A BRITISH Social Attitudes Survey released yesterday showed 77 per cent of the public want to see a drop in immigration.
Penny Young, chief executive of NatCen Social Research, which undertook the study, said: “British Social Attitudes shows that public desire for a cut in immigration to the UK had begun to rise even before the restrictions on migrants from Romania or Bulgaria were lifted at the start of the year.
“Moreover, a majority of people who think immigration is good, economically or culturally, for the UK still want to see it cut.
“These findings highlight the complexity of this issue.”
It is a timely study, given that restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigration were relaxed on New Year’s Day, as some right-leaning public figures peddled fears of ‘floods’ of new migrants from the two nations spilling onto British shores.
In reality, the influx so far has been far more moderate than some predicted.
A single article could not possibly examine every aspect of immigration in detail but some Wrexham residents in particular articulated some familiar concerns.
Some were worried about the impact on public services.
Mike Monk, 45, said: “How much more can our ‘little island’ take?” – while Geraint Lloyd, 74, of Buckley, suggested immigration levels should be “measured by the acre” to make sure migrants were distributed fairly across the countries of the UK.
Paul Jones, 47, said: “It’s not just a drain on the jobs – it’s on education, the NHS, housing.”
Ruth Gillam, 62, said: “The hospitals, schools and housing are going to be swamped.”
However, there is evidence that recent immigration has been beneficial to the UK economy, particularly immigrants from the European Union.
A study released last November based on data from the Office of National Statistics said that between 2001 and 2011, immigrants boosted the UK economy by £25 billion, and they were 45 per cent less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK nationals.
It stated: “The reality contrasts starkly with the view often maintained in public debate.”
It is difficult to track how many immigrants exactly there are Chester, Flintshire and Wrexham.
At the last estimate, by North Wales Police six years ago, some 15,000 migrant workers lived in the North Wales area – but the lack of reliable figures has made the impact of immigration an issue that is difficult to measure with cold, hard maths.
Sue Manley, 57, of Wrexham questioned the language capabilities of immigrants, saying “many won’t even speak our language”.
Wrexham man Alex Dix, 57, said: “I stood on the High Street in the summer. I could not help but notice that almost every language and nationality possible passed me by – except Welsh or English. It’s quite scary.”
The impact of immigration on language and culture is difficult to quantify.
A report by North Wales Police in 2007 stated: “Wales is still striving to be a fully effective bi-lingual country and yet in some areas this is being overtaken by the creation of multi-lingual communities.
“For example, within Eastern Division (Wrexham and Flintshire), the divisional commander now believes that in communicating with the public, he needs to be producing material in Welsh, English and Polish as a minimum.”
The report also stated there was “no significant signs” of community tension.
However, when approached for their views on the study, several foreign nationals declined to speak to the Leader, saying they were wary of stirring up resentment or attracting “trouble”, while those opposing large-scale immigration remain passionate and vocal.