James was awarded joint third place in the Adam Smith Institute’s ‘Young Writer on Liberty’ competition – the theme of which was ’3 Policy Choices to make the UK a Freer Country’. The following is one of James’ entries.
The government’s decision to accept a number of Syrian refugees is a welcome measure but it does not go far enough. The Civil War has reportedly created 2.4 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people, figures which mean an effective humanitarian response would have to be in the many thousands rather than the proposed hundreds. Without sanctuary, many will perish either in conflict or through disease, squalor and lack of basic necessities. Allowing them entry to Britain would undoubtedly be the moral thing to do. Yet it would be incorrect to view this act as a gesture of self-sacrifice. By helping the Syrians, we would be helping ourselves.
The economic case for more immigration is well-established. By increasing the size and variety of the workforce, immigrants allow a greater division of labour, ensuring specialisation, efficiency and ultimately per capita productivity. Evidence suggests that immigrants boost rather than consume government resources, paying more tax than the average Briton and being 45% less likely to receive handouts than those born in the UK. Both the OECD and the OBR have demonstrated that without migrants the government would have to make further cuts to public services or pay higher taxes or both. At a time of austerity, it would be wrong to reject a potential source of wealth creation.
Past instances of refugees illustrate there is a positive social case for taking more Syrians. Many of the 17th century Protestant Huguenots went on to become successful silk weavers, financiers, soldiers and artists, becoming an integral part of British life. In the inter-war period, Britain’s comparatively liberal immigration policy produced great dividends. Designer Alec Issigonis left Greece and created the iconic Mini, novelist Judith Kerr escaped Germany and wrote the quintessential children’s book “The Tiger who came to Tea” whilst Ludwig Guttmann founded the Paralympic Games. These are just a few examples of the many generations of immigrants that have enhanced rather than diminished Britain’s cultural and economic fabric.
Furthermore, by providing sanctuary, we would expose a number of Syrians to the values of a liberal democracy. When the conflict ends and refugees return, their first-hand experience of life in a free country make it less likely that they will tolerate a regime which practices tyranny. If the government wants to help both the people of Syria and Britain, it should welcome more refugees with open arms.