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Discouraging Migrants and Citizenship Tests


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It’s early in the week, but already we’ve been hit by two biggish pieces of mainstream immigration news, neither of which really address real concerns, and nor will they have much of an impact.

There have been reports that the government are considering a number of different methods to put Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK when visa restrictions are finally lifted later this year. One such method discussed was a campaign of discouraging posters. As the BBC explained it:

[there is] the idea potential migrants could be deterred by references to the downsides of British life, such as the amount of rain… with one unnamed minister quoted as saying such images could “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold”

This led to a lot of homemade efforts jokes across the internet, with people doing their best to second guess what the government’s efforts would look like. Some were better guesses than others.

In reality, posters are unlikely to have that much of an impact. We aren’t talking about people wondering where to go for a couple of weeks in August. These are people deciding where they want to work and live. I suspect most people base these decisions on a lot of factors: the availability of jobs, the standard of living, in some cases a a shared history or culture. A lot of the Eastern bloc migrants that I have known haven’t come because they were expecting streets paved with gold. Far from it, many come and work more than one job, often to support others in their home countries. They aren’t coming here for a good time or an easy life, they’re coming to provide for their families. What adverts are going to override that?

This story seems at odds with the Home Office development, their revamped citizenship test, to be launched in March, which could be seen as a celebration of our history and culture. As the Home Office explain,

The new book and test will focus on events and people who have contributed to making Britain great.

The Home Office twitter account released a few sample questions, including:

Which landmark is a prehistoric monument which still stands in the English county of Wiltshire?

A. Stonehenge

B. Hadrian’s Wall

C. Offa’s Dyke

D. Fountains Abbey

The old citizenship test wasn’t perfect, but it helped to educate future British citizens on practical points on how society worked and services that made studying for the test at least a little bit useful. The new test is instead a lot like an A-level in General Studies: nice to have to bulk out a cv, but of little use beyond the odd pub quiz.

So what’s it going to be? A celebration of what makes Britain great, or a portrait of our country: warts and all? They affect different aspects of UK policy on migration, but together serve to illustrate a government that is incapable of considering the big picture. (see also their encouragement of foreign students at the same time as introducing cripplingly restrictive new rules).

Anyone interested in trying out the new test can do so here.

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3 Responses

  1. This all follows the Ed Balls promise that the next Labour Election manifesto would be “tougher on immigration”. Typically he did not specify what this might amount in specific details. Daily waterboarding of detainees? Relocating much of UK further education to Australia? Family visits by Skype? With LibDems in the Coalition and the two main parties competing on “toughness” is there anyone worth supporting? So much for western democracy!

  2. 9/10 on the new test sample. Is needing to know about monuments to battles in 1805 that important? I just dip into the Oxford history of Britain occasionally out of interest, I haven’t studied it at length.

    How about “what rights do you have under the working time directive in the countries which implement it properly”?

    Or for eg, why, for better or worse, are GCSEs being scrapped? It’s actually topical and relevant.

    Other migrants manage to survive the rain and it doesn’t cause an exodus of Britons either. And they have rain in Bulgaria and Romania too. A2 nationals can already work in several EEA states. The English language will be a pull factor but points about rain smack of scare tactics.

    Might even encourage the few the government wants under the PBS to apply to other countries. Perhaps to live in a part of the US with minimal rainfall.