Saturday, 5 September 2015

Anti-migration sentiment in Guildford

There has been much in the news recently giving a reminder that many other people in the world find themselves in a wretched situation and are in terrible danger.  Like other humans since the dawn of our species, they wish to wander or migrate to where they hope to find a better life.  

Here in the UK, immigration was more or less unrestricted in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th up to the First World War.  These days, restricting immigration seems to be a major policy of the main political parties.  Belatedly, our government has agreed a somewhat mealy-mouthed acceptance that Britain can play a part in giving some of our displaced and frightened fellow humans a more stable life.  It's a start.  I have signed the petition calling on the government to accept more asylum seekers and refugee migrants in the UK.  It's been a particularly successful petition on the government's official petition web site, having attracted 400,000 signatures thus far.  100,000 are needed to force a debate on the matter in parliament, and perhaps it was part of the reason that the government acted.  

I note, though, that on the government petition website, at the time of writing, a reactionary petition to cease all immigration into the UK is currently accumulating signatures at a higher rate, as the picture below shows.
This brings me to the more on-topic part of my post.  On-topic, in the sense that this blog is purportedly about nuclear physics and life in academia in the UK.

While walking along a footpath in Guildford a couple of days ago, I spotted a sign, shown below, saying "A no students zone":


Someone had gone to the effort of making a bunch of these, and sticking them on lampposts around town.  Now, I can't speak for the person who did this (but if they chance to find this blog post, I'd welcome them to post and give their view) but one doesn't have to go too far to find people who don't want students to come and live in the same town as them.  This is another migration issue, though one that includes national, as opposed to solely international, migration, and one in which the migrants are typically not in the most distressing circumstances.  

I'm not sure of the whole gamut of reasons why residents are against this particular kind of migration, but an opinion piece in a local web site suggests that the pressure on housing is one reason.  A local political party which won council seats (more seats than Labour) wants the students segregated, though how they propose to deny citizens access to the private rental sector is not something I've found on their website.  I can certainly understand anyone's frustration that it is hard to afford somewhere to live in Guildford, but blaming migrants is never the right answer.  It may appear the proximate cause of one's woes, but blaming the person who happened to arrive in the area later than you or your ancestors did is not conducive to any kind of reasonable solution.

I should perhaps disclose that I wasn't born in Guildford, but now live here.  I always thought that was an acceptable thing to do, though I did move from the place of my birth as a 5 year old.

To end on a positive note for the burghers of Guildford;  The government petition website lets you see what the local breakdown of popular petitions is.  I showed above how the petition to stop immigrants coming to the UK is currently getting more signatures then the one supporting the settling of refugees.  In Guildford, the one to accept migrants is top of the list and the one to stop them features nowhere on it.  Second on the list from Guildford is to debate a vote of no confidence on Health Secretary, and Surrey MP, Jeremy Hunt.  I guess that's a doubly-positive note to end with.