October 30th, 2013

  The Moral Maze


The Moral Maze is a British radio program, broadcast at 8 p.m. every Wednesday on BBC Radio Four. It is billed as "Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk."

Buerk oversees the proceedings. The format is for four regular (more or less) panelists to interrogate some invited "witnesses" about some issue with a moral dimension.

The panelists are introduced, and each briefly states his own position on the topic to be discussed.

Then the "witnesses" come on one by one to be interrogated.

Finally the panelists discuss the testimony of the "witnesses" among themselves.


On October 16th, 2013 The Moral Maze tackled migration, with special reference to a recent calamity in the Mediterranean. A boat full of African illegal immigrants had foundered off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

You can download the program, or just listen to it, by locating it on this page. The program is 42 minutes and 46 seconds (42m46s) long.

The panelists were:

Matthew Taylor
Claire Fox
Anne McElvoy
Giles Fraser

The "witnesses":

Dr. Nando Sigona from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham, England. Dr. Sigona gives a 3½-minute account of his work in a video here.
Ed West, whose book The Diversity Illusion: What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right I reviewed for VDARE.com back in April. Ed is Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald.
Dr. Phillip Cole, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England. He has written extensively on the ethics of migration, including Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration (2000).
Harriet Sergeant, Research Fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies, a Thatcherite think tank. I reviewed one of her books in a previous life.

The following is a transcript of that October 16th program.

I typed up just what I heard, including all illogicalities, malapropisms, verbal fumblings, etc. Not many people come out well from a transcription like that — I certainly don't — but I didn't have time to "polish" the result. I apologize to my readers for the shortcomings in readability, and to the speakers for exposing the well-nigh universal inability of human beings to be eloquent when speaking impromptu.

I have added some time stamps at random, in case you want to find something in the sound file, which you can download from the BBC website linked above.


[0m04s] Buerk: Good evening.

It's difficult to imagine the desperation that drives African families to cross the Mediterranean in frail boats captained by crooks to find a new, illegal life in Europe.

In the last fortnight two boats have foundered off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Three hundred and fifty men, women, and children from one drowned within sight of land; 33 more were killed at the weekend-a thousand or more dying a year. The Maltese Prime Minister said this week: "The Mediterranean's turning into a cemetery."

What do you do with those who do make it to shore — thirty thousand a year to Italy alone? Common humanity would take them in; but that's both a moral hazard and a procedural injustice, encouraging the people-traffickers and letting the illegal jump the queue over those going through the proper formalities.

In fact the barriers are going up all round the developed world, and the corpses floating in the Mediterranean only sharpen the dilemma for countries that may look rich to the poor but cannot find jobs and resources for their existing populations.

Who do you take in?

What's wrong with them wanting a better life? But how do we choose who should have it?

That's our Moral Maze tonight.

Our panel:

A tragic situation, Matthew, by any standards. How absolutist, how clear are you on it?

[1m41s] Taylor: Well, I like to think of myself as an internationalist, and I think migration has benefited Britain; but it's partly because of those things that I think it's also important to have fair rules and to consistently apply them even though it might mean hardship for those who would like to migrate. And I do think also that we have to balance the perceived interests of migrants and those of the resident population.

Buerk: Claire Fox?

[2m04s] Fox: So I believe in freedom of movement and therefore open the borders, but I suppose morally my main thing is that, being human, one of the most inspiring things about it is that you can make yourself not accept your fate and create your own destiny. And in that sense the immigrant is an ideal moral figure, and could be seen to embody it. So that's what I find inspiring.

Buerk: Anne McElvoy?

[2m26s] McElvoy: Well, as befits someone who works for The Economist, I take a relatively generous view of migration. I think it is a very good thing, er, for … in many cases. But I think we have to accept there are limits, and there have to be rules in the way that that is organized. The alternative is moral hazard, but it's also punishing people who traffic in other human beings, and that's something we must also take seriously as an ethical consideration tonight.

Buerk: Giles Fraser?

[2m54s] Fraser: "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Words on the Statue of Liberty. Absolutely right.

Buerk: Panel, thanks very much indeed. Our first witness is Dr. Phillip Cole, who's Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England, written extensively on migration, including Debating the Ethics of Immigration: Is there a Right to Exclude? Er, is there? I don't want the book, one word would do.

[3m26s] Cole: No. There isn't a right to exclude.

Buerk: So in your view, should all borders be wide open?

Cole: Yes, they should. That's my view. Um, two reasons, I think. One, because, um, we recognize at the national level that freedom of movement is essential. Everyone has the right, er, to move and settle where they want within the nation, and I don't see that a national border makes any difference to that. The other has to do with, er, global justice: that we are really benefiting from the labor of people in the global South. We want their goods, we want their resources, we want their profits, but we don't want them, and that strikes me as morally bankrupt.

Buerk: Anne McElvoy?

[4m06s] McElvoy: Well, Dr. Cole, to move from a position like mine which is broadly liberal on migration and immigration to yours, which says basically, there should be no limits at all, does seem not only impractical but, just, you might be just stretching the capacity of people to absorb other groups.

