PODCAST: Lionel Shriver discusses this column with Dr Remi Adekoya in our The Edition podcast. Listen here.
The Afghans the Home Office is scrambling to resettle in Britain present one of immigration’s most sympathetic cases: translators and other support workers for allied troops whose lives are potentially imperilled by Taliban revenge against collaborators. Councils are searching for big, many-bedroomed properties to rent or repurpose, as fleeing Afghan families can have a dozen members. The Home Secretary has offered to resettle 20,000 Afghans in due course.
Yet if history serves, we’ll soon see many more than 20,000 Afghans land on British shores, all of whom won’t necessarily have worked for Nato and few of whom will wait to be invited. Like those of nearly all immigrants, their stories are bound to be heart-breaking. Surely only a monster would deny such decent yet desperate people ‘a better life’. That’s the winning moral reasoning that has currently turned America’s southern border into no more than a notional scribble on a map.
In Britain, Migration Watch released two reports this summer whose key findings I will try to present as succinctly and neutrally as possible. In the past 20 years, foreign-born residents of the UK have doubled to nine million, going from 8 per cent to 14 per cent of the population. In tandem, the white British proportion of the population has fallen from 89 per cent to 79 per cent, while ethnic minorities have grown from 10 per cent to 21 per cent. Since 2001, 84 per cent of UK population growth has been due to immigrants and their children, rising to 90 per cent since 2017 — the majority non-EU.
More than a third of UK births now involve at least one foreign-born parent; in parts of London, 80 per cent of births are to foreign–born mothers. Indeed, non-UK nationals are disproportionately concentrated in British cities. The majorities of London, Slough, Leicester and Luton have an ethnic minority background. About half the births in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge are to foreign mothers.
Unsurprisingly, then, a third of British school children are already from ethnic minorities; in 20 years, ethnic-minority children will constitute more than half the students in state schools. As of 2018, 90 per cent of immigrants were under 45. That means the ethnic transformation of the UK, whose white population is far older, is destined rapidly to accelerate.
Even delivering those dry statistics feels dangerous. As for their implications, none of you readers is supposed to care. In particular, white Britons who greet those figures with anything short of delight know perfectly well to keep their traps shut. The lineages of white Britons in their homeland commonly go back hundreds of years. Yet for the country’s original inhabitants to confront becoming a minority in the UK (perhaps in the 2060s) with any hint of mournfulness, much less consternation, is now racist and beyond the pale. I submit: that proscription is socially and even biologically unnatural.
We are a political and territorial species. Although Pollyannas push us to regard ourselves as members of one big happy human family, we compulsively clump into groups. These groups claim territory and, under normal circumstances, defend it. For westerners to passively accept and even abet incursions by foreigners so massive that the native-born are effectively surrendering their territory without a shot fired is biologically perverse.
This is not all about race. Kenyans resent Somali immigrants. Black South Africans resent Zimbabwean immigrants. Colombians resent Venezuelan immigrants. Anywhere, when the proportion of the ‘other’, however they might be defined, crosses a critical and perhaps even quantifiable statistical line, people who were born in a place stop getting excited about all the new ethnic restaurants and start getting pissed off.
With no sense of irony, Mexicans resent the droves of American retirees who settle on their coasts, radically transforming the local culture and nattering along the beach exclusively in English. I’m sympathetic, too. This is normal. Call them ‘xenophobic’ if you will, but most people want to live around people like themselves. Most people are capable of hospitality towards foreigners who arrive in modest numbers, but balk when outsiders are so populous that they seem to be taking over. Most people of any race or religion do not like vast numbers of people entering their territory from elsewhere and making themselves permanently at home. This is not some sick, especially western meanness. This is what human beings are like all over the world. The blithe welcoming of their own dwindling and loss of dominion now demanded of western majorities is fundamentally inhuman.
After all, try reversing the paradigm. If white westerners were immigrating by the tens of millions to developing nations — if Liverpudlians were pouring into Lagos — the left would decry the mass migration as neocolonialism. Such white flight would be denounced as invasion — as it would be. Yet for today’s left, non-white cultures must be protected, preserved and promoted, while evil European cultures deserve to be subsumed. That version of events is neither fair nor saleable.
In the perfect world, it’s Pakistan that would have to accept still more millions of disaffected Afghans, after harbouring the Taliban for 20 years. Yet plenty of Afghans are likely to make a run for Europe. For now, most Britons will feel magnanimous towards anyone who escapes the joyless oppression of rulers who hate music — although a guilty ‘we broke it, we buy it’ obligation to welcome all-comers doesn’t pertain; Afghanistan was already broken in 2001.
Many of these refugees will be wonderful people, and all 36 million arguably persecuted Afghans could probably qualify for asylum. But in the big picture, along with the native populations of other western countries, white Britons needn’t submissively accept the drastic ethnic and religious transformation of their country as an inevitable fate they’re morally required to embrace without a peep of protest. Over a third of the residents of your capital city weren’t even born in your country — a proportion that continues to climb — and a trace of dismay would seem fitting. I’m one of those foreigners myself, and should London have become majority-American, you’d have every right to be irked.