In Brexit’s wake, it’s not xenophobic to want responsible immigration policy in Canada
If one is to rely on the editorial aftermath of the Brexit vote for proper analysis, then one could be forgiven for concluding that more than 17 million people in the United Kingdom are against all immigration. It’s possible however—and indeed likely—that many of these 17 million voters are immigrants themselves, and many more are not xenophobic, but are merely reacting to the manner in which the European Union (EU) has been (mis)managing the flow of migrants into the U.K. and other EU member countries in recent years.
In fact, an IPSOS poll taken in Britain only days before the referendum showed both Conservative and Labour supporters saw immigration as the top concern facing the country today, demonstrating the breadth of this issue. Another poll taken in May 2016 showed that 62 per cent of both “Leave” and “Remain” voters were very dissatisfied with how their government was dealing with migration. These results illustrate the extent to which voters are anxious about how Western countries—and multi-state entities, in the case of the EU—are (mis)managing large-scale immigration, not necessarily a commentary on immigration in general.
Canadians are also becoming more sceptical of how their government is managing large-scale immigration. While a poll taken in November 2015 showed that 67 per cent of Canadians were opposed to the idea of closing Canada’s borders to immigrants, the same poll showed that 60 per cent of Canadians disagreed with the government’s plan to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015.
When probed further, the poll showed that their concerns were not grounded in a basic xenophobic fear of large-scale immigration, but rather in a concern that resettling such a large number of people so quickly may leave many stones unturned when it comes to security.
Further evidence of this sentiment is displayed in a poll published in February 2016, which shows that support for refugee resettlement among Canadians has risen since the government decided to extend the resettlement deadline. The same poll also showed that those who were most enthusiastically supportive of the resettlement plan were also among those most concerned that even a March 1 deadline was too ambitious. Indeed, a desire for responsible, carefully managed resettlement does not equal an outright rejection of immigration or xenophobia. Much like the sentiments expressed by voters across the EU and in Britain, Canadians are clearly not convinced that their government was engaging in responsible resettlement—especially in a time of crisis.
UK voters expressed to their political leaders that the management of immigration should cease to be an exercise of reactionary politics. The “Leave” campaign, after shifting its focus towards immigration as it grew more evident that it was a serious concern for voters, did not argue for the shutting down of immigration to the U.K., but instead for the adoption of immigration policies like the Australian and Canadian points systems. Brexit voters desire more control over their borders so that their government can pursue more responsible resettlement practices, such as carefully managed and controlled migration flows, selecting immigrants based on the country’s skill shortages, and ensuring adequate settlement services that provide new immigrants with the tools they need for successful economic and social integration. There are no guarantees that this will actually come to pass post-Brexit, but the message is clear.
Polling numbers in Canada show a similar sentiment, and Brexit should be a wakeup call to all Western leaders that they must work to restore faith that governments are resettling immigrants in a responsible, carefully managed way that will foster positive outcomes for both new immigrants and the receiving country. Otherwise, the political consequences could be drastic.
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