronger, wealthier society.
Aaron, New York, USA

What Howard is doing is allowing all the closet racists to voice their view and pretend it is respectable. Some of the facts on here, like the comment we spend 2.5billion on AIDS treatment for foreigners, are made up by groups like the BNP to scare people.
Richard, Australia

Immigration is a solid boost to the economy and should continue apace
Harvey, London
Immigration is excellent and a solid boost to the economy and should continue apace. The granting of political asylum just encourages tin pot dictators and should be stopped immediately - citizens must understand they have to fight and die for their rights, not just run away.
Harvey, London

Normally, I am opposed to what the BNP says, but it seems to me that the mainstream parties decide their immigration policy according to what is best for the short-term needs of big business. Perhaps if a party other than the BNP were to formulate policy based on the country's long-term economic needs and what is necessary to protect our culture, I would be happier.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK

The majority of immigrants do bring benefits to the UK. However it is the fact that so many people who immigrate to the UK retain their original nationality, despite having British citizenship, that creates a lot of bad feeling. If people choose to become a British citizen, surely they should also become a Brit.
Mark, England

I would not vote Conservative at all as I would not like to see Michel Howard rewarded for his anti-immigration policies. England's only culture is that we can use other cultures to our advantage. Many of the people who say things about this issue have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
James, Birmingham

If you Brits figure out something workable, send us the blueprints because nobody in my country has the slightest idea of how many illegals we currently have. All we know is that we get millions of new illegals every year.
Richard Sittema, Dallas, Texas

Like most pro-immigrationists, Tony Blair's addiction to immigration is motivated by thinly-veiled materialism, the ability to get work done a bit cheaper, to keep the economy going without having to spend money on training native British workers. It is a cynical, short-term policy. This country is now overwhelmed by the sheer scale of immigration it has experienced in the last seven years. I would like to see all cultures flourishing wherever they are. Ours is not. It is going under.
S Grey, London, UK

Asylum seekers left their countries because they had to
Hanna, North London
Asylum seekers left their countries because they had to. They are separated from their family and children because they are in fear for their live. Why don't you politicians tell the truth about asylum and treat them with respect and dignity?
Hanna, North London

What I find particularly frustrating is that whenever immigration is discussed in Westminster, no one makes reference to what the desired population count of the United Kingdom should be. It is clear that most of the British public feel that the UK is an overcrowded island and that something must be done so that the population count is actively managed and all may enjoy an improved quality of life where the public services can cater for everyone. That is not the situation at present.
Paul S Johnson, UK

I really resent the woolly liberal left accusing anyone who raises immigration and asylum as issues of being racist. Britain does need immigration, no doubts about it and Britain should always accept genuine refugees. However, there should be more (some) control over the system so we know who is coming into the country etc. Michael Howard is not racist for putting the issue into the spotlight.
Tony Nuttall, Manchester

Immigration cannot be sustained indefinitely
Ferrand, Ludlow, UK
Away from the hustings there is much talk of sustainability. The long term sustainable population of these islands is probably of the order of 30-40bn. Increased immigration puts pressure on all resources, and would be less necessary if the UK productivity was brought up to [say] French standards. Immigration cannot be sustained indefinitely, else the life of many will increasingly be as Hobbes described it poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Ferrand, Ludlow, UK

Howard has got it right on immigration. We need to get it under control and be more selective
Elaine Iffland, Bristol

This smacks of the way Nazism took off in the early 30's in Germany. Focus on minority groups, isolate them and target the way they are affecting the quality of our lives. It's a dirty, nasty way of gaining votes, preying on people's fears.
Martin Williams, Barry, Wales

I am appalled and embarrassed by people spouting off about how "Britain is full". Bearing in mind that the UK birth rate is currently too low to maintain our population, we need immigration to keep going.
Adam Drummond, Rutland, UK

We are a small, overcrowded island. We already have more than enough people, and I don't think anymore should be allowed in whatsoever. If immigration was all I cared about, I would vote for the UKIP.
Norman, Birmingham

A bit more common sense and little less racism is called for in this debate if Britain is to maintain a decent economy
Graham Smith, London, UK
People keep talking about only permitting skilled workers to enter Britain. What a nonsensical idea. Who are the ones who are going to do the 'unskilled' jobs that the British refuse to do? I have no intention of sending my cleaner 'back home'. A bit more common sense and little less racism is called for in this debate if Britain is to maintain a decent economy.
Graham Smith, London, UK

