Blair warns against making scapgoats of immigrants in debate on Britain's problems
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, blamed by some for allowing hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans to migrate to the UK after European Union enlargement in 2004, has warned British politicians not to target immigrants.
Saying he believed immigration “comes in a box marked ‘Handle With Care’”, Mr Blair politely disagreed with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who last week said immediate freedom to move for eastern Europeans had been a mistake.
“Overall, I think immigration has been good for Britain and most immigrants have assimilated well, so don’t make them a scapegoat for our problems,” said Mr Blair, during a rare return to the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday.
“The times are challenging for people, but I just want to say this emphatically. The type of politics that ends up with scapegoating people, not with solutions, is not the type of politics that I want. I would be careful about it. I know the political pressures on it.
“I understand how people feel, but the fact is that immigrants have contributed a lot to our country. In the end I think the politics that focuses attention on them and says the problem that Britain has is to do with immigration is I think personally not correct.”
Responding to growing concerns about immigration in the UK, Mr Miliband last week put forward plans to force migrants to learn English, tackle illegal immigration and ban recruitment agencies from using low-cost foreign workers to drive down wages.
Taking questions from reporters, Mr Blair warned that influential figures in Asian countries and elsewhere were already raising fears about the consequences of talk that the UK could quit the European Union, or significantly change its relationship with it.