Ann Dummett, research worker for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants looks at the facts underlying the dispute about race relations and immigration.
THREE very important areas of public policy have become hopelessly confused with each other in this country since 1960. We shall not find the right answers to the problems posed by any of them until we get them clearly separated in our minds. The issues are: immigration, British nationality law, and race relations.
Each of these is a very much larger issue than our Press and politicians generally tell us. Since 1945, many people have entered the United Kingdom and many have left it. Those who enter include the highly skilled and, until 1965, the unskilled.
It is now exceedingly difficult for anyone from anywhere to enter this country in order to work (unless he or she is a. Commonwealth citizen with a parent or grandparent born here; this means mainly white Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders).
Those who leave include the highly skilled and the unskilled too. It is often supposed that emigrants are all members of a brilliant brain drain, and white, while immigrants are poor, dark villagers from the Third World; but this picture is false. Entrants include doctors, oil technicians, dentists, etc, of all colours. Leavers include semi-skilled white factory workers and many West Indians re-emigrating.
If we add up all the people entering and all the people leaving, we find that in every year from 1966 to 1974 the United Kingdom lost population through migration: more people left altogether than entered.
There was a net loss in 1974, for example, of more than 85,000 people; in 1973 of more than 50,000. (These figures are taken from the International Passenger Survey, an independent estimate. Government figures, which use a different basis for statistics, agree on this net loss.) Indeed, except for a few exceptional years, we have been losing population through migration ever since 1945. These facts make nonsense of the often-used phrase "overcrowded little island".
The birth-rate of the nation as a whole went up, of course, after the war; our population has grown through natural increase since 1945 but it has not grown through migration.
Now, in the last few years, the birth-rate has fallen sharply:, use of the contraceptive pill and the legalisation of abortion have brought about a situation where the population is hardly replacing itself. (Other countries are having exactly the same experience: nations as different as Australia and the Soviet Union are facing the likelihood of declining population because of low birth-rates.
Since 1962 we have had three Immigration Acts. Not one of these laws has been passed after a thoughtful weighing-up of the nation's need concerning future population, economic planning, a policy towards refugees or concern for the family life of migrants.
Each has been in reaction to a row over the entry into this country of dark-skinned people. The effect of these laws has been to control ever more strictly the entry of the darkskinned, whether these are workers, dependent relatives of people already here, or even our own citizens with no other country to go to.
But these laws have not restricted the entry of the white-skinned nearly as much; indeed, the 1971 Immigration Act made more than 9 million white people in the Commonwealth eligible to enter freely.
When we entered the European Economic Community in 1972, we accepted the free movement of workers provided for in the Treaty of Rome, and more than 100 million citizens of other EEC countries now have the right to enter freely in search of work; provided they find work within three months they may apply for a residence permit and eventually bring in dependent relatives as defined. under EEC law, including children up to 21 and elderly parents.
In short, we have stopped using the word immigration to mean what it says; it has become a kind of code for the presence in Britain of black people.
The vast majority of these are not now "immigrants" at all; nearly half are our own citizens, born here. Some are our own citizens born in East Africa and elsewhere; some are settled residents of over 20 years' standing.
It is not so much new entry as the presence of this settled black community that is now under attack when politicians and newspapers talk about immigration.
We have a Race Relations Act which is supposed to outlaw incitement to racial hatred — though actually it fails miserably to do so — but most racial hatred here finds expression in the National Front's own slogan: "Stop immigration now". Everyone knows that when the Front says this it means: "Get rid of the blacks".
What are we to take other people to mean when they say it? It is utterly false to pretend .that one can simultaneously have a racial immigration law and a fair internal race relations policy.
To be polite inside the house and a racist at your front door and beyond is to be a racist; especially . when, at your front door, you refuse entry to the wife and children of the man who is already inside. This is hardly treating him in the same way as your white neighbour whose wife and children you would invite in.
The only answer is a new, non-racial immigration law based on an assessment of population, housing and employment problems for the nation as a whole, and observing international law, which at present Britain breaks.
NEXT WEEK : Ann Dummett examines how the British nationality law is in breach of international law.