I've decided that since I can't beat the system, I'm going to join it. When I leave this hysterical, over-reactive mess of a society behind for more sensible climes, I will just be relieved that instead of feeling a stranger in my own country, I can adapt to another country's culture (with a society who can hold a reasonable debate hopefully) and finally get some peace. I stress adapt, because in my experience, not a lot of immigrants these days feel the need to do so, hence the problem in the first place. Mind you, knowing how tough other country's systems are, I may very well be stuck here with the liberal fascists.
Anon, UK

I back Mr Howard. We must restrict immigration and send back all illegal ones as soon as possible.
A Southall, Solihull, United Kingdom

Isn't the EU in charge of immigration into the EU? The treaty of Amsterdam gave the EU the right to decide which immigrants or asylum seekers can be permitted to stay in the EU, in order to prevent immigrants applying to another European state after they had been rejected from the first state they applied to. If they are granted permission to stay they are then allowed to live anywhere within the EU. Therefore the Conservatives cannot control immigration into the UK.
James, Leeds

Response to Edward Lyons: As an ex-South African, now a British Citizen I can say from first hand experience that the number on Brits that emigrated to South Africa when I was a child absolutely dwarfs the number of South Africans that have emigrated back here. Do some research before spouting off.
Mark Ferguson, Reading, UK

How can someone be a "failed" asylum seeker and it not be safe to return them to their home country? This is crass stupidity of the highest degree. If they are at risk, their claim for asylum is valid. Which idiot invented this ridiculous state for a person to be in?
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Because I'm a foreigner I had to work harder than my British colleagues
Anca, Crewe
I am a Railways Engineer and I've been working in the UK for the last 4 years. Because I'm a foreigner I had to work harder than my British colleagues. For them, being born in this country made all the difference. I wonder how the British people moving abroad expect to be treated by the locals ?
Anca, Crewe

The immigrants and asylum seekers who enter this country are being used by Mr Howard as a scapegoat for the problems with the British economy. No matter that it was his Conservative government's system of free-market anarchy that provoked the hostile economic climate that we live in. We should be focused on how the politicians, not the immigrants, are ruining this country.
Andy, UK

At least Howard should be applauded for daring to raise the subject - there is no dithering like Blair who has no idea on how many failed asylum seekers there are. Also, there is good reasoning - if immigration and asylum are controlled, what is there to criticize?
Mark, Chester

I am an undergraduate engineering degree student in England. I am Nigerian. Here is my take: there should be controlled immigration into your country. There is no one perfect system. Immigrants bring benefits to the UK but some imperfections may also exist. However, I feel the stance of the Conservatives feels more racist against all ethnic minorities than really about controlling immigration. The way forward then is to relax and live peacefully with one another - just make the most of your life while making your country and mankind proud!
David Ilonze, Birmingham

I accept immigration to a level but not when they flood into my country
Keith Clarke, Poole, Dorset
I accept immigration to a level but not when they flood into my country with no respect to our culture and carry on as though they were still living in there own country. If they want to live in Britain then adapt to our way of life and stop destroying the meaning of being British.
Keith Clarke, Poole, Dorset

The present immigration system is not right. I have been in this country for the past 12 years, working in the NHS as a nurse. I have no criminal record, and would like to settle in this country and contribute to the economy. I am treated as an illegal immigrant waiting for the Home Office to decide on my appeal application with my daughter. How can the present system be fair? They want nurses, I have been in this country for 12 years, and am told to go back to Zimbabwe. I feel like a prisoner as I have not travelled outside this country since. How can it be fair?
Judith, London UK

With Home office figures estimating that 750,000 people are illegally in this country, I do think it's time we started to restrict entry. Or at least ensured those who shouldn't be here, left. With that in mind the only party to have hit the nail on the head are (yet again) the Conservatives.
Glen, Welling, UK

I think Mr Howard is right. When we emigrated to Canada in l968 we had to first have a medical. If we hadn't passed it we would have been refused. Next my husband was granted points as to his skills. He has been a printer all his life but they didn't want printers and as he had sales skills and that's what they wanted at that time we were able to go. My daughter was born in Canada but we still had to reapply even though we lived there from l957 to l962.
S Himus, Beckenham

