Monday 3 October 2016

Boston wasn't always against migration

Boston is the town that most strongly voted for Brexit in the EU Referendum. Clearly, the people there don’t much like ‘free movement of people’. But it wasn’t always like that.

Back in the 17th century, people of Boston, England moved to America and founded Boston, in the state now called Massachusetts.
That’s because, like most people who move, those people from Boston, England wanted a better life.
This was eloquently expressed by the playwright and novelist, Bonnie Greer, on BBC Question Time last week, broadcast from the town of Boston, England.
Ms Greer said:
"We’re a migratory species, we human beings. And we move. We move to better ourselves, we move to go and find the things we need.
"We’ve always moved. We will continue to move.
"This town of Boston is the second Boston I’ve been in. The first one is in Massachusetts. People from your town founded that town. And they founded it because they wanted to have a better life. And they’ve moved."
Her comment drew strong applause from the Bostonians in the audience, who were clearly moved.
And yet, it’s also clear that many residents of Boston are alarmed by the rapid rise of migrants moving there in recent years from the rest of the EU.
After London, Boston is home to the highest concentration of EU migrants – quite something, when you consider that London is one of the world’s largest cities, and Boston is, or was, a sleepy Lincolnshire farming town.
In the period between 2004 and 2014, the migrant population of Boston increased by 460 per cent.
Of the 64,000 people now living in the borough (some officials believe the real figure could be 10,000 more), about 12 per cent were born in EU countries.
That has put considerable pressure on public services – schools, hospitals, doctors, homes, etc. It’s understandable that many of the indigenous population of Boston feel disgruntled.
It’s is also perhaps a natural response to blame the extra people who are using those public services for the strain on those public services.
There is, though, another way of looking at this.
If a train is full, do you blame the passengers, or the train company for not providing enough trains or carriages?
If a hospital is full with no beds available, do you blame the patients in the hospital, or the public services for not providing enough beds and facilities?
Migrants don’t move to places where there aren’t good jobs. And that’s perfectly exemplified in the case of Boston.
The rapid rise in Boston’s migrant population is because there are plenty of jobs to fill, with employment rising. If that were not the case, migrants wouldn’t go there.
Consequently, Boston is booming.
Unemployment in the town is well below the national average - 4.4% of economically active people, as against 5.2% nationally.
Boston used to be a sleepy farming town. Farmers used to bring in temporary workers for the short harvest periods.
But as a result of the influx of migrants, the local economy of Boston has diversified and blossomed.
The town now creates work all year-round, meaning that it can sustain a lot more jobs. That also means, of course, that Boston needs migrants to fill those jobs.
As Boston Labour councillor, Paul Gleeson, recently told the BBC:
"There's more harvesting going on throughout the year. And - more importantly - those vegetables are processed in Boston - wrapped and bar-coded for supermarket."
In addition, food grown elsewhere in Europe is now brought to Boston to be processed.
This is, and should be, a success story. Why do so many residents in Boston think otherwise?
Politicians have been quick to blame ‘too many migrants’ for perceived strains in the town of Boston. But, in reality, that’s castigating the wrong people.
It’s easy to scapegoat migrants for problems they didn’t cause. And doing so, actually lets our political masters off the hook. It hides the central problem, rather than addressing it.
Because politicians shouldn’t be blaming migrants for any lack of resources. They should be blaming themselves. For it is they who are at fault.
EU migrants in Britain – and in Boston – are mostly in gainful employment, working hard, spending most of their earnings here, paying taxes, and making significant net contributions to our national and local economies.
Without them Britain – and Boston – would be poorer.
The lack of investment in the local services and infrastructure of Boston – and in other areas of Britain - is not the fault of hard-working migrants. It’s the fault of successive governments which have made places such as Boston a forgotten town.
We need politicians to stop incriminating immigrants, and start devoting their energies into the real problems facing Britain.
EU migrants help Britain to be richer. We should be using that extra wealth they bring to our country to enhance and upgrade towns like Boston.
We need massive investment programmes, to rebuild infrastructure; encourage new enterprises; build many more affordable homes; invest more into our schools, hospitals and GP services; assist with re-education and lifelong learning for all workers; help the unemployed to train for new skills or even to start their own businesses; offer bigger incentives to companies (yes even foreign ones) to relocate to towns where people need more work.
Why isn’t this happening?
Don’t blame Poles or other EU migrants. Blame politicians.

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