Should we be worried about the vast numbers of German-born people living covertly in the United Kingdom? The Office for National Statistics estimates that in 2011 some 297,000 Germans were resident here, the fifth largest non-British-born contingent (after Indians, Poles, Pakistanis and the Irish respectively). What the hell are they all up to? Sitting in smartly furnished homes, biding their time, and waiting, waiting. That’s what I suspect. A report in the Guardian a while back suggested that our German community tended to ‘stay under the radar’, an ability which mercifully eluded them 70 years ago. The paper also reported that while there were a few areas with significant German numbers — Kensington in London, for example, and Richmond in North Yorkshire — mostly they had simply assimilated with the locals, like terrifyingly serene blond-haired aliens from a John Wyndham novel. When the time comes and the signal is given, they will advance like automatons upon their British neighbours and set about them with an implacable violence, their eyes flashing weirdly.
In point of fact, I think the phrase ‘stay under the radar’ really implied that they were not likely to stab you at a cash machine and make off with your wallet. As immigrants go, the Germans are about as good as it is possible to get; economically productive, favouring small families, unlikely to commit crime and more than happy to integrate.
According to a hugely sententious man called James O’Brien, a presenter for the radio station LBC, merely to say this is to paint oneself as a racist. O’Brien had been interviewing the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who had made the point that most British people would probably prefer to have a family of Germans move in next door than a family of Romanians. ‘You know the difference,’ Farage chided the presenter, who was so swaddled in his purblind political correctness that he actually — au contraire, Mr Farage — knew nothing at all, apart from his own utterly misguided certainties. Although this exchange produced a small media firestorm, a partial apology from Farage and Ridiculous Ed Miliband insisting that the Ukip leader had made a ‘racial slur’ — the public, I suspect, really did know the difference. And they would have been right.
A Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police has revealed just how correct this horrible racist prejudice actually is. The request was for the number of arrests of foreign nationals in London over the period 2008–2012. Having read the data, I now wish to live next door to a Sammarinese, as only one suspected crime was committed by immigrants from San Marino across those four years. But then it may be that there is only one Sammarinese living in London, and he’s a wrong ’un.
On the crucial issue — world cup qualifier, Germany vs Romania — the outcome is very clear. There were a total of 2,437 arrests of people from Germany across those four years. The number for Romanians was 27,725. This latter figure included 1,370 suspected burglaries and 142 alleged rapes, by the way, just to flesh the stats out with a bit of detail.
So now you really do ‘know the difference’. And according to the UK census of 2011, there are more German nationals living in London than there are Romanians: 44,976 as against 42,151. So your new next-door neighbour is much, much, much more likely to be criminally inclined if he is Romanian than if he is German.
There are caveats, of course. I suppose it might be that it was just one Romanian man, an incredibly active chap, arrested 27,725 times. Or it may be that the police hate Romanians and are more likely to arrest them than they are Germans. But still, the figures would seem to suggest to any normal, functioning human being — not James O’Brien, maybe, but to most of the rest of us — that the Romanians punch hugely above their weight in the old crime stats. They out-crim even the Jamaicans and the Somalians, which is an incredible achievement, really.
There is another caveat — one which will get us into even deeper water and my editor will probably need to order another cake to feed to the protestors outside his front door. Whenever the alleged criminal proclivities of Romanians are reported in the press, there always follow several anguished and extremely articulate mews of complaint from UK-domiciled lawyers, doctors, lecturers and so on of Romanian descent. ‘But you don’t understand, these people in the crime figures, the ones waiting balefully by your ATMs, are not Romanian at all!’ they explain. ‘They are Gypsies, the Roma. They are not us.’ It is more than my job’s worth to take their word on this matter. Sadly, the Met Police did not distinguish between ethnic Romanians and ethnic Roma; if they were born in Romania, that’s good enough for the Old Bill. So it would be unwise to speculate any further, wouldn’t it?
Still, I suspect that this explanation, the presentation of the facts, is superfluous. For the likes of James O’Brien, it’s still raaaacissst, and for the rest of us, we could have guessed as much anyway.