Isn't it time we stopped stealing all the skilled workers from third-world countries and stick to taking asylum-seekers who are genuinely in need?
Joe Chick, Ipswich, UK

Michael Howard is playing with people's lives with this sensationalist approach to asylum seekers and immigrants. He cannot accept that his speeches are used as an excuse for racist behaviour, even if he isn't racist himself. I have seen him ignoring points from ethnic minority people who get abused in the street because other people think they are here to sponge off our benefits system. If you pay tax you are just as much of a British citizen as I am.
Cat, Cambridge UK

Why is it that when the issue of immigration is raised, those who raise it are accused of playing the race card? This is the problem with people who consider themselves liberal and politically correct - they espouse values such as inclusivity and free speech, but when a taboo subject is raised, such as immigration and asylum, free speech goes straight out of the window.
Anon, Reading

Those who are genuinely in need of rescue should be offered our support
Nick Payne, Alcester
I have no problem with asylum seekers. Those who are genuinely in need of rescue should by all means be offered our support. We should invest in these people and existing unskilled people in the populace to fill gaps in the job market. That way, we won't have to rely so hard on economic migration. But we should not tolerate wide scale abuse of asylum. If people come here to escape tyranny, they should be prepared to show their gratitude through graft.
Nick Payne, Alcester, UK

We should be focus on changing the benefits system so it is not a easy ride for anyone (immigrant or not). The country will prosper more with the contribution from hard working people whether they are immigrant or not.
Manmeet Singh, Hillingdon, Middlesex

Immigration is a subject that needs to be treated delicately; the aggressive and emotive language banded about by some politicians only serves to make them look desperate. Are they talking about immigration or asylum? The scare tactics deployed by Michael Howard confuse the two, aiming at the swing voter and relying on sensationalist headlines. I believe that the Tory remarks are ignorant and xenophobic.
Rebecca, Lancashire

I am puzzled. Candidates keep talking about our country needing the skills of people from third world countries. This to me means that our education system is so bad that it is not even giving our own people the skills that people from third world countries have. Is it not time that companies and the education system started training people in the skills that are required by industry?
Phil Roberts, Bangor, Wales

Politicians treat immigrants as bait
Kofi Assibey, Telford
Politicians treat immigrants as bait, local industries abuse us, the people look down on us as the low class, regardless of our contributions towards the development of the nation. Nobody is there to defend our plight. Soon the elections will be over and we will have our peace, soon the issue of unemployment will go down and the industries will leave us alone but still the people will continue to see us as the low class, low life good for nothing immigrants.
Kofi Assibey, Telford

I'm fed up with people going on about asylum seekers and stopping immigrants. I am white, English, both my parents were in the armed forces and I have worked all my life for British companies and am proud of my country. The work ethic of most immigrant groups far exceeds that of the all those supposedly proud English people who believe they have a right to expect the government to continually support them without contributing a single thing. I welcome the diversity immigrants have to offer, just like we have done in this country for hundreds of years.
Nick, London

By any standards Michael Howard's campaign reaches new depths of hypocrisy
Alan Henley, Sheerness
By any standards Michael Howard's campaign reaches new depths of hypocrisy and double standards. His campaign on immigration is appalling. The Conservative candidates are saying one thing and doing something entirely different.
Alan Henley, Sheerness

The UK has always been a safe haven for foreigners. Howard's father was one himself, so why is Howard acting this way? I totally fail to understand his argument on asylum, it is racist.
David Forbes, East Dunbartonshire

Why is Immigration and Asylum put in the same pot? They are two different issues. First of all, there is a lot of 'normal' immigration and emigration that happens every year in every country. Then there is asylum, which is different altogether. Comments such as 'they take over everything' is just pure ignorance made by people who need to educate themselves.
Valentino, London

I am an African working legally here in the UK. The Tories pathetically narrow and unbalanced view on immigration is making life difficult for me and my family as we are now facing more frequent abuse on the streets. From our experience, immigration is highly controlled by the Labour government, contrary to the Tories deception that it is uncontrolled. What is even more frightening is Michael Howard's pledge to re-negotiate the 1951 UN Convention which protects vulnerable persons from being returned to a country where they face persecution. Such extreme policies have no place in modern society.
Eric Ruto, Newcastle, UK

