Immigration: The Establishment’s Convenient Bogeyman


Immigration featured heavily, again, in tonight’s ITV election debate. In fact, the issue has featured heavily in every election debate and in public discourse for at least the last 15 years (if not, forever). The Conservatives, Labour, Reform UK and even the Liberal Democrats are all signed up to the establishment consensus: make sure the public are shit scared of immigrants to keep them voting for you.

You can see why the establishment parties keep flogging this horse – it works! Politicians can drive attention away from their own failures, and from the fact that they’re robbing the public blind, by blaming the “others”, the “foreigners”. The Conservatives have won four elections in a row by doing exactly this, but thankfully it seems the game is well and truly up.

Still, there aren’t enough public voices speaking out in favour of immigration. For every 1 article like this questioning the establishment narrative, there are 1,000 pushing anti-migrant dogma, shared to the masses via the mainstream media and a network of shady far-right Tweeters and TikTokers.That’s why I’m making it my mission to lay out my positive case for migration here.

First of all, the philosophical argument for immigration is incredibly strong (we’ll come to practicalities later). Countries and their borders are entirely arbitrary. We’ve made them up, and they change all the time. In the old days they used to change when Kings and Queens rode armies into neighbouring countries and claimed the land for themselves. These days it might be through armed struggle from separatists, or by government decree. Several entirely new countries have come into existence since the year 2000 alone!

The point is, countries & their borders change all the time. Heck, the concept of countries with borders and passports has existed for a mere fraction of the time that humans have. It is, philosophically speaking, just utterly stupid to accept as fact that we must obey imaginary lines drawn on a map by our politicians, which they can change any time at the flick of a pen.

My firm belief – and I realise this is quite extreme even for most liberals – is that humans should have a right to roam wherever they please regardless of the geographic area in which they were born (and over which they had no choice!). The vast, overwhelming majority of people on this planet are nice, and kind, and deserve to be welcomed wherever they decide to make their home.

Having said that, we live in organised societies with limited housing & access to public services, so obviously I have to dial down my fantasy world of free movement and cover the practical arguments for immigration.

Public services & an ageing population

Let’s talk practicalities then. The UK has an ageing population. We have a birth rate of just 1.6 children per woman. That means we have a declining population of British-born citizens. Think about it as simply as possible: every couple (2 people) is having less than 2 children. So as couples grow old, retire and eventually pass away, they are not being replaced by the same number of British-born children.

Every British child who will come of working age within the next 18 years has already been born, and there aren’t enough of them to replace the people in their 60s, 50s and late 40s who will retire in those 18 years. Even if you listen to Labour & Reform UK who say we should “train up our citizens to fill skill shortages”, you have to ask: what citizens??

If you accept the premise that we need to keep our public services, our economy, running smoothly for the next 18 years, and that we need to replace workers like-for-like, then you come to an obvious conclusion. Even if people suddenly started having more babies right this instant, we would still need net-positive migration for the next 18 years just to keep the economy running. Or else, people will have to retire later (which nobody wants to do either!)

Large numbers of migrants are currently propping up incredibly important British services like the NHS – but they’re also contributing to our economy more generally in other jobs across many sectors. You’d notice them if they were gone, trust me. Now let’s end with an argument about what kind of country we want to be, and how this debate is pushing away some much-needed talent.

Family values, dependents & British brain drain

During this election campaign Nigel Farage has turned his sights on a much more specific subset of migrants: dependents. What does that mean? Who are they? Dependents are husbands, wives, children and other family members who come to the UK on family visas. Some of them are the family members of other migrants who are coming here to work & study, and some of them are the husbands, wives and children of British citizens.

If you believe in family values, in the idea that people should be allowed to marry & live with the person they love in a stable home, then you should accept the idea that British citizens should be allowed to marry foreign spouses and live with them here in the UK. Nigel Farage’s blanket reduction of migration would break up British families or force British citizens to live abroad in their spouses’ home countries. This potentially leads to a phenomenon where we not only exclude migrants from working in our important public services, as discussed before, but we actually force skilled British workers to leave the country too.

Not only should British citizens be allowed to live in a stable home with their families, but so should the migrants who come here to work in our economy. Why should we say to a foreign doctor, nurse or care worker: “Yes you can come and work in our NHS, but you have to leave your family in your home country thousands of miles away”. It’s cruel, it’s not in keeping with any of the family values that conservatives usually espouse, and it’s counter-productive – because those migrants may not come to work in our public services at all. We need them.


The debate around immigration in this country is deeply dishonest and incredibly unfair. Right wing politicians are using migrants & their families as political footballs. Preying on the insecurities of British voters to win votes, and quite simply lying about the impact that immigration has on this country.

The only political parties coming out of this election campaign with an honest and positive view of migration are the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Even their principal spokespeople have little first-hand experience of how it feels to be part of a migrant family. While they may articulate the facts, they aren’t quite capable of conveying the emotions felt by many families across the UK like mine.

Will me and my wife be allowed to live in the UK after July 4th? Do we have the security to start a family of our own? And what about the family we will leave behind if the likes of Nigel Farage force us out? I hope more people will think about these things when marking their ballots on June 4th.

Daniel Johnston Menezes

Game developer, font designer and founder of, involved in green activism for over a decade.

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