IMMIGRATION: There's still plenty room

I read the letters from Alma Shell and GL Hopper with interest and confusion, (Northumberland Gazette, July 21).

Interest because it is enlightening to read and seek to understand another’s point of view, and confusion because I do not comprehend the foundation of their arguments.

I do not know on what basis the often repeated comment, ‘this country can’t take any more migrants, it’s not big enough’, is based. The implication being if the country were larger, if there were more space, then it would be able to take more migrants.

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I am not sure on what basis this lack of size, lack of space, is determined. If I look around Northumberland, I see plenty of space. If I travel across the UK by road or rail, in any direction, I spend the vast majority of my journey travelling through open country – plenty of space.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment 2011 calculated that just 6.8 per cent of the UK’s land area is now classified as urban, a definition that includes rural development and roads, and ‘urban’ is not the same as ‘built on’ as it includes parks, allotments, sports pitches, etc. Put another way, 93 per cent of the UK is not urban. Even if we doubled the size of our urban environment (not a suggestion), over 86 per cent of the UK would still be defined as ‘natural’.

Maybe it’s a question of population density.

The UK is the 53rd most densely populated country at 660 people per square mile.

Other much smaller territories have a greater population density, for example Gibraltar 11,808; Malta 3,424; Bermuda 3,175, Jersey 2,186; Guernsey 2,183. On the basis of these figures, if we doubled our population density (not a suggestion), we’d still be 60 per cent that of Guernsey – a much smaller island.

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There are estimated to be 5.5million UK ex-pats living throughout the world. If they decided to return ‘home’ would there be enough space for them? Could we find space for 5.5million British people, or are we a small overcrowded island?

GL Hopper questions the attitude young working migrants will adopt. Will they be willing to pay benefits for older people of a different ethnicity? The evidence to date is yes.

It has been demonstrated that migrants make a net contribution to the UK, ie they pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. If you seek the help of the NHS, the migrant in front of you is likely to be there to treat you – 11 per cent of all NHS staff are non-British; 26 per cent of doctors are non-British. Approximately 20 per cent of care workers are non-British. These figures would indicate that migrants are hardworking members of the community who pay their taxes and make a valued contribution. They do not appear concerned about the ethnicity of those for whom their work is of benefit.

Whatever your view on Brexit, this country needs, and will continue to need, migrants. It is in our national and international interest to have free trade, and with it, free movement of people around Europe and the world.

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I am British, I love the British landscape and British culture – music, art, theatre, literature and learning, etc, and the contribution British nationals have made to the world, but I would love to see more ethnic variety and vibrancy in our communities.

There is a big world out there, let’s have some of it here.

NB. Where the word ‘migrant’ is used I include ‘refugee/displaced person’.

Geoff Hoskin,