If you read the synopsis of “Too Many Immigrants” before watching it, it’s likely that you would expect the BBC to be producing a comprehensive look at attitudes towards immigration and compare any fears or beliefs to the reality of the state of immigration in the UK. Unfortunately, that is not what you would have found if you watched the two part series which concluded on Wednesday night.
Rather, you would find yourself watching a programme that focused on the fears of a handful of UK-born citizens and that made the immigrants they were paired with attempt to assuage their fears and justify their right to live in the UK. What could have been an interesting addition to the immigration debate was, instead, two hours of bigoted opinions and uninformed fears being targeted at business owners, NHS staff, teachers, and other contributing members of society who then had to prove that they weren’t a burden on society.
The constant reference to classifying a person as a “gain or drain” made it feel like some sort of competition where the contestants would be punished if they didn’t argue their case well enough to people who, most of which, had little apparent knowledge of immigration policy in the UK. Nick and Margret didn’t seem to contribute all that much to the show except for their extremely brief visits to political scientists and other academics who, I’m sure, would have massively changed my perception of the programme if they were allowed to be on screen for more than a minute and a half at a time and to contribute more information to the discussions. Instead, they only had a few seconds to counter arguments that immigrants are a hindrance to our society before their points were brushed over abruptly and we were dropped back into the opinions of an out-of-work builder.
I don’t wish to sound overly harsh, the concept behind the programme was interesting and it is important to know what the feelings of the general public are around any political debate; I just feel that an opportunity was wasted. The programme could have really addressed the public’s fears, challenged a lot of anti-immigrant beliefs and examined where they come from but it didn’t. It did, occasionally, have moments ofsignificancewhere an important point would be highlighted by either Nick or Margret, like acknowledging that the views of one of the UK-born participants was the product of British media and that it is to blame for many people’s anti-immigration perspectives, but they too were brushed over too quickly and not really dealt with. The sign off from Nick and Margret did go some way to redeem the programme because they finally took a moment to acknowledge the importance of immigration to our society and they thought about the role of immigration in global politics.
“Too Many Immigrants” would have greatly benefited if it focused on providing information on the impact immigration has upon our economy, our relations with other nations, the NHS and crime as well as looking at public perceptions of immigrants in society but it didn’t. It stuck firmly to playing the “gain or drain” game.
Canterbury Christ Church University