As far as immigration is concerned the facts are clear. Britain benefits from it along with other countries such as Canada, USA, Australia etc. Britain is losing the game to attract the best of the best to work in this highly competitive market due to the lack of incentive and respect given to skilled immigrant labour. And looking at this current situation it's a shame the Conservative party are trying to push Labour into a corner as far as immigration is concerned.
Mohammad Khan, Bristol

Of course we need adequate controls on immigration but the tone set by the Conservative party and the disproportionate priority which they seem to put on this issue will only serve to heighten racial tension and victimisation.
Liz, Worthing

We are sick of people coming to this country and sponging
Nicks, Peacehaven
The Tories are right on immigration. People in this country will help those in trouble but we are sick of people coming to this country and sponging. What's wrong with a quota system? It seems to work for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
Nicks, Peacehaven

The only reason people think immigration and asylum is a problem is because of the right-wing tabloid newspapers telling us in a biased way. If the newspapers stopped reporting it as so dire then people really wouldn't think there was anything wrong. People need to learn to question what they are told more.
Adam, Cardiff

The immigration debacle will be the issue foremost in the electorate's mind come polling day. True, it doesn't show in the polls, as most people are reluctant to answer such questions in today's politically correct times, but it surely will be a major issue when it comes to placing the X on the paper in the solitude of the polling booth.
Stan, Portsmouth

Before I became a teacher, I worked in care homes. Without nurses from overseas, the homes could not be properly staffed and our most vulnerable citizens would have paid the price. Immigrants are keeping the NHS going and are contributing a massive amount to this country.
Vickie Mann, Glossop, UK

I am a firm internationalist, and believe people should be allowed to work anywhere
P Waine, Saint Helens
Thank God for immigrants. I am 69 years old and without their contributions to the tax system, I would be lucky if I had any pension worth talking about. I am a firm internationalist, and believe people should be allowed to work anywhere. I do stress work. There are undesirables and they should be weeded out whatever colour they are, I find the current debate on immigration in this election is a disgrace.
P Waine, Saint Helens

Immigration was always there, for millions years. Plants and animals do immigrate, and so do humans. Any nation that closes itself on others will stay behind the wheel of civilisation and history. I think immigration is good very Britain. The more it is flexible to the needs of the country the better. I think the Conservatives' approach will harm the economy in the long run.
Alan Page, London

Political asylum yes economic no. The type of asylum seekers are those who fled for their lives like African Asians in the '60s and '70s, not someone from Eastern Europe wanting to claim benefit for the rest of their life.
Steve Knowles, New Ollerton, Notts

How can a nation so desperate to improve its NHS turn down immigrants with the right skills capable for such a job? The NHS would struggle without these immigrants. If we go back to the time when Hitler was in power, he wanted a pure race. Is this what the UK may turn into with its new immigration policies?
Adam Iyer, Hull, UK

Come to think of it, who is not an immigrant? Is it the one that arrived on a piece land first and the second one then become an immigrant? Look my civilised friends, we are all immigrant at one particular time. So immigration is not the problem of Britain. Support development for the countries where these immigrants come from, and then there won't be an immigrant problem in. I encourage Britons to listen to Tony Blair.
Ogberagha Eloho, Nigeria

I as a foreign student here have always seen how narrow-minded local people are at times when it comes to sensitive topics such as these. I have always felt that many people here think that it's the non-natives who get all the benefits while they are always sidelined. This anger is further fuelled by misleading tabloid headlines. I am studying for an engineering degree and native students make just 20% of our class. This is in spite of the fact that overseas students pay around eight times what local students pay (in fact most of them study for free). Local students are just not enthusiastic enough and lack inspiration (as far as people I have met are concerned) and discipline. The thing that makes Britain great is its mix of people and cultures. It has always been like this and this is not a new thing.
Dharmender Singh Tathgur, Beds, UK

Almost the entire population of England is made up of people who over several thousand years have settled here illegally.
Paul Clark, Billingshurst, England

Surely Howard is the only one talking with a modicum of sense?
Oliver Nicoll, Edinburgh, Scotland
Surely Howard is the only one talking with a modicum of sense? Blair has repeatedly failed on an issue of immigration, which is paramount to our national security and should be a matter of ease as we are an island nation. Admittedly xenophobia isn't acceptable in our society but controlled measures and educated quotas are the only sensible options, which Blair refuses to acknowledge.
Oliver Nicoll, Edinburgh, Scotland

