Do the benefits of immigration outweigh the costs?
- Credit: PA
Immigration – it's a topic which divides dinnertime conversation and political debate. ROSA MCMAHON reports how it affects this region.
In the past, talking about how many people from overseas should live and work in the UK stood in the shadow of giants such as health and the economy.
Now it ranks at the top of many voters' list as concerns rise over what impact the presence of immigrants has on services such as schools, hospitals and jobs.
Fuelled by the current political landscape and the impact of the recession, the past few years have seen political parties clambering to have their say.
Undoubtedly, the rise of UKIP has pushed the issue to the fore and forced others to speak out on issues which may have previously been a postscript in their manifestos.
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UKIP describes the current immigration system as 'broken', rhetoric which has fuelled the debate around figures.
The amount of people arriving in the UK in the year to September 2014 was the highest on record at 624,000.
Yet a statistic which can often be forgotten is the number of people who have left the country, which is about 320,000.
That leaves net immigration at 298,000, the highest since the record level of 320,000 in 2005.
Norfolk, from 2003 to 2013, gained around 66,000 people from net migration – 61pc from migration within the UK and 39pc internationally.
Around 48,200 of the 64,300 national insurance registrations from 2002 to 2013 during the period were accounted for by ten nationalities, the largest being Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese.
Norwich, King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Breckland are the most popular districts in this time.
Indians, Hungarians and Chinese went mainly to Norwich, Latvians and Lithuanians to King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Polish mainly to Breckland and Portuguese to Great Yarmouth.
Unemployment has hit a seven-year low, but more than a third of the new jobs created last year went to workers from abroad.
In many parts of this region, migrant workers are vital to the local economy.
From highly skilled scientists and doctors, to the low or unskilled fruit and vegetables pickers on farms, many businesses depend on immigration to survive.
The NHS is also a sector which is reliant on immigration, which a third of its workforce born abroad.
The argument often from farmers is that these foreign workers are doing jobs that British workers won't do.
But the fear from some communities from the Fens in the west to Great Yarmouth's coastline is that wages are being suppressed and locals are losing out.
The freedom of movement within the EU and the UK's benefits system has meant the UK is an appealing destination.
Labour would prevent people from claiming benefits during their first two years in Britain and stop child benefit payments being sent to youngsters abroad.
While the Conservatives would press for new EU rules barring migrants from receiving tax credits and child benefit until they have worked in Britain for four years, and migrants would have to wait four years to be entitled to council housing.
The Liberal Democrats would tighten benefit rules for EU migrants by making Jobs Seekers' Allowance claimants with poor English to attend classes. Ukip would stop migrants from getting benefits for five years.
Immigration – what will they do:
The Conservative Party:
- Keep annual net migration in tens of thousands
- EU migrants should wait four years before they can claim certain benefits or social housing
- No out of work benefits for migrants or child benefit for dependents living outside UK
- Negotiate with EU to bring in stronger powers to deport foreign criminals and prevent re-entry
The Green Party:
- Remove restrictions on foreign students
- Abolish family migration rules requiring citizens to have a minimum income for their spouse to come and join them in the UK
- Give more rights to asylum seekers
- Have no preference for those with resources or desirable skills
The Labour Party:
– 1,000 new border staff and exit checks
- Keep cap on workers from outside the EU
- Make it illegal for employers to undercut British workers by exploiting migrants
- Introduce a two-year wait before EU migrants can claim out-of-work benefits
The Liberal Democrats:
- Restore full entry and exit border checks
- End indefinite detention for immigration purposes
- Require new claimants with poor English skills to attend language courses in order to receive Job Seekers Allowance
- Phase out child benefit for children living outside the UK
The UK Independence Party:
- Introduce a points system to select migrants with skills and attributes needed to work in the country
- Immigration capped at 50,000 people a year for skilled workers
- Five-year ban on immigration for unskilled workers
- Five-year wait before migrants can claim benefits