Cole: That may be right, but if we look at, um, the way people do migrate, er, most people want to stay at home. They migrate for specific reasons. So there's no reason to suppose that having an open border situation would actually dramatically increase the number of people on the move. People move …

McElvoy: Well, yes, but if you had, one would have to assume it would be a pull effect among many and might do so. But I just wonder why you pin your sort of moral position — this is after all the Moral Maze — to the question of open borders, where I would stop short of a fully open border because I think for it to be moral it has to be enforceable, and if it isn't — and there doesn't seem much evidence for you in the world that it is — then you're in a sort of rather strange ethical No Man's Land.

[5m17s] Cole: Well, let's think about, um, the right to leave. Everyone has the right to leave any state, um, but that's a right that can be limited in states of emergency; and actually all I'm stating is that let's make, make that parallel with immigration. Er, restrictions on emigration are exceptional, then we should make, un, immigration …

McElvoy: Right. But if I leave, I am an absence of something; if I arrive, I add to numbers, I, I may add to the strain on the economy, to welfare services, and to many other things. The moral category is rather different, isn't it?

Cole: Well, it is, but not in the way you think. Actually any economist will tell you that people leaving, which is really alarming, um, people arriving is generally an economic benefit. We know that the evidence is that, um, migrants are net contributors to welfare systems …

McElvoy: We, we can argue about whether the numbers leaving and the numbers coming in, whether it's as simple as just adding them up; but what I do want to sort of get to with you, if I could, is this idea: What about democracy? What about what people think? Because there's a very strong body of evidence that most people in democracies don't favor open borders. They like the idea of control of borders. It makes them feel that that is, that that's an important point for them, of their kind of national sovereignty. Are they wrong?

[6m31s] Cole: I think they are, and you, we need to think about why people think that. Um, just to give you an example of, in a sense, why they're wrong: I've traveled from Wales to England today. Wales has a very strong sense of its national identity, it has its own political systems — voting, taxations — yet no-one really bothered that I moved from London to settle in Wales. It's not a moral issue …

McElvoy: Because there's an agreement, you're actually part of the same country, you came from an economically-developed place to another economically-developed place — no problem. Er, most of the immigration debate is not like that. So that's a bit sort of pie-in-the-sky, isn't it? If it was only a matter of you moving up and down from Cardiff to Bristol, be fine.

Cole: Well, the point is that, the point is realizing that the kind of national border is the exception rather than the rule. Most poli … borders around political authorities are like the border between England and Wales. People can cross them.

McElvoy: But the democratic point doesn't seem to worry you — that people do have more doubts about it, and … Why is that wrong?

[7m26s] Cole: Well, it's wrong in a sense because, um, we need to have a reasoned political debate about this, and it's very difficult to have a reasoned political debate about immigration. I think there is clearly a record of politicians …

McElvoy: You mean, if they don't agree with you.

Cole: I think there's clearly a record of politicians, er, stirring up anti-immigration feeling. Labout, Conservative, they've all exploited anti-immigration feelings …

McElvoy: But it's there, huh?

Cole: … and provoked it. And there's clearly a record of the media also stirring up anti-immigration feeling. And we know why: because politicians want us to be scared of something, and they want us to be scared of immigration. And the media want us to be scared of something.

Buerk: Matthew Taylor?

[8m02s] Taylor: Can I just probe this incredibly pure position that you have about open borders, with a bit of kind of reductio ad absurdum? The Sentinelese tribe of the Andaman Islands, they're one of the most remote tribes in the world, and the international community recognizes that we should leave them alone, because they respond very badly to outsiders. Would you be completely laid back if a thousand twentysomething Westerners decided to land on the Andaman Islands tomorrow because they just fancied, you know, getting away from things?

Cole: No, I wouldn't. Um …

Taylor: Why not?

Cole: Er, but I don't think you can judge the ethics of migration on extreme cases. Um, that's not … it's not the same kind of case we're facing.

Taylor: But why do those, why does that tribe have rights over that island, rather than the Westerners who might want to come in and use it?

Cole: Because …

Taylor: Because you're not really accepting the case that being in a place gives you any more right than not being in that place.

Cole:I don't accept that, but I do accept that in some cases, where ways of life are under threat-where, if you like, the, the nation, if that's a nation, it's under threat —then these are exceptional circumstances. But I don't think you can base, er, the rules of migration around those very extreme cases. The rules about migration to the U.K. are not like that. That's exceptional.

[9m10s] Taylor: But some communities, in London for example, have over the last few decades experienced massive changes in their make-up, you know, and the people who live in those communities would say their community was one thing, and without anybody really asking them or involving them, those communities were completely transformed. Isn't that on a continuum?

Cole: I don't think it is. I don't think you've seen forms of life being destroyed in some extreme form. I think, if you're talking about national cultures, national cultures do change over time. They always have. Cities have always experienced change in their, their make-up, in their cultural make-up, and that's normally a good thing, and one thing about London, it's that it's one of the great cities because it has this movement of people through it, it's added to it enormously.

