“There is a basic ignorance and preconceived ideas” - Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett holds Norfolk conference to banish immigration “myths”
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Police and community leaders pledged to challenge myths around immigration yesterday, calling on business leaders to highlight the benefits migration brings.
Norfolk's police and crime commissioner (PCC) Stephen Bett organised a conference in Thetford to tackle problems faced by migrants in Norfolk, including access to healthcare, housing and language barriers.
UKIP won county council seats across Norfolk in May in areas which have experienced an influx of migrants, including Thetford.
But Mr Bett said the conference aimed to avoid politics and solve practical problems.
He said: 'UKIP's rise in Norfolk is nothing to do with immigration. It was a major protest vote.
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'People are sick to death with the main parties.'
The PCC said businesses which relied on migrants for their survival should speak out more about the importance of immigration, particularly from eastern Europe, to the county's economy.
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'There is a basic ignorance and preconceived ideas,' he said. 'They are Europeans like us. To think that they are vastly different is incorrect.
'If we don't have a common understanding all these myths are going to be kept. They are normal people like us, here to work.
'A lot of business leaders who are surviving because of migrant workers have been far too silent.'
The European Migration, Cohesion and Community seminar, was held with Thetford's Keystone Development Trust, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Constabulary to improve the communication between the different groups.
It put aside questions over immigration restrictions and EU membership to concentrate on what could be done to improve community cohesion within Norfolk's towns and villages.
Ideas included improving English-language lessons for migrants whose problems often stemmed from a lack of communication skills.
Neil Stott from the Keystone Development Trust said: 'There needs to be more strategic action to promote social cohesion and more grassroots activity from organisations like mine.'
The trust already holds English language classes at its Innovation Centre on Croxton Road, in Thetford, and Dr Stott said they were very popular.
'Migrants are eager to learn and be part of our society,' he said.
Don Flynn, from Migrants' Rights Network, who spoke at the seminar, said the country would need more migrants in the future.
He said housing and healthcare were two of the major challenges they faced.