The UK is currently
having a debate about immigration.  Conservative
Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently warned about the “discomfort and
disjointedness” that uncontrolled immigration has led to in some British
communities.  Whereas the Liberal Democrat
Business Secretary, Vince Cameron, has said such comments were “very unwise”
and risked inflaming racial tensions. 

Against this
background The Telegraph has released figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics showing how
much of Britain’s population grow is reliant on immigration and how the number
of foreign born residents has increased:

“The proportion of
the population born overseas almost doubled in two decades to more than 11 per
cent…It meant that just under seven million people living in Britain were
immigrants…


The
population stood at 61.14 million as of last June, the most recent estimate. Of
that, 6.97 million were people who were born overseas – 11.4 per cent, the
highest proportion on record.


The
proportion had been rising steadily year on year and was almost double the 6.7
per cent recorded in 1991 when the foreign-born population stood at 3.85
million.


Some
762,000 of those now in Britain came from those eastern European nations
admitted to the European Union in 2004, which gave them access to the jobs
market. The majority, 4.7 million, were people born outside Europe.”

While immigration numbers are making some Britons uneasy, it
is the problem of migration that is worrying many in one of Britain’s oldest
ally, Portugal
The recent economic crisis in that
country, where the EU has been asked to give a rescue package has helped to drive many of Portugal’s bright young graduates overseas –
particularly to  former colonies such as
Angola, Mozambique and Brazil:

Portugal’s Emigration Observatory says the number of
Portuguese registered at consulates in Brazil jumped from 678,822 in 2009 to
705,615 the following year. In Angola, the number went from almost 57,000 in
2008 to just over 74,500 in 2009. The number of Mozambican residence permits
granted to Portuguese in 2010, meanwhile, was up almost 13 percent on the
previous year, to nearly 12,000.


The problem is not confined to Portugal though, Spain,
Ireland, Greece, France and Italy are all mentioned as “bleeding talent”.  The trouble is that the loss of skilled
emigrants is likely to keep struggling European countries in the economic
doldrums for a longer period:


The
first to leave (in a crisis) are always the ones with the most marketable
skills,” says Demetrios Papademetriou, the president of the nonprofit
Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. who also chairs the World
Economic Forum’s migration task force.


Smart,
creative and dynamic graduates provide vital fuel to stoke national economies,
and the flight of this generation is “one of the most consequential
byproducts of the (European) crisis,” according to Papademetriou…


They
are losing the people who can get them either out of the crisis long-term or
who will be needed to start and fuel the recovery,” Papademetriou said in
a telephone interview.

The fear would be that the migration patterns are reinforcing
a downward economic trend.  The parlous
state of the home economy leads young graduates to leave for better work opportunities.
The loss of that home grown educated talent makes it harder for those countries
to pull themselves out of the recession and makes it more likely that further
numbers will leave.  Maybe Britain should
be thankful that it is still seen as a land to flock to, rather than a land to
flee from.

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...