Taylor: Can I ask you: Do you treat strangers in the same way as you treat members of your family in relation to … generosity, and …

[10m01s] Cole: When it comes to moral obligations, I recognize that my moral obligations are to humanity. I may treat …

Taylor: So you don't feel any greater sense of compassion towards your own family than you do to a complete stranger? So if I was to ask you to give me enormous amounts of help, then you'd feel no differently than if your brother or your sister or your children had?

Cole: It would depend on what, on why you needed it; and I think the, er, the call for help and assistance is, is one that I recognize throughout humanity. I may have particular attachments to a member of my family, and I may prioritize them, but I don't think I can prioritize them on moral grounds.

Taylor: But doesn't morality have to reflect who we are as human beings, and who we are as human beings is that we do naturally give preference to our family than to strangers; we do naturally feel a closer affinity to people that we have lived with for some time and we share a culture with, than people who are strangers. Now whatever the rules might be, it seems to me that your moral code denies our very humanity.

[10m52s] Cole: I think my moral code recognizes our humanity. I think what we feel attachment to are people we encounter. I was discussing this with students this morning, and someone made the point that if I encounter people, it doesn't matter whether they're members of my family or my race, if they need my help, I will give it to them. Um, so the people I encounter every day, they may be strangers or they may not be strangers, but my moral commitments to them are the same.

Buerk: Dr. Cole, thank you very much indeed.

Cole: Thank you very much.

Buerk: Our next witness is Ed West, who's Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald, and more to the point, author of The Diversity Illusion: What We Got Wrong with Immigration and How To Set It Right. Um, what would you say to one of those African survivors stumbling ashore on Lampedusa?

[11m37s] West: Well, I wouldn't want to be in the position, um, of power, but people who are in power do sometimes sacrifice their rights to, er, an easy night's sleep. It's a difficult decision for anyone. I mean, my argument would be, still, that,er, nation-states are the most effective way of creating a just, liberal, um, egalitarian society, and some sort of border, er, must therefore be in use, even though it will often …

Buerk: So what would you do with these people who are illegally trying to get to Europe in such a sad and tragic way?

West: These kind of tragic … er, I don't say "accidents," I mean, it sounds so … er, downplays it. These, these, er, tragedies of people crossing the Mediterranean are not going to go away if we have an amnesty. Amnesties have been tried in Spain, twice, they've been tried in the United States, they've led to more people coming over. If you want to stop people dying in the Mediterranean you can either go the route that they try in, er, places like Japan and Singapore and make life unbearable for illegal immigrants and therefore crack it down to almost zero or you have open borders. I mean, there will always be a certain level of, um …

Buerk: Giles Fraser?

[12m43s] Fraser: So just to be clear, 'cause I wasn't clear, I mean, you have a bad night's sleep, but you would turn people away.

West: You know, it's the people who ran our borders do have to turn people away, and there will be heartbreaking stories, and there will be …

Fraser: And that will be your … You will support that. You think that's right.

West: I think yeah, someone has to do it.

Fraser: So I'm interested in doing this … So you're a Catholic, so I'm interested in doing this from a theological perspective a little bit. The bit that comes to mind in the Scriptures for me is that very moving bit in Matthew 25 where Jesus goes, you know, er, "You saw me in prison, you didn't do anything, you, you didn't give me any food, um, I was a stranger and you didn't welcome me," and they go, "When was that?" and they say, "Inasmuch as you didn't do it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me." I mean, there's a whole implication there that if you're not welcoming the stranger, you're not welcoming Christ.

West: Well, I would say the, the attraction of, um, this is what one might call universalism, the idea that we're all responsible to everyone in the world equally, just as much as we are to our compatriots, is that it sort of superficially resembles Christianity. Now, not everyone in this country is a Christian, but Christian ideas have a very, very powerful effect on all of us, um, and Christianity, like Islam, is a universal religion, and it asks us to be, you know, brothers …

Fraser: But that doesn't seem to have affected your position.

[13m57s] West: But it also does recognize the separation of the church and state; and when the Pope or the Archbishop, um, makes a statement about what we ask, what he wants us to show compassion to, he's making a statement of policy. He's not saying, "I'm in charge," because Christianity's always separated those ideas; and the Church doesn't have those …

Fraser: But let's just not talk about the Church, let's talk about the harder stuff, which, I understand the practical stuff, I'm just trying to get you into the sort of more of the moral, theological stuff, is that, you know, constantly in Jesus' teaching there's stuff about the stranger, there's stuff about the other, there's stuff about the Good Samaritan, and our moral responsibility is always to this person who is more other than us, rather than same as us.

West: But there's a difference between a moral responsibility and the law. The moral … our moral responsibility is as individuals by choice to do those things for people. The law still has to stand; and the law sometimes, as you know, is not always, um, compassionate, and can't always be compassionate.

Fraser: So you actually think the moral bit and the legal bit go in two different directions here.

