Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Priti Patel is wrong: mass migration is a sign of rising prosperity, not poverty

Perhaps the worst excuse for Britain’s massive international aid budget is that the cash will stem immigration pressures because richer countries emit fewer emmigrants. As economists cal tell you reverse is true: emigration is an expensive journey and when the poorest countries become wealthier, more people can afford to make it. So Priti Patel was not quite right when she told the Independent’s website that…

…tackling the global challenges of our time such as drought and disease which fuel migration, insecurity and instability is the right thing to do and is firmly in Britain’s interest.

Tackling drought and disease is, unquestionably, the right thing to do. But the link to migration is rather more complicated. Paradoxically, it is the progress being made overcoming drought and disease in the developing world that explains why so many are making the journey to Europe. In my native Scottish Highlands, for example, people made precisely the same journey for the same reasons: after a bit of economic development, more people suddenly had the means to seek a better life in America – and many risked death making the crossing to do so. We should see these movements of people in precisely the same way.

Failure to grasp the relationship between wealth and immigration is a mistake politicians make all the time. When Theresa May was Home Secretary, she also claimed that third-world development will somehow mean fewer migrants. In a Daily Telegraph article, she argued that:-

‘We must help African countries to develop economic and social opportunities so that people want to stay.’

Give aid, not shelter, runs the argument – and it has been an error that has trapped politicians for years. ‘As the benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico,’ Bill Clinton once assured Americans, ‘there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.’

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