I have a few things to say on this. Watching BBC Question Time this evening reminded me of some of them.
1. I genuinely do not believe that people are, for the most part, concerned about knowing exactly how many people leave and enter the UK each year, or about putting a cap on that number. What I do believe they are concerned with is knowing how immigration will impact them directly. It’s not about what will happen to Britain in general; it’s Will I lose my job? Will crime in my area increase? Never mind if these are logical questions. It doesn’t matter what immigrants look like, where they come from, what their stories are. All that matters is the local and the personal, and no one seems willing, or able, to address this. The debate has become so curly that it’s impossible to get past the repetitive rhetoric. Who has the balls to explain, on an individual level, the impact that immigration actually has? Who has the balls to suggest once and for all that letting people in may not be the worst thing in the world?
2. The points based system. Bless it, bless it a million times, because it’s the only way that I would be able to live in this country with the man that I love, with my friends, my job, my ambitions. But let’s be honest. It’s not a fair system. It’s a completely ridiculous scheme to allow people of certain social or financial standing entry into the UK. The fees for visa applications alone are prohibitive (I’m looking at a £500-700 fee to pay in January–my third such fee in as many years); but applicants also have to be able to prove access to a certain amount of funding. They have to be educated, or highly skilled, or both. They have to meet rigid criteria. Students must be able to show that they can not only pay enormous international fees, but support themselves at the same time.
I’m not saying this system should not be in place. I think that, for what it is, it’s excellent. It ensures that graduates of UK universities and highly skilled individuals are able to choose where they want to put their skills to use. And as a middle-class white American girl, the points based system is my only real hope for forging a life in the UK. I know I’m lucky. I have supportive and successful parents who have backed me financially–who have been able to back me financially–over the years. But it’s still been a struggle, and I know how many people are not, and never will be, that lucky. So let’s not pretend that the points based system in any way addresses the entire issue. It’s a start, but by indirectly excluding people based on cost and criteria, it still leaves questions unanswered and voices unheard.
That’s it for now, and yes, I’m biased, terribly biased. But then again, why not? If the politicians are too afraid to leave their comfortable, circular world of empty oratory, we’ll all have to speak for ourselves.