West: I don't think everything that's moral should be legal, and I don't think everything that is illegal should be moral, if you get my drift.

Fraser: I mean, I agree with that. So, so what you might be saying is that turning people away is … you understand it legally, but morally is actually problematic, especially if you are a Christian perspective.

[15m05s] West: Morally, of course it's, of course it's problematic. I mean, I'm, there is no way we are going to, um, avoid the suffering of, whatever, of seven hundred million people living in poverty, there is absolutely no way we can …

Fraser: So inasmuch as this is the Moral Maze, then you're siding with me, saying this is actually a really problematic thing to do.

West: No, well, I would say in, theoretically, yes, you can do that, the actual practical argument, and I don't think you can separate morality from the practical, um, results of policy, is that a policy of opening borders and saying everybody is welcome would actually have more morally damaging influences, um, effects, er, especially in our country, certainly — I say this from a selfish point of view. Um, but also, you know, unintended consequences around the world.

Fraser: Of course, er, from a selfish point of view, your churches and my churches would be completely empty if it wasn't for immigration.

West: Um, to a … Yes, to a certain extent. But I mean, I don't think the, er, the British policy should be based on what fills any …

Fraser: No, I was making a joke [laughs].

Buerk: Yes, we often fail to top that, Giles. Claire?

[16m06s] Fox: Er, the Lampedusa issue's undoubtedly very emotive, so I more want to kind of turn it into … rather than kind of have which people have suffered: Do you think there's anything morally wrong with millions of, you know, sub-Saharan Africans wanting to improve their standard of living and come to Western Europe?

West: No, of course not. And, you know, there's no doubting that our idea of what we think of, um, someone's rights is based on the natural injustice of us being born in a rich country where we all have pretty good lives, and lots of people are born in very poor countries. There's no doubt about that.

Fox: But in that sense, then, there's a kind of almost a moral responsibility that they don't accept their fate, and that, oh, you know, that there's at least a something morally courageous about not accepting your fate, and trying to do something about it.

West: Yes, but one can still, er, say about someone else that I admire wh … I respect their, their reasons for doing so but I still would rather stop them doing so … that.

[16m57s] Fox: Yeah. So … But the point that you made about nation-states-and I agree that nation-states have to control their borders. That wouldn't … even opening the borders doesn't mean that you ignore the nation-state, I understand that. But can't a nation-state try and win the argument with its own people, democratically as it were, to open the borders, that this would be actually something that would be a positive thing?

West: I don't think it would be a positive thing and I don't think, er, any nation around the world would want, um, you know, immigration …

Fox: Freedom? They wouldn't want freedom?

West: They don't want … The freedom to do what? The freedom to … sort of, have, er, open borders with countries which are much poorer than them, and there's going to be a basically one-way traffic. I mean, there's no freedom in that, that's just a recipe for chaos.

Fox: But, but one of our, one of the panelists started off with the, um, the quote from the, the Statue of Liberty; and obviously you'll know, I hardly need rehearse, that America is still, you know, the most powerful country in the world, and it opened its borders, it opened itself up to …

[17m51s] West: Yeah, but forty percent of the people came over, they were either deported or they had to be turned home in poverty. I mean, America at the time had no, had no welfare state, it was a completely different world from what we are now.

Fox: I'm talking about the ideal, as well as the practical realities, which is … I suppose it's just what moral landscape you want to live in. I, I don't … 'cause I just feel there's a bit of a cost-benefit analysis going on in your head, and I just think that once morality starts ticking boxes like that we do get into trouble. Can't you at least aspire to so … an ideal that's, er, no, an ideal that's a bit more inspiring than, oh, it won't work, everybody.

West: But I mean, America is, is a country that in a sense has built an ideal, not that there's myth-making, but I don't think, er, America's necessarily, er, an ideal society that we should want to aspire to. There is always a, a pay-off for, between sort of diversity and solidarity. You know, you can at one level, at one end of the spectrum, you've got sort of Sweden, which is a country which is sort of traditionally very homogenous but also very egalitarian, then you've got sort of Brazil at the other end, which is, um, you know, extreme inequalities, and America is towards the sort of Brazilian end. Er, but despite their …

[18m54s] Fox: The point I'm making is just very straightforwardly that none the less, based on an ideal of freedom and freedom of movement, it hasn't exactly been a complete basket case or a disaster. It is, after all, the United States of America, which does, after all, represent something positive. You don't want to be writing it all off. We don't want to be like the Swedes, do we?

West: I'm not, I'm not anti-American. I … I … Sweden's not a terrible place. Um, I wouldn't say, you know, but I'm certainly not anti-American, but it's not the only example of a diverse society, and it's always had restrictions on, you know, its borders to a certain extent.

Buerk: And more so now. Ed West, thanks very much indeed. Our next witness is Dr. Nando Sigona, who's a fellow of the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, editor of the journal Migration Studies, indeed a migrant himself: born in Italy, lived here for twelve years, and has a British wife, does a lot of research in this particular area. Have these latest tragedies, um, changed the moral and political climate, do you think?

