Monday, 20 April 2009, 8:00PM on ITV1
Britain’s recession has raised new tensions around immigration with more than half of British adults in a recent poll saying that people from other EU countries should not be allowed to apply for jobs in the UK. Three-quarters of those surveyed said that unemployed immigrants should be sent back to their country of origin.
Politicians and Londoners have complained that jobs at the Olympic site have been given to migrant workers rather than London’s East enders.
And the country was hit by wildcat strikes earlier this year over the use of foreign workers at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire.
In this programme, Sir Trevor McDonald investigates the truth about immigration against a backdrop of economic turmoil, including interviews with economic experts and the Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Sir Trevor Phillips.
Phillips admits that attitudes towards immigration have hardened in recent months, and that integration and support is vital.
“Without question the economic climate has made people more unsettled. They’re more anxious about their jobs, they’re more anxious about their kids, are their sons and daughters going to have homes to live in, are they going to be able to find work when they’re competing with these new people,” Phillips says.
“Well the answer is, actually if we get through the recession then they will, but the fact is we’ve got to plan for it. We can’t just you know cross our fingers and hope it will all work out and that means we’ve got to put more money into places where migrants, immigrants are settling so that the transport and the housing is sufficient for everybody.”
Sir Trevor McDonald visits one North London school that has mastered integration and has a great educational success rate despite over 50 languages being spoken there.
He also talks to the local people and politicians who feel let down by an Olympic dream that promised to bring regeneration and employment to the east end of London.
Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney, says that immigration has little to do with the problem.
“I think the British jobs for British workers sort of rhetoric is very regrettable because I’m not talking about jobs for white workers or black workers. I’m talking about jobs for East end people and I think it makes it much more difficult to make what is a just case for jobs and opportunities for the East End, when you have all that British jobs for British workers rhetoric flying around,” she says.
“I am the last person in the world to be saying that we should be stopping economic migrants from getting jobs. My parents are economic migrants but I am a Hackney MP and I want to stick up for the people of Hackney. We were promised jobs and a skills legacy and it’s not too late to make sure we get it.”
The programme also looks at what is now happening with Eastern Europe migrant workers who have come to London for work and have since lost their jobs or been unable to find a position.
And Sir Trevor also travels to Liverpool, home to some of the oldest immigrant communities in Britain and where some believe the BNP may win a seat in the European Parliament elections in June.