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Immigration debate has descended into ‘jingoistic nonsense’, says Archbishop of York

Friday, 16 January 2015

The debate about immigration, which polls suggest could dominate the General Election campaign, has descended into “jingoistic nonsense”, the Archbishop of York has warned.

Dr John Sentamu called for a “less charged” national discussion about immigration, an issue which has been partly credited with the rise of Ukip and seen increasingly strong rhetoric from both the Conservatives and Labour.

He said it was clear that immigration had to be controlled to reduce the pressure on Britain’s basic infrastructure.

But he insisted that could only happen with a “mature” debate on the issue, which avoids the temptation to “scapegoat” new arrivals for the country’s problems.

His comments came as a new book edited by Dr Sentamu, and including a contribution by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is published, containing a stark assessment of modern Britain as a place in which the poor are being “left behind” amid a culture of “rampant consumerism”.

The book also lists asylum seekers alongside the elderly, children in care and severely disabled among the “voiceless” for whom the Church has a responsibility to speak out.

A new study published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday showed the scale of immigration over the last generation, transforming the UK from being a country in which more people were leaving to one of record inward migration.

A series of recent polls have shown immigration vying with the economy and the NHS as the most important issue for voters in May’s General Election.

In an interview with the Telegraph ahead of the book’s publication next week, Archbishop Sentamu called for calm on the issue.

“I want us to have a less charged debate about immigration,” he said.

“It is very easy to see the problems of housing and other areas, employment, purely as a question of the last person to come in [having] taken away thousands and thousands of jobs.

“People should remember, the credit crunch produced nearly 2.3 million unemployed people – that was huge – businesses were lost without a single immigrant person actually playing a part in all that difficulty.

“So they come into a place which is already depressed, already difficult, and it is easy to scapegoat the migrant as the one that is exacerbating our problem.”

But he added: “Having said that the whole nation – not just the politicians – has got to have a mature debate.

“In terms of immigration, [Britain] can’t forever go on letting in anybody because it is an island.

“It will reach a state in which in terms of your housing policy, education policy, roads, infrastructure, actually can’t cope. Not because you are being unfriendly.

“But you can only do that properly when you have got a proper debate.

“At the moment it is just jingoistic nonsense and I don’t buy it.

“At the moment it is one party telling another ‘we are going to do it better than you are’.”


The Telegraph

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