[19m47s] Sigona: I think they had an opportunity, at least in the last … in the first few minutes after the tragedy; and I find shocking what happened then, not because of the event itself, but because it was cruelly predictable, and is just one in a series of events which are happening continuously. That said, the difference probably is the size this time; and what it was different was the call from the Pope for shame, there going, as I said, and that slightly pushed the, the moral landscape in Italy for a while. There was this call from the European Union to come to Lampedusa to contribute to a sense of solidarity within the European Union. Then after a few days we went back to an idea that this is an Italian problem, so the EU disappeared, which is really interesting, because I think really, um, raised question about who are us, in this context. It's really interesting to look at [unintelligible].

Buerk: Matthew Taylor?

[20m38s] Taylor: I suspect that we might disagree about what the framework of migration rules should be — what their content should be — but do you, unlike out first guest, do you accept that there need to be some rules?

Sigona: I accept that, er, the, the, in the current, um, geopolitical as …, er, situation, there is, in a sense, that, er, the state has the right to regulate the flows of people in and out.

Taylor: So can I ask you a couple of questions about those rules?

Sigona: Yes, of course.

Taylor: The first question is: In framing those rules, is it legitimate to weigh up the interests of migrants with the interests — the perceived interests — of residents? You might not agree with those, with their view of those interests, but they're perceived interests. So should the rules seek to balance?

[21m20s] Sigona: Mm, yes, but not, is not an absolute rule. I think that there is, there are moral obligation towards people taking asylum that should go beyond the idea that, er, well, that people might not like them. I mean, if you are part of, er, if you share the principle on which the, the U.N. Convention for Human Rights and the, the European Convention for the Rights, er, for the Human Rights, I have found that you have to accept the idea that the government should be also be able to go against the wills of their own people.

Taylor: What would be a legitimate interest for the resident population which would lead them to wanting to restrict migration, from your point of view, then?

Sigona: Um, I think there may be, ah, um, an issue of, er, um … well, social … not even social, social collision, because these actually these are terms of un quite problematic, but there may be a sense of, er, mm, resources, allocation of resources, to an extent. However, it's clear that we also need to see, basically, when we talk about the resources, I'd really see the division between us and them, when you look at the local authority … in a local authority's setting, I will look at the prob … residents as shaping …

Taylor: I, I get the sense that in the end, you're a bit uneasy that there really is a kind of objective basis for saying that there is an interest amongst the resident population, whereas you're very clear about the interests of the migrant population. Can I ask you another, er, angle on this? If you have rules, and let's just say the rules were much more liberal, would you in that case still need to enforce those rules? So, for example, we had the migration rules that you wanted, much more liberal rules, and people jumped in boats in order to try to circumvent those rules, wouldn't you have to then send them home?

[22m53s] Sigona: Um, no. Er, what I'll say is, er, …

Taylor: Even if they're kind of …

Sigona: I'm, I was thinking in terms, I mean, you rescue people from the sea, they arrive in Lampedusa, what do you do, do you send them in the first boat back to Libya? I would say no. I mean, because …

Taylor: No, I'm not asking about the [unintelligible], I'm just saying, let's imagine a world in which the rules you believe, so that, for example, I think you think that poverty should be a sufficient grounds for migration. Let's just imagine that the rules you accept apply. In those circumstances, isn't it the case that you need to enforce those rules, even when enforcing then would, would seem unattractive from a humanitarian perspective?

Sigona: Well, if it is the moral ground you're talking about, or if you're, it is the legal one, it's slightly difference. I think that …

Taylor: It's a moral program. It's a moral program.

Sigona: Yes, but …

Taylor: But rules embody morals. One of the morals is that you abide by the rules.

Sigona: Um, yeah. I think that you may want to apply those rules, but I'm, well I know that is not what is going to happen.

Taylor: It's what should happen, not what is going to happen, that the program's about.

[23m52s] Sigona: What should happen, that there are different interests in operation, and the state represent this conflict of interest. There are differenters [?] that negotiate, there is, even if you go to a law, you can see that within the law, within the same [unintelligible] there is conflict around what is the best interest for the country.

Buerk: Anne McElvoy?

[24m07s] McElvoy: You did say earlier that you wouldn't send people back in that position, in that sort of Lampedusa or future Lampedusa situation. Did I hear that right?

Sigona: Yes.

McElvoy: And so you would reduce the whole of immigration policy really to a kind of moral hazard, to a game of tag with the authorities.

Sigona: Um, I wouldn't send people back, because, um, if I look at the way that, for example, the asylum system works in Europe, I think that it is an unfair system. There is plenty of evidence that, for example, asylum cases are decided in very different ways, there is different access, success rate. So I want to give the possibility of people to apply for asylum fairly in Lampedusa. If there is, if you can tell me that there is a fair asylum system, then I can most accept that people get a refusal. Then …

McElvoy: But until you've got your ideal system — and you may never get it — you wouldn't send them back. But it seems to me that you're kind of, slightly morally … co-culpable, if I could put it that way, because you would actually create a very, very dangerous pull effect, you'd put more lives at risk, and as I say you'd have no legitimacy — moral, practical, or anything — to any sort of system, because you'd've simply reduced it to a catch-as-catch-can. Can't be right, can it?

