Run by HOPE not hate in partnership with British Future, our National Conversation on Immigration seeks to better-understand what the public thinks about immigration, and to involve them in the process of deciding what happens after we leave the EU.
We are working alongside the Home Affairs Committee, feeding into their own investigation.
Crucially, we want to see if we can find common ground. Immigration has been a hugely divisive subject over recent years and there has been little public trust in the way that immigration is managed. Over the last five years, it has consistently been one of the top five issues of public concern and was a factor in how many people voted in the EU referendum.
Employers, public services, families, universities and migrants themselves have also been unhappy with the way in which immigration has been handled, struggling to recruit enough workers or finding themselves caught up in bureaucracy.
Leaving the EU will mean significant changes to the UK’s immigration policy, but this offers a window of opportunity to build a system that can work for everyone: a system that is fair to migrants, meets economic need, and has the support of receiving communities.
To get to a consensus necessitates restoring public trust, which cannot be achieved without engaging the public in a debate about their views and concerns.
The ‘immigration debate’ has been dominated by loud voices who are either very anti- or very pro- immigration, giving little space for the majority in the middle, who see both positives and challenges of immigration, to be heard. By opening up a National Conversation on immigration, we want to give a say to everyone, including those with less voice in policy decisions, such as young people and those who live outside big cities.
The National Conversation on Immigration has three main components:
So far, we have been to over 45 towns and cities across each region and nation of the UK. In each place we visit, we meet local stakeholders such as the local authority, business leaders and civil society organisations.
We then run a separate citizens panel made up of members of the public recruited to be representative of the local area.
Basing our conversation on a discussion guide, the citizens panels discuss the approach each would like to see the Government take to different types of migration. They are also asked their views about integration.
Crucially, participants consider what would need to change in order for the Government to get their support for its handling of immigration.
Our interim report draws on our first 30 visits, and our survey will be open for responses until the end of our investigation which wraps up in summer 2018.