Before we all go off on one about immigration perhaps we could reflect upon the countless thousands of people in this country who do not work and show no inclination to. Such people still expect money in their pockets (at the tax-payers expense) and a roof over their heads (at the tax-payers expense) for sitting on their backsides all day. Given the choice between a hard-working immigrant and a lazy native, I know what I would prefer.
Neil Bailey, New Milton, Hampshire

The Tories are right on immigration. For the good of all, immigration has to be controlled and in my view the Conservatives are the only party who have the policies and more importantly the will to do it.
Jack Stone, Southend on Sea

Admit it folks: we are nearly all racist to some degree; especially where colour is concerned. Very useful for rabble-rousers before an election: very difficult to undo the consequences of their actions afterwards. We badly need an open discussion in a Royal Commission so that we can decide where to go from here. One thing is certain: loyalty to parliamentary democracy must come first, ahead of any obligations to religious hierarchies. That is one test I would apply to immigration control.
J Westerman, Leeds. UK

The debate on Immigration/asylum is long overdue and full marks for the Conservatives to make it an election issue. Too long have the Labour and Liberal Parties failed to address this very serious influx of foreign nationals to this country. It affects this country's health service, housing, and our ability to provide most other public services.
Robert Owen, Ealing

This is an issue that has been massively sensationalised
Anonymous, London
This is an issue that has been massively sensationalised. There are three different types of immigration: asylum seekers, low level economic migrants, and high level economic migrants. Each strand needs a different policy. If the main problem is considered to be illegal immigration and bogus asylum seekers, then I say bring in ID cards so people cannot disappear into communities. In this way, genuine cases will be allowed to stay and illegal immigrants can be tracked.
Anonymous, London

Why are all the parties missing the point big time? This country would be as dull as ditch water if it wasn't for all the fantastic people who have moved here from interesting parts of the world. We have an aging shrinking white population, having kids late when careers allow. We can hardly keep up with our own pension crisis. Thank god for all the young hard working people who move here and pay taxes. Thank the lord for Indian restaurants, gorgeous mosques, Jamaican markets, Chinese supermarkets and all the rest of beautiful multi ethnic United Kingdom.
Siobhan, Todmorden, W Yorks

Michael Howard is playing a dangerous game which is almost racist but not quite. The confusion between immigration and asylum is crucial to the argument and he is not making the distinction.
Dopn Carter, Arundel

The Green Party have it right on immigration. If we tackled poverty abroad through fairer foreign and trade policies there would be less economic migration. If we followed international law and didn't start illegal wars, there would be less asylum seekers. The Tories main campaign message - blaming the most vulnerable members of society for our problems - reeks of racism and desperation.
Paul Webster, York, UK

Anyone who leaves a home country, having lived in fear or depravation, with only what they can carry, no access to banks or other funds and arrives on our shores deserves our support and help. Just imagine travelling half way round the world under those conditions and being met with the small-minded, little-Englander attitudes expressed here. Shame!
Derek, Hatfield Herts

Michael Howard and several other politicians are perfectly right: the public are concerned about immigration and so parties have a duty to discuss it. It's just a pity that "discussion" inevitably seems to turn into pandering to people's racism rather than turning round and telling them that most of their concerns are a load of twaddle.
Tim Wogan, Cambridge, UK

I am an asylum seeker dentist. I have a family, my husband is economist, we didn't accept help from the government: we have been living from our savings. We have been waiting for two years and a half with no decision for the first appointment. I have been under a lot stress, suffering from depression because it is not easy to live waiting to know if you can continue with your normal life. I can say that Mr Blair is the closest to the right policy, but still not perfect. He needs to think more about the poor people that have been waiting for so long. They should be given permission to work. It is the healthiest way to keep people sane, to integrate them and keep them productive.
Angela, UK

The plain fact is that to remain a world player we have to increase the numbers of immigrants entering the UK
Gavin Ferguson, Fochabers
The plain fact is that to remain a world player we have to increase our economic power which boils down to increasing the numbers of immigrants entering the UK. With all the protests about foreigners, one would think that we are a "pure" race - nothing could be further from the truth - we are a mix of previous Roman, French, Viking and other European immigrants with our Britannic fore-fathers.
Gavin Ferguson, Fochabers, Scotland