Sigona: Um, the thing is that when you look at the case of the boats migration, that's, and you were taking issue about thirty thousand people, I think it's, it's a relatively small number. It's, ah, less than a quarter on a large …

McElvoy: But it might not remain small if you have an extra pull factor.

Sigona: I don't think, I mean what, if you, if you militarize the mil …, the Mediterranean, what you are going to achieve is, you are going to close a migration routes and you're going to open another one a few miles away. You're going to create even more dangerous routes for people, and possibly there'll be more people drowning.

McElvoy: So really, it sounds like so many of your arguments have led us towards a kind of open borders position. But you, you haven't spoken for open borders, but what you've spoken for is a cat … a sort of elastic borders, that whenever there's a problem, you say, "Well, I would actually let them in," or, "I wouldn't enforce that," or, "That's, that's just unfortunate, that's the system, I don't agree with it, so I'd let them in."

[26m00s] Sigona: No, I …, actually, the position is, is one that I can see that there may be differences in interest, and I find that they find a negotiate between them may be various, so this is why you can see my as being elastic. Elastic is basically there are, I'm trying to see how this operate. And when you were talking about this is a game, a catch game, I really believe that to an extent, it is a game. I really don't see the clear-cut dimension here, and I really don't see the policy …

McElvoy: Is it moral to cast it, or ethical to cast it as a game, to end up like that?

Sigona: Well, there, there is an element the, the, what is moral against this, to think about what people en …, go through such risky routes and journeys, and try to understand that, er, ah, there must be a reason …

McElvoy: But once we've done that we have to come to a conclusion.

Sigona [laughing]: Yes …

Buerk: Dr. Sigona, thanks, thanks very much indeed. Our last witness is, um, Harriet Sergeant, who's author and research fellow at Center for Policy Studies, a right-of-center think tank, for whom she's researched and written quite a lot about immigration, er, and about teenage gangs here, which, er, might be connected. We'll find out in a moment. Er, people are dying to get to countries like ours, in every possible way, aren't they? Tell me why they, why we should keep them out.

[27m11s] Sergeant: They are dying, and I think the, the events that have happened at Lampedusa are absolutely tragic, and it, it does raise a very deep moral question, which I'm glad we're addressing. Er, I, er, spent about, um, nearly a year doing a report on why black Caribbean and white working-class boys are failing, and I went round this in …, country interviewing, er, young men, er, like, and through them I saw how they are being affected by immigration, and they … I think that in this country the, er, we have, immigration is not, er, about race, it's about class, and we have the middle classes benefiting enormously from immigration in that we can now afford services that were previously out of our reach. But we have young men like Dave in Hastings …

Buerk: I don't want case histories now, but … go on.

Sergeant: Er …

Buerk: Make your, make your general point, and then we can pick it up.

Sergeant: Right. We have, er, er, young men who simply are not benefiting, who, er, have been sidelined by a combination of things, one of which is immigration, and have been simply, simply warehoused on benefits all their lives.

Buerk: So you …, what you don't like about immigration is the, er, detrimental effect it has on our resident working class.

Sergeant: Yes.

Buerk: Exactly. Claire Fox.

[28m33s] Fox: I think I at least sh …, er, share something of, um, a concern about a cosmopolitan sneer against those who are worried about immigration; but to take up your point about Dave from Hastings or whoever: um, I mean, we can hardly blame immigrants for, for example, if they arrive here, taking jobs that are available. I mean, why can't Dave from Hastings get the job?

Sergeant: Of course we can't blame immigrants. I mean, that's why they've come here, er, to work. But the id … what I fi …, what I'm against is the sort of uneven playing field. I mean, Dave from Hastings came …, er, has come out of school, our state school system, like a third of, of boys on free school lunches, er, unable to read or write very well, and we just saw this in the, um, OECD figures last week. We, er, Eastern Europe, three Eastern European countries are in the top ten of the league, literacy league, and the U.K., like poor Dave, doesn't even get to number twenty.

Fox: But this … but this seems to me to be rather, this really does seem to me a bit morally shallow. I mean, it seems to me that maybe Britain should take some inspiration from the fact that ordinary working-class people in Eastern Europe are being well educated, and take some lesson that we can't seem to educate our own people …

Sergeant: I could not agree more with you about that!

Fox: But, yes, I know, but then, but then I can't see what that's got to do with immigration, as it were. I mean, if there's a problem of work ethic here, or a skills gap here, why has that got anything to do with East European immigrants?

[30m06s] Sergeant: Well, Dave works at … Er, sorry: Dave cannot work for the same reason that the Eastern European can work, um, and that is money. And that, do you know, Dave, um, tried, and, I mean, the number of young men … And incidentally, a number of these young men are also children of immigrants. Um, you know, I've done this … black Caribbean, it's exactly the same. Um, that if they get a job, they lose a third of their benefits. Well, which one of us would work if we lost a third of our benefits?

