Economic Migrants: what price for a better life?

Sunday 20 October, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Hammerson Room Hot off the Press 2013

With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, much has been made of the possible economic and social effects of thousands of migrants settling in the UK, but do we really have anything to fear from migrants? Amid the panic induced by the current political rhetoric, of flocks of Romanians coming to the UK, clogging up vital services, taking jobs that may otherwise go to British nationals, of welfare tourism, perhaps there is there a danger of losing perspective. Ironically, Chancellor George Osborne has been in China this week, making it easier for Chinese students and businesspeople to come to Britain because it is good for UK plc.

So should we only welcome migrants if they are rich, and reject the poor ones? Some worry that because economic migrants have access to the NHS, to benefits and housing, that in an era of austerity, they are a drain on jobs and services that we can ill afford.  Should we ensure that British people are at the top of the list for welfare provision? Are there any benefits to immigration? Is the only argument for migration a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis or is there a moral case? Do poor economic migrants have a right to come to Britain and make a better life for themselves, or should we just close the borders and look after our own?

Philippe Legrain
visiting senior fellow, LSE’s European Institute; author, Immigrants: your country needs them and European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right

Peter Smith
director of tourism, St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London; co-author, Volunteer Tourism: the lifestyle politics of international development

Max Wind-Cowie
deputy director, ResPublica

Anwar Oduro-Kwarteng
promotions manager, Academy of Ideas; writer on politics and ideology

Produced by
Anwar Oduro-Kwarteng promotions manager, Academy of Ideas; writer on politics and ideology

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