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Our increasingly diverse country has just celebrated Scottish Refugee Week and, apparently, a good time was had by all. Across Scotland there were 120 refugee-related events, ranging from lofty discussions to dance, theatre, comedy and West African cookery shows.

While it’s good to know that Scotland still offers sanctuary to people fleeing torture and persecution, how exactly do we tell who is, and who is not, a genuine refugee?

Well, it’s because the onus appears to be on the authorities to prove that someone is telling porkies. Therefore, if a young man arrives with scars on his back and says these were inflicted by Mugabe’s thugs or Assad’s militia, or someone else claims to have been a persecuted gay from a conservative village in a remote area of Pakistan, then their statements are taken as gospel by pro-refugee and asylum-seeker organisations.

Yet the incidence of these examples suggests that it is remarkably easy to “flee” repressive regimes, especially by air. One assumes, for example, that the main international airport in an African or Middle Eastern dictatorship is crawling with uniformed and plain clothes police on the lookout for wanted persons and that a good many of the airport employees are government “spies”. Consequently, how do those fleeing the threat of death or imprisonment manage to sail through check-in, passport control and the final review of tickets and passports prior to boarding the aircraft?

Quite recently, BBC Radio Four broadcast a documentary on the “plight” of Tamil women who had recently “escaped” from Sri Lanka to Britain. Weeping uncontrollably and through an interpreter – of course - they related horrible tales of torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan authorities following the end of the civil war.

But hold on a moment…

The raison d’etre for the 20-year war was the desire of Tamil separatists (the majority occupying north and north-eastern Sri Lanka) to form a separate state connected to their ancestral homeland, Tamil Nadu, on the southern tip of the Indian mainland. So if these women were so desperate to reach safety why did they not head for the Tamil mainland, at its nearest point just 50 miles away, rather than travel 7,000 miles to Britain by scheduled aircraft?

The journalist in me nagged away at a resounding question: why did the BBC reporter not put this to the interviewees?

How different all this seems from the days when citizens of the Soviet Union and its east European satellites lived behind an “Iron Curtain”. Then, only the most trusted Communist apparatchiks were permitted to visit abroad with their families while official tourist groups were closely monitored by State “minders”, lest they started thinking about seeking asylum while in the West.

All of which might lead people to conclude that at least some of these claiming to be refugees are, instead, economic immigrants - naw, let’s call a spade a spade and say that perhaps a lot of them  are just that. And there’s a big difference between people to whom – rightly – we should give shelter and those who enter the country illegally as economic migrants. I could write 10,000 words on the negative consequences to the social fabric of mass immigration but as this is a business website, let’s stick to the economic argument.

Immigration, we are told, is good for the economy in general and industry and particular.

Well, there is one sector of industry – freight transport – where that does not seem to be the case. Under the law, a lorry driver arriving at Dover (or Rosyth for that matter) unknowingly with a stowaway risks a fine of several thousand pounds (as does his employer) – no matter how diligent the driver had been in securing his vehicle.

Yet, once on British soil the stowaway – after inevitably claiming asylum – will be given access to a taxpayer-funded immigration lawyer to help prevent him being deported from the country which the lorry driver was fined for letting him into in the first place.

No, you really could not make it up.

Ah but whitaboot – and there are a lot of “whitaboots” on this issue – the food processing industry? Without immigrant labour there would be no one to pick crops, with an adverse effect on agricultural companies and perhaps even leading to a shortage of fruit and vegetables on the High Street.

Well, this I’ll concede is true, but only because our politicians have used the availability of foreign labour as an excuse for “parking” the issue of long-term youth unemployment among the native population.

It seems ludicrous that farmers have no alternative but to employ foreign labour while young, healthy Brits are paid to sit at home on their DSS-funded sofas watching mind-numbing daytime television shows on screens as wide as their own hips. While accepting the authorities have a dilemma when people have children, I fail to see how a tougher attitude cannot be taken with those who are single.

Back in the 1930’s, when most of the unemployed genuinely couldn’t find jobs, young, singletons welcomed the chance to go to the Perthshire and Angus countryside for the “berry pickin’”. The pay was poor and the work hard but at least it brought structure to their lives as well as a chance to swap the slums of Glasgow or Dundee for wide open spaces.

Ah but whitaboot – here’s another of these – immigrants who bring skills that this country does not have?

It is now 20 years since the government began a move to enable 50 per cent of our young people to go to university (started, incidentally by John Major although it is mostly associated with Tony Blair). With some counties boasting more university campuses than cinemas, you’d expect that after two decades the benefits of a highly-literate, highly-skilled young population would be starting to filter through to industry and commerce – giving Britain access to just about every work-related talent under the sun without having to import it. If not, what was this huge investment in university education all for?

As an aside, I noticed that one of the events during Scottish Refugee Week was Afghan coaches offering football training to children. Yeah, as if Scotland really needs to import, of all people, talented football coaches (e.g. Shankly, Stein and, more recently, Alex Ferguson, Gordon Strachan, Malky McKay, Steve Clarke, Paul Lambert, Billy Davies, Owen Coyle, Ally McCoist, Joe Jordan, Derek McInnes, Derek Adams, Paul Hartley, Jackie Macnamara………need I go on?).

There is, however, one area of the economy where immigration (legal and illegal) does boost jobs; unfortunately it is in the already top-heavy public sector or in private firms and immigrant “charities” dependent on public sector funding. The money involved has proved a boon for immigration and human rights lawyers, translators, linguists, English-language teachers, social workers, welfare rights advisors, housing officers and, of course, bureaucrats.

This is great for those for whom the “immigration industry” offers the prospect of a job and in some cases even a decent career structure. Yet the salaries have to be paid by someone – and it’s not the newly-arrived immigrants. If the cost affects corporation tax, this chokes off investment and, consequently, job creation in the private sector. If paid for through personal taxation or higher interest rates it means less consumer spend, which downgrades the retail and leisure industries.

No wonder there is a large body of opinion that sees immigration as a giant Ponzi scheme, which to justify its existence requires a constant flow of new clients – i.e. more immigrants.

England is bursting at the seams. Scotland is not (at least not yet) although the SNP has promised that an independent Scottish government will take a more benign attitude to asylum applications than Westminster (as if it wasn’t benign enough already) and, indeed, will actively encourage legal immigration.

Yet since the end of world war two, Scotland has enjoyed a balance of rich, productive farmland, manageable urban centres and wide open spaces accessible to all, something which many European countries would envy. In population terms the country ain’t broke – so why try to fix it?


Twitter: @PropPRMan