Immigration Focus Group: Hayes



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Immigration Focus Group: Hayes
Main themes:

  • Very negative about the economic side of immigration; jobs and employment problems.

  • Less negative about culture (diversity as a positive thing) BUT specific instances of annoyance based on culture and language barriers and a lack of integration.

  • Awareness that the media fuels anger towards immigration; but nevertheless this will influence perceptions.

  • Consensus that immigration should be reduced based on sheer numbers rather than any kind of racial stereotype. If immigration is to continue, general feeling that higher skilled immigrants should be encouraged rather than unskilled workers who have emigrated for the money, not to live.

  • Quick to say the system is the problem, not the immigrants themselves.



Section One: Housing Discussion


1. Do you think the number of immigrants coming to Britain should be increased a lot, increased a little, remain the same, reduced a little or reduced a lot?

  • General theme: immigration should be reduced.

  • Decreased a little– 10

  • Decreased a lot – 4


2. What do you think we mean by ‘immigrants’ in this question?

  • Most interpreted ‘ethnic minorities’ in housing question as mixed minorities. One interpreted as all of the same ethnicity, which would probably affect results.

  • General feeling that the group were less likely to notice if an ethnic minority family moved into their area because of their skin colour or culture, but more because of the fact that they were new to the area.

  • General belief an ethnic minority family moving into an area was more likely to be noticed in the countryside than in the city or a borough.

3. Do you think the government is reducing immigration levels at the moment? Can they?

  • Yes they could, but they haven’t been doing.

  • Very difficult to do so.


Section Two: Immigration Policy

Should be reduced. More scrutiny on who rather than the overall amount – bring in the right sort of immigrant (hard working, looking for work and to contribute), though feeling that people who were in work in the UK were ‘sending a lot of money home’ and living in squalor in the UK in order to send all wages back to Eastern Europe.


Polish people were recognized as “Good workers but taking away from our company”- company in question do not hire foreign workers themselves.

Counter- suggestion that the reason why industries or companies have to rely on immigration is because the English do not want the jobs themselves.


How do you think of immigration? Historically or modern immigration?

  • Family experience and second generation do not tend to think of themselves as immigrants.

  • Cheap labour and the fact that immigration is not about living in Britain, but working in Britain: “They’re lovely chaps [Polish workers]…it’s just the system”.

  • Perceptions of immigration heavily influenced by media- idea of immigrants taking from the state and not giving back. Legal immigration getting mixed up with illegal and as a result people tend to have very negative views of immigrants as a whole.




  • Suggestion that Britain should mirror systems in other countries like Canada, USA, Australia where there are thresholds for immigration, criteria to promote highly skilled as opposed to unskilled labour and immigration is very competitive. Britain needs to be pickier about the immigrants coming into the country.

  • Many claims that immigrants need to learn English more than they do, that it should be some sort of requirement of entry. Immigrants “need cushioning”; “we’re expected to fit in around them rather than them around us”.




  • Belief that in inner London schools there is ‘one English speaking child in a class’ and that immigrants are ‘taking over services’.

  • Expensive to live in Bromley or Beckenham so immigration doesn’t affect these places as much. Issues of affordability which keeps areas mainly white.

  • Social housing developments attract a different clientele and mix of people than privately-owned housing, so bringing poorer people (including immigrants) to these areas.


5. Have your views about immigration and ethnic diversity changed over the years?

  • General feeling that views about immigration have become more negative due to sheer numbers.

  • More negative through media, for example police programmes on Romanian pickpockets. Media-fuelled negativity.

  • One respondent didn’t think that immigration is the problem for the economy, because the government can still afford to pay millions in international aid.

  • Sense of the country being ‘fit to burst’; something that is really noticeable in inner London.

  • ‘Diversity is not the problem, volume is’.

  • Not about the colour of skin but the culture and language barriers that accompany it.

  • ‘Modern day slavery’- worse conditions back home and therefore immigrants are here to work not to live.

  • Failure of the system that people are allowed into the country with no money and no skills.


Is there a class difference in opinions about immigration?

  • Middle classes don’t have direct contact with immigration. They may employ indirectly, not in daily contact in the streets. Middle classes are in a bubble. – interestingly this Hayes group mainly identified themselves as working class but also described Hayes as being “in a bubble” due to high house prices and well to do residents, very little contact with immigrants unless they venture out to Croydon or London.

  • Mostly talking about immigration in a negative light.

  • Residents upset that they are expected to integrate with immigrants and that the ethos is to ‘promote ethnic minorities more’, rather than immigrants integrating with them. ‘Discrimination not immigration’.

  • Need immigration in the NHS but doctors are also taking a lot [presumably in terms of jobs]. One woman made a comment that about 50% of the surnames in doctors’ surgeries were foreign; another woman stated it wasn’t about surname because immigrants may be first, second, third generation.


How do you think about diversity and culture?

  • Recognized in the 1970s and 1980s, probably more ignorant based on race or culture, but nowadays the economic argument against immigration seems to be stronger.

  • But general feeling that a cultural mix is a positive thing. But there is a finite number of resources of hospitals and schools.

  • But if immigration is legal, immigrants will be paying taxes. If not, this is the fault of the employer, not the immigrants’.

  • Problem is the dilution of British culture and language. Diverse cultures are good, but sheer numbers and lack of integration is the problem.

  • Good experience of immigrants and immigrant areas, but as places to visit, not to live.

  • Immigration in London is very similar in other large cities, like New York or Paris. Less of a problem in rural areas.

  • Recurring theme of cultural and linguistic barriers. Onus should be on immigrants to learn the language. But in Britain, there is less of a need to learn the language, especially as the NHS provide interpreters in dozens of language, at the cost of the state not the immigrant. But it is in the long term interest for them to understand because then they can integrate easier.

  • Language is the basis- one woman thought it should be ‘all about looking after our own first, then help the immigrants’.

  • Other countries are a lot more patriotic than England; for example some councils objected to the celebration of St. George’s Day and banned the flags [EDL connotations]. Feel that this lack of patriotism has been more or less the same over the past 50 years.

  • Not only immigrants who have cultural problems. Drinking culture amongst British youth resulting in fighting and violence- there are problems with the British as well as immigrants.


Section Three: Immigration and Housing

  • Family and friends very important for all.

  • For the older participants, countryside is more important.

  • Some said that ethnic set-up would affect decision; but others more concerned about feeling safe than checking for ethnic mix. Crime is not just about immigration.

  • Oldest participant stated they could not live as an ethnic minority.

  • All-white neighbourhoods don’t necessarily integrate with each other.

  • Not about race but about like-minded people in terms of wanting good schools and having similar incomes and outlooks in life regardless of race. Lined to income, aspiration, well educated/good job.

  • In terms of moving house to the area (Hayes, Beckenham) mostly pull rather than push factors (eg came for the low crime, nice houses, nice schools).

  • Final remarks based on need for more highly qualified than unskilled immigrants. Should privilege skill level rather than nationality. There need to be deterrents to stop people wanting to immigrate here.


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