Does Michael Howard mean we should be better controlling the large number of white South African, Aussie and Kiwi immigrants entering our country or does he mean, as I would posit, those immigrants that do not look like us?
Edward Lyons, London

The plain fact is that many asylum seekers are not true political refugees. If they were they would be happy to seek asylum in the first EU country they came to. Simply by continuing a dangerous and arduous journey across mainland Europe to reach the UK they demonstrate that they are economic migrants. Digby Jones has demonstrated a level of incompetence that makes him unfit to head the CBI. To state that we need immigrants to man our industries denies the reality of what is happening in the UK.
Michael Thompson, Hessle, UK

I am an overseas medical doctor. I pay taxes and I also pay money to get my visa. I have no access to public funds and I get no child benefits even though I pay income tax and national insurance as my local colleagues. This is how the economic migrants are treated in this country.
Needhi, UK

The UK is one of the most densely-populated nations on earth. We have a housing shortage, a transport system which is at breaking point and severe pressure on services such as health and education. There are well over a million unemployed and we already have millions of foreign nationals living here. I don't understand how anyone can argue against stricter controls on immigration.
E Palmer, Chelmsford, Essex

The Tories have the correct approach on immigration
Tom Roberts, Whitnash
The Tories have the correct approach on immigration, there is nothing wrong with making an application to enter Britain to live, from the country of origin, as I had to for entry to live in Canada for instance.
Tom Roberts, Whitnash

No-one calls the Australians "racist" for having tight control over who can and cannot live and work in their country, why should we, the concerned people of Britain, be labelled any differently? This is not an issue of race, rather an issue of reclaiming our borders for the benefit of all of us
Ellie, London

Because of falling birth rates in the UK, we need to have approximately 70,000 immigrants per year entering the workforce. Otherwise, the tax base will shrink and you will all have to pay more tax, and we all know what you think of that don't we.

I don't particularly like Michael Howard, but I feel that Tony Blair has exhausted my patience and it is time to give the reins to someone else. Immigration to the UK was far lower during the Thatcherite era than it was in the '90s and before then, so I feel that we could do worse than give the Tories another chance.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford

Can anyone come up with ideas for the name of Michael Howard's fantasy island where all of Britain's asylum seekers will be processed? Isle of Babble perhaps?
Gary Stewart, Clydebank, Dunbartonshire

Why is it that those who are so angered about "illegal immigrants" constantly refer to the burden they present to welfare - "illegal immigrants" cannot claim it.
Lee Salter, Bristol, UK

Immigration and asylum issues are not local: they are of international interest
Ayman Zohry, Cairo
Immigration and asylum issues are not local: they are of international interest. It is not true that Immigrants compete with nationals in the labour market. The hard fact is that immigrants do the jobs that nationals refuse to do. Immigrants are important to the national economy. If you don't believe it, you can ask businessmen and contractors who prefer cheap labour.
Ayman Zohry, Cairo, Egypt

My Indian husband (a teacher) and I (a white woman) live in a multi cultural part of Manchester which has many immigrants and asylum seekers, we live next door to a Polish lady. I love the fact that my baby will be multi-lingual and will have the opportunity to live in a part of the city where there is little crime and much toleration, as opposed to some political parties' views. Yes, there is an issue, but using evocative and dangerous language such as the Conservatives are using only seeks to unnerve communities like ours and cause trouble for future generations.
Heloise, Manchester

It frustrates me when I hear that we need immigrants to bring skills to this country. We have people out of work that could be trained. Australians have it right.
Howie Jones, Oldham

Tony Blair's speech on asylum and immigration is one of the finest I have heard. Immigration is an issue that should be dealt with. Labour is doing its best to curb bogus asylum seekers but these should not be confused with genuine skilled immigrants sustaining the UK economy. If you can not study to do the skilled jobs, why cry when skilled workers do them and pay taxes? No handouts please, but rhetoric from people like Howard will only spread racial tension.
Steve Arthurs, York, England

I've just switched the radio off. I'm sick to death of hearing about immigration. I don't want to live in a country where politicians compete to prove how xenophobic the can be.
Paul Ashmore, Loughborough