Fox: But we, no, but I hardly need rehearse in this program that there is obviously a slight problem with the benefits system, which has been rehearsed many a time, and that, that kind of, there's a potential moral problem with the welfare state, that's gone from being a safety net to kind of being a "Would he be better off not working?" But that's, again, what's that got to do with immigration? That's a crisis of welfare. And my concern is …

Sergeant: It has everything to do with immigration, because it is making the playing field c … If you would have free movement of people …

Fox: But change the welfare system. Don't ban or demonize or blame immigration.

Sergeant: If you … Sorry …

Buerk: Go on.

Sergeant: No, but if you want to have open borders and a free movement of people, then you must have an equal pull factor. Er, you must have, um, the, the same benefits, and you must have, er, the same, the, the wages. I mean, you know, the wages here, the minimum wage, er, here, will get, if you go, take that back to Poland, as, um, one of my young Caribbean men who was trying to get a job, he said you go back to Poland and you can buy a nice house with a garden and four bedrooms. He said, "If I could get that on the minimum wage in the U.K. … Would I ever bea able to get that? No."

Buerk: Giles Fraser?

[31m48s] Fraser: Um, London's … I love London. I live in London. It's my home, and London's a town that immigration has built, isn't it?

Sergeant: I couldn't agree more. I, I don't like to admit this, but I grew up in London during the seventies, when we had very little immigration, and it was a deeply dreary city, frankly. So I agree with you enormously.

Fraser: So there's huge benefits to, to, to immigration.

Sergeant: There are huge benefits to the people round this table, because we benefit from immigration, but what my argument is, that there's … the benefits are …

Fraser: And the people who come in benefit.

Sergeant:  … absolutely uneven. That the, that the, the people who have not benefited are the poor, who are not been …, not benefited from this at all. Because their schools are overcrowded, the hospitals are overcrowded, they can't get housing … So I think, actually, I actually have a moral problem with, with sort of middle-class people sitting round discussing, saying how wonderful immigration is, when actually for us, it is all to the good. It's all to the good. Because …

Fraser: But it, but it, but it's also to the benefit of the people who come in. I mean, you know, there's, these, there are people who …, they wouldn't come here if it wasn't for their benefit. They're …

Sergeant: Of course it's to their benefit! I'm not talking about that …

Fraser: So, so I mean, it's not just them, it's not just middle-class people. The people who are coming here, I mean …

Sergeant: For the immigrants, for businessmen who are getting cheap labor that they don't have to, um, pay so much for, and who they don't have to have vocational training for, it's great! But if you're poor here, white, you can be black, you, you know, you can be Asian, and you're poor here, you're often be second or third generation immigrant, it is not fun. It's not good.

Fraser: No, I understand that. I mean, I, I live and work in the Elephant and Castle. I understand there's problems with, there's issues with, with, um, poverty and so forth. But actually many of the people that would be in the part of London that I live are people who've come to this country and who are extremely grateful to, to having come here and having benefited from being here. And, and, I mean, that's the way in which we've just, we've welcomed those who are extremely vulnerable, and I feel rather proud that we've done that as a nation.

Sergeant: Well, yes, but [laugh] I mean, I'm sorry, but I just keep repeating myself that my argument is that, yes, we can feel proud, and yes, you can welcome people, but, for the people already here, it's, it's, it's has been detrimental.

Buerk: Harriet Sergeant, thank, thanks very much indeed. Um, we, we, we'll get to what Harriet Sergeant had to say a little later on, but getting back to our first witness, Dr. Cole. Um, this, this issue of, Matthew Taylor, that this is an issue of global justice. We want the, we want the South's, er, sort of work and resources and so on, but we don't want the people who live there. Um, did that resonate with you at all?

[34m25s] Taylor: I think it, you know, of course it's got, um, a certain validity to it, and, and as I think we discussed at another point in the, in the program, you know, the, the fact that somebody has the good fortune to be born in a rich country and someone else has the misfortune to be born in a very poor country, common humanity should lead us to realize that the, that, that, that we would want to help those who are born into a more unfortunate circumstances. But I think that the problem with, er, with, with, with Cole, which was in a sense pulling the round [?] through the whole discussion for me, is …, you would I think, by the end of those conversations have come to the conclusion it was almost impossible to have a moral framework of rules, because you have two people who are basically saying, "Let's not have any rules at all, and two other people who don't offer a moral framework, they offer all sorts of other reasons why we shouldn't have migrants, and so I was disappointed by him, because in, in only saying, in only having one moral imperative, which is a universalist moral imperative, and not recognizing that other moral imperatives, for example the fact that we are morally attuned to, to care about more to people close to us, there's no possibility of balance here.

