Migrant Workout

June 2, 2009

422 words
12 May 2009
The Times
(c) 2009 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

If I compare Migration Watch, the “independent non-political think-tank”, to the BNP, it is — you must understand — only for illustrative purposes. Both face a similar problem. The BNP wants to convince people that it is a serious political party. Migration Watch, which campaigns for stricter immigration control, wants to convince people that it is a serious academic think-tank.

It has had moderate success. When, last week, it published a report stating that each illegal immigrant given legal status would cost £1 million over his or her lifetime, it featured on the front page of the Daily Express.

This is an impressive calculation to make. You have to project 40 years into the future, consider the differential earning power of people with different qualifications — as well as predicting changes in benefits. One crude way of doing it would be to look at firstgeneration immigrants who arrived in the Sixties, and see how they have fared.

But that would require a lot of work. How did Migration Watch do it? Simple. It assumed that each immigrant is a 25-year-old male who over 40 years will never be promoted and never earn above the minimum wage, who will marry and have two children, but whose wife will never work.

Was this misleading? “No,” says Sir Andrew Green, the Migration Watch chairman. “The example was only for illustrative purposes.” So we can’t make any wider conclusions? “It was for illustrative purposes.”

When your report said that “an amnesty for illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers, on average, an extra £1 million over the lifetime of each immigrant,” was that correct? “It was for illustrative purposes.” The report refers to a person who may or may not exist, who seems to have been chosen because he represents a worst reasonable-case scenario. There are two conclusions. Either Migration Watch is incompetent or it is malicious.

But there is one final calculation that could resolve the dilemma. Migration Watch knows that a feckless immigrant costs more if he lives in London rather than outside: it estimates £1.1 million versus £0.9 million. It is difficult to produce a nationwide figure from this data, as it requires knowledge of the settlement patterns of illegal immigrants. But Migration Watch was diligent. It carefully weighted the data, summed across the population densities, and reached the figure of £1 million.

Only kidding. It added 1.1 to 0.9 and divided by two.


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