The Immigration Paradox and Dilemma
Date: Mon, 2 June 2003

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Dear Sir/Madam,

I'm not quite sure what to make of your report about the BBC's planned "Asylum Game", but at least it highlights a paradox and the resulting dilemma which have dogged the asylum/immigration issue for years, but of which there is very little public awareness (Derision greets BBC plan to turn asylum into a game, 31 May 2003).


I'm strongly opposed to the large-scale immigration of non-Europeans into our already racially aggravated and overpopulated part of the world, for whatever reasons they may have for coming, but if I imagine myself being personally responsible for interviewing and then having to decide who may and may not come into the country, I know that I would find it very difficult turning anyone away. Whether they are seeking to escape political persecution or poverty, or just want to join friends or family who are already here, turning anyone away would be a heartless and inhumane thing to do.


The paradox is that what appears in one light at the level of personal experience (of the individual asylum seeker and his family, for example, with whom one is inclined to identify), appears in an entirely different light at the abstract level of national immigration statistics, which tell us that the numbers of people wanting to come and settle here from the world's poorer countries is without end. 


Generals are in a similar situation. If they concerned themselves with the individual fates of all their soldiers they would never fight a battle, let alone win a war (notwithstanding that in many, but not all,  instances this might be a good thing). If he wants a chance of winning he has to put personal sentiment aside and deal with the abstract concepts of war. He has to be heartless in order to achieve his higher end. But what "higher end" can there be compared to the life of an individual soldier? That is the paradox and the dilemma the general must rise above if he is to do his job and serve his country.


Most of the arguments for and against stricter or more liberal immigration laws are an expression of a very real paradox and the dilemma it creates, but while I can easily put myself on either side, many people, it seems, are not even aware of it: many pacifists and anti-war demonstrators, for example, when it comes to war, and right across the political spectrum, when it comes to immigration.


Like good generals, our politicians, at least, must rise above the immigration paradox and dilemma, in order to take the seemingly heartless and inhumane decisions necessary to keep it at an acceptable level, without being deterred by the squeamishness of well-meaning but reality-blind liberals who 65 years ago would have had us resist the Nazis by non-violent means. Otherwise, immigration will continue until eventually conditions here deteriorate to such an extent that no more wish to come. That will resolve one problem, but create many, much more serious ones, in its place.