immigration attitudes still hostile

Have Brits’ Attitude Towards Immigration Become Warmer Since Lockdown?

Do you need immigration help or advice?

Do you need immigration help or advice?

Data suggests COVID-19 has had an impact on Britons’ attitude toward immigration

New research suggests Britons have changed their tune as their attitude towards immigration has shifted since the country went into lockdown due to COVID-19.

Evidence suggests Brits now look upon the topic of immigration more favourably than they did pre-lockdown. 

A majority of those surveyed agreed that the pandemic has illustrated the vitality of immigrant workers in UK essential service roles with 64 per cent of respondents stating they value so-called “low-skilled” migrant workers more than they did before the pandemic. 

General public support for “lower-skilled” EU workers coming to Britain rose from 37 per cent to 44 per cent between January and May 2020. The ICM research was carried out by the British Future and The Policy Institute at King College’s London. 

attitudes towards immigration changed
The contribution of migrant workers during the COVID-19 crisis has not gone unnoticed, however, is it enough to really change Brits’ attitude towards immigration? [Image: Getty/The Independent.]

However, the figures are still indicative of anti-migrant sentiment being present in the UK. 49 per cent of respondents agreed they want immigration numbers to decrease once the UK’s new immigration policies are put into place, presumably once international travel resumes.  

British citizens and migrants of East and South Asian background have expressed fears that they will face violent and rampant racism as lockdown continues to ease. Thousands of far-right rioters descended on London on 13th June 2020 with reports detailing chants of “England” and Nazi salutes beside the Cenotaph war memorial and, ironically, Churchill’s statue.

The far-right were more concerned about protecting statues than opposing racism during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. [Image: The Morning Star.]

64 per cent of respondents stating they value so-called “low-skilled” migrant workers more than they did before the pandemic

Activists have long spoken out about the offensive nature in which immigrants are only seen as welcome when they contribute economically or risk their own safety. It is saddening that the fact millions have been forced to flee Syria to save their children isn’t enough to turn the tide of anti-immigration sentiment, and that for some people, it’s taken them or their loved ones being personally affected by something to realise how interconnected we all are. 

Black and ethnic minority citizens, including migrants, are at higher risk of contracting and dying of COVID-19. Lack of PPE for care and healthcare staff has been criticised widely by those working in the fields.  

Migrants should be valued beyond their economic capital. It is insulting to immigrants to say we value them because they make good “low skilled” workers or fulfil a role in an industry that is struggling, such as the care industry, deprived of staff and resources due to Conservative austerity measures, job insecurity and shockingly low wages. Migrants are more than a stopgap, existing to fulfil a staff shortage in a vital field while jeopardising their health and working passionately to help the vulnerable in UK society.  

The figures are still indicative of anti-migrant sentiment being present in the UK

The UK is on its way to implementing a reductive and stringent immigration system that reduces migrants to their economic worth. Instead of driving forward a progressive, welcoming, collaborative system, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives intend on draining migrants for everything they possibly can, without a regard for individual circumstances or the simple fact that migration has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years.  

The new system will strip migrants of their humanity even more so than the current one. The real change will be when we start to see migrants as more than just “low-skilled” essentials.