Immigrants or Settlers

Peoples of Britain circa 600
Peoples of Britain circa 600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Immigration is a hot issue in the United Kingdom right now. Some time ago I picked up a copy of the Daily ? (a paper that I don’t normally read) and the story on the front page was going on about immigrants and basically implying that we should pull up the drawbridge and prevent any further immigration into our already “overcrowded Island”.

Turning to page 20 (or thereabouts) was an article about how the world economic crisis had affected Dubai and how “poor” British “settlers” were suffering from the economic fallout.

Probably the two journalists did not meet to discuss how they should handle the situation. But why are migrants to the United Kingdom demonised and called immigrants (a word with all sort of connotations) whilst British migrants to other countries were treated sympathetically as settlers?

“The trouble with us Brits is that we still think we rule the world”

The trouble with us Brits is that we still think we rule the world and have a divine right to live where we please. But faced with a possible “invasion” by people of other nationalities there is often fear and hostility towards the newcomers.

But the fact is that Britain is entirely made up of immigrants. I am probably a mixture of Ancient Briton (my mother was Welsh), Anglo Saxon, Norse and Norman (French) with a sprinkling of African (From the slave trade) and Italian (Romans) thrown in. The English Language has words derived from Anglo Saxon, Norse, French, Latin, Greek and Hindi amongst others.

Since the beginning the human race has spread out from a small group in one place to the whole world. Since then people have colonised and invaded lands occupied by other people.

Conquest and Colonisation

Empires have risen and fallen. For a while the Assyrians, Babylonians, then the Persians followed by the Greeks dominated chunks of Europe and Asia. The Roman Empire lasted for centuries but eventually fell. The Mongols held sway over much of Asia, Chinese dynasties ruled huge lands, and Aztecs and Incas tried to subdue land around them and then spread out (as migrants) to the conquered territories.

Western “civilisation” has come to dominate the planet. First the Spanish and Portuguese, then the Dutch, French and British, and finally the Americans and Russians, conquered, dominated and colonised most of the world.

  • Europeans Americans almost wiped out the Native Americans in North America.
  • Spanish and Portuguese colonisers took over South and Central America.
  • Dutch and British became a sizeable minority in South Africa and the tried to rule over the indigenous population.
  • Russians took over Eastern Europe and controlled the local Inuit population in Siberia.

Peaceful Immigration

I remember that at school we had a Polish teacher teaching us French. He had come to Britain at the beginning of World War 2 to escape persecution from the Russians and Germans. He said that he was proud of the fact that he was more British than us who were born right at the end of the war (1944/5).

We have a proud history in Britain of accepting into our midst people who seek asylum from persecution, or death, in the land of their birth. This proud history is coming under threat as some, encouraged by the popular press, who lump together “asylum seekers”, “economic migrants” and “benefit scroungers” in the same breathe.


In the United Kingdom, we quite readily accept people from France, Spain, Australia and even Hong Kong or Japan. Yet many are fearful of migrants from Pakistan, Africa or Eastern Europe.  I can only put it down to a form of racism based on culture rather the colour.

Previous generations of British people thought themselves superior and were undoubtedly racist in their attitudes to other people. Now, in these politically correct days, people, and the media, are extremely careful about the words they use. But behind the careful words we often detect an underlying racism that makes itself known by the vitriolic tone behind the words.

Asylum Seekers

Many people live in countries where religious or political minorities are persecuted. Some may find that their freedom or even life is threatened and they seek to travel to a country where they will be safe. We should welcome them into Britain as we have done for other minorities for hundreds of years.

There will be a minority who seek to exploit this sympathy but surely we must be capable of distinguishing the genuine from the non-genuine! I deeply resent the lumping of them all together and making “asylum seekers” into a dirty term.

Economic Migrants

Teachers, doctors, engineers and scientists are in great demand around the world. We British expect to be able to live in other countries and command high salaries for our expertise. We become “economic migrants”.

Yet when people come to the United Kingdom seeking a better life for their families they are often looked down on, and “economic migrants” becomes another dirty term.

State Benefits

The U.K. has an excellent system in place to ensure that people living here do not suffer extreme poverty.

There is a misconception that immigrants come here to exploit our benefits system. The fact is that the percentage of immigrants relying on state benefits is much lower than for people brought up in this country.

What the Bible Says

The people of Israel were told not to mistreat any foreigner living amongst then as they were also told how to treat orphans and widows.

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.
If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.
Exodus 22:21-23(NIV)

Foreigners should be treated equally in employment:

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.
Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (NIV)

The law should treat migrants equally:

Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
Deuteronomy 24:17-18 (NIV)


It is easy when things are difficult to look for scapegoats. (Ask the Jews who were blamed for the economic situation in Germany before World War 2!)

We see postings on Facebook or headlines in newspapers and if we are not careful we give mental assent without really thinking about it.

Virtually every one living today is an immigrant of one sort or another. Either by way of moving ourselves, or by our parents or grandparents, or by our ancestors through migration or conquest, we are all migrants.

In God’s eyes all human beings have equal value and we, who are made in the image of God, can treat all as our equals. In God’s eyes, who gave us this world to live on, is there such a thing as an immigrants anyway?

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

2 thoughts on “Immigrants or Settlers”

  1. I can’t agree that we can welcome more , or as much, migration – from wherever it comes. You no doubt will think this is a racist viewpoint but where is the space to accommodate additional people and where are the resources to feed and water them? You will probably find a strong resentment to incomers from Romania as much as from Pakistan, so please don’t portray this issue as a racist one.


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