INTERVIEW: Why Britain is so concerned about immigration

Britain is more concerned about immigration than any other country polled for the Ipsos Mori study “What Worries the World.” Among people surveyed in the UK, 42% think that immigration control is the most concerning issue, followed by healthcare (34%) and terrorism (31%). The other 25 countries together worry mostly about unemployment (38%), corruption (33%), poverty and social inequality (33%).

When it comes to immigration, the UK is followed by Germany (41%), Sweden (33%) and Italy (32%). Unlike the UK, however, these countries have been at the forefront of the refugee crisis. Italy is a door to Europe and rescues thousands of people in the Mediterranean each week. Sweden and Germany are the EU countries that welcomed the highest number of refugees per person. They also receive significant number of EU migrants. In 2014, the figure on a per capita basis was higher than the UK, according to Eurostat.

So why is Britain so fearful of immigrants? Dr Barbara Gibson, global business consultant and lecturer in intercultural business communications at Birkbeck College, University of London, says this may be because the UK, its government and media are “interculturally incompetent.”

What does it mean?

People react to cultural differences in many ways. Dr Milton Bennett explains intercultural sensitivity on a scale of six steps. On one side, there are individuals who believe that their culture is central to the reality perceived by others. This is the “ethnocentric” approach and involves three stages: denial, which considers one’s culture as the only real culture; defence, which is against anything different; and minimization, which tends to deny differences from a place of privilege. On the other side, there are people who perceive other cultures as more equal. This attitude is “ethnorelative” and involves the stages of acceptance, adaptation and integration.

The UK collectively is probably in the stage of minimisation. Everyone seems to be fine and tolerance is considered a core value of the country. But if you think about it closely, tolerance is not acceptance. It means ‘we are superior and we let you live here as long as we have control.’ From here, it is also really easy to fall back into defence, especially when the media and politicians feed you with fear…

Continue reading on Europe Street News, 17 October 2016

Photo by Francesco Malavota © Frontex, 2015 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service.