Wednesday, October 08, 2014


 Jews cross the Red Sea pursued by the Pharaoh. Fresco from Dura Europos synagogue (244-256 CE).
I was reading Tim Stanley writing about the Clacton by-election, I was struck by his comments on immigration. I hope both immigration and emigration are are discussed by the Synod, I am sure both issues are close to the Pope's heart, both touch on Catholic social teaching, both go back to the ancient stories of the Bible. The ancient creed of Israel begins, 'My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there...'.

One of our present day truths is that without immigration Europe will collapse. I welcome the kind generous support I see from Filipinos and eastern Europeans who work in our geriatric wards and nursing homes, most have faith and their faith brings a humanity to what can be a barren environment. More than half of those who come to Mass here are Polish immigrants and there is a large proportion of Slovakians and of the Europeans as well. If ever we implement 'devolution max' and Brighton becomes a city-state I suspect we will be be a Muslim controlled city, rather than a Gay city, as most of the immigrants are from the middle east, not a few are Coptic Christians, and we beginning to see Syrians and the other victims of ISIS beginning to arrive. I am pleased that Brighton Voices In Exile, operates out of my house and uses our parish premises. Incidentally they need money!

Am I pro-immigration? Well I am pro-immigrant but every story of immigration is also one of emigration, of the break up of families, of the search for work and in many cases the age old search for food and peace. One of the consequences in Europe of contraception is that we simply aren't reproducing ourselves, we are dependent on immigration. An Italian or Spanish child will inevitably end up by having to pay taxes to support at least six elderly relatives: his two parents and his two grandparents children, if he doesn't  someone else will, often the immigrant who is willing to take the job he is unable or unwilling to take. Immigrants are a comparatively flexible workforce, having left their homeland they are willing to move to wherever work can be found. If they are poor enough or desperate enough, they have left spouses and children behind, like so many Filipino immigrants, in order to send money home. Here, often is another story of broken families, or at least of families without mother and father.

One of the other factors about an immigrant workforce is that we can choose the best from those educated in the first place by a struggling societies, we can harvest a third world country for their graduates and leave without. I remember being told that in one African country there were less than 20 psychiatric professional, at funeral a few days later, I met several working in this country for the NHS. Obviously here they had the facilities to work effectively, and here they received the training they wanted and needed but there is sense in which we mine the third world and poorer European countries for the brightest and best educated, as some multi-national corporation might mine them for bauxite or iron ore, consequently these countries are left the poorer.

Catholic social teaching reminds us that we are our brother's keeper, that our common humanity is actually more important than our national borders, that we have a duty to come to the aid of all our brothers and sisters. The bodies of those floating in the sea off of Lampedusa or immigrants flooding into Southern Europe is something that has to be dealt with. National governments might well be tempted to increase border security or to deal harshly with immigrants in order to discourage others but the Christian response has always been to improve the environment from which they come, to educate, to deepen justice, to strengthen the family. Document like Populorum Progressio or Gaudium et Spes, though in some senses problematic and often treated with contempt by those of a certain political hue nevertheless are an authentic part of the Church's Magisterium.


Pelerin said...

Well put father. Tim's article has predictably brought out many racist comments as perhaps yours will.

Many immigrants do jobs which the British do not wish to do. Many are not taking jobs away from the locals at all. My mother spent her last few years being well looked after by carers from Poland and Africa. Without them the nursing home would have had no staff to care for the residents.

I recently visited a Coptic church in a Paris suburb. It was mid day on Sunday and it was obvious that the packed church was also a meeting place for immigrant families united by their faith. Dozens of men were standing outside chatting and numerous children of all ages were running in and out whilst the service was in progress. I was amused to see a basket of head coverings at the entrance (Gem would have been horrified) with the notice 'Servez vous' 'Help yourself' but nobody ticked me off for not covering my head.

These families, or their parents had come to France for a better life which if we are honest with ourselves and had been in their position would have tried to do the same. It is heartbreaking to see those overloaded boats en route to Lampedusa or elsewhere.

Deacon Augustine said...

Other beneficiaries of uncontrolled immigration which you didn't mention, Fr., are the FTSE-100 companies and the financial markets.

Company profits and stock market values have grown dramatically since 2008 because of the ability to exploit vast swathes of cheap labour - often for less than the minimum wage. The surplus on the supply-side of the labour market has had the knock-on effect of depressing the wages of the native workforce so that, in real terms, wages have been falling. Thus business owners have seen profits boosted further by falling costs without experiencing unrest in their workforces, because their employees know that they are in competition with immigrants who will do the job for less.

The added pressure on infrastructure has seen growing property values so that UK homeowners have done very well out of the financial crisis in the medium term. Immigration prevented the collapse in the property market which the US experienced, and which kicked the whole crisis off.

So, yes, uncontrolled immigration has been very beneficial for many people in this country - especially the rich. Unfortunately it has come at the expense of those at the lower end of society, but tough cheese I guess. They should know by now that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - that's why the rich love a constantly expanding labour market. Why do you think the hooray Henries in the City asked Peter Mandelson to throw open the doors? (Hint - it wasn't because they were philanthropists.)

Matthew Celestis said...

It's great to read something positive about immigration for once!

Physiocrat said...

Whether immigrants are a good or a bad thing depends on who and what they are.

Immigrant groups whose desire is to turn the country into an Islamic republic with sharia law - and I have met such in Brighton - may not be quite the best thing for the host country. They mean what they say.

Physiocrat said...

Immigration drives down wages because wages are the least that someone will accept to do a job. Increases in population also drive up rents, so it is a good thing for anyone who owns property.

Basic economics.

Genty said...

No country can withstand uncontrolled immigration if its itrinsic culture, (Christian-based, in this instance), is to survive intact.
The present situation is, I think, the result of post-colonial guilt with the UK annually donating millions of pounds, no strings attached, to nations whose elites hoover it up to feather their own nests, or to build massive piles of armaments. Those in dire poverty remain in dire poverty. People risk life and limb to get to the UK because they have no other hope.
A radical rethink is what's needed. There is no reason why we couldn't set up a rolling programme of education/vocational foundations, free at point of use, for people to come to this country to learn professions and trades which they would then take back to their own people, or get agreement to set them up in the countries of origin. This would at least provide some structure to our aid and reach those who need it. Education is all.
Yet all we seem to offer to the world is the lure of rampant consumerism.

Liam Ronan said...


I agree with the two observations you have posted. Immigration? Yes, but not uncontrolled and universal.

Any State worth it's salt has a duty towards its own citizens first and uppermost.