Buerk: I, I, I'd be slightly, I don't know what you thought, Claire, but slightly wary when, um, when Dr. Cole said, when taxed I think by Anne, er, what about democracy, what about the opinions of the, if you like, the existing resident population, er, he kind of said, um, he, he seemed to imply that people who, who took the opposite point of view to him were inherently unreasonable.

Fox: Er, as xenophobic, or even hinting at racism …

Buerk: Er, he didn't, he didn't say that. I mean, he, he, er …

Fox: No, but I, but I, no, but I'm say …, I was about to say, hinting at the sort of idea that anyone who kind of worried, and I, and I thought that was problematic, and I, I, I …, on paper, as it were, I would agree with him, but when it actually came to hearing the way some of the arguments played out, I was worried about things like when he said a place doesn't give you rights. I mean, inasmuch as, in political terms, a place should give you democratic rights. I mean you … or a nation-state for a reason, and, and I think that you can have an open-borders position, but without undermining that, I disagree completely. I thought actually, Matthew, you did rather well at saying, you know, 'cause you actually said what about those islands, he said, "Well, their lives would be transformed if those people moved in." And actually we just heard from our last witness that London has been transformed by immigration. Now you can then say, good or bad, that's neither here nor there. The point is, it was disingenuous to say, "Well, our lives wouldn't be transformed, or it'd only be transformed for the better." So my view is, is that he … There's a danger with an open-borders position, that you say that anyone who doesn't agree with it supports injustice and potentially is anti … is xenophobic, whereas I think it's more complicated that. He and I have got to win the argument before we get to that point.

Buerk: Anne?

[37m01s] McElvoy: The problem that I had there — and, and it actually also came through a bit also, in fairness to Dr. Cole, it was also there in some of the Christian positions — is this tension between this lofty universalism, which we could all sign up to on a day when we're feeling either holy or particularly humane, and practical morality as we are prepared to live it, and I think if we only have principles which can attach to the first but not the second, then we are in the realm of humbug, and we were a couple of times here. We had the, the contention that, er, you had a moral duty equally to everyone, well, everyone would save their own child from drowning before someone else's, so that doesn't cash out too well in practice. But the other tension is that it's perfectly all right — indeed, I think it is required — that you look to the good of individuals as well as to the good of collectives; and the reason he was struggling was, there was a bit of a sort of sub-Marxist trope going on there about the papers and politicians. But Christians also slightly had that problem in the debate, Giles, because there was that sort of idea that, well, in theory of course we want to be nice to everyone …

Buerk: Well, a, a, actually, interestingly, um, er, Giles Fraser, Ed, er, Ed West, a Catholic, as you, er, er, pointed out so helpfully, um, er, made a distinction between morality and legality. He dr … he seemed to think they were separate universes, as far as I could see. Er, but no distinction between morality and practicality, because you can't have a morally position that was totally impractical, I suppose.

Fraser: I, I, I mean, I actually think Anne's right about this. I mean, I think there is a, there is a thing about how you incarnate those lofty moral principles, and, I mean, I feel very uncomfortable about it, and I'm trying to describe my discomfort, and I've discomfort with all the extremes of this position. And I think what stalks so much of this position, er, this problem, particularly for, for those on the Left, but I think for everybody too, is the idea that racism is a sort of a thing that's offstage, and one always is so afraid, you know, people like me, who've been on so many of those marches and demos and all that — as many people have — is just any hint at it, or any sense that it's, it's stalking around, and you just, like, wanna come down extreme … and it's actually made, and, and politicians have used immigration as a way of stirring up issues about race and xenophobia; and becau … because that's the case, it's actually makes the discussion so much more difficult, because there should, I, there should be rules …

Taylor: I thought, I thought what was really disappointing about Ed West is, is that he didn't offer a moral legal framework. I, I, he, I, you know, he, he hinted at the possibility that there was a moral case for restriction of migration, but he didn't pursue it at all. A, and, I think that's, you know, unhelpful. I, I'm sure that you can, indeed, I, er, I'm sure you can construct an argument that seeks to balance the interests of migrants and residents.

[39m42s] Buerk: And what did we make of Dr. Sigona's er, er, slightly elastic position … Oh, you taxed him with wanting elastic borders, Anne, um, er, elastic position, was a bit of a …

McElvoy: Yes. I, I think some of his moral positions were having trouble staying up.

Buerk: Well, crucially, he wouldn't, he wouldn't send the Lampedusa …

McElvoy: No, he wouldn't send them back, and I think that was-I mean, I, understand, because he was clearly, he struck me as a very nice man, and I think that's why he wouldn't send them back, and that would be a lot of the response, I'm sure, of a lot of people would be thinking, "No, I wouldn't either," but, the fact is, if you don't, or if you don't at least, if you're not prepared to address that problem after a specific incident, then you are, really, you are giving aid to, er, you are abrogating morality because you're giving aid to traffickers, you've got even more people coming on a false perspective. It's real moral cowardice, for whatever good reason it may be arrived at.

Taylor: But I, I thought he, he, he reminded me of a particular problem, which is that he doesn't recognize the legitimacy of any rules, because the current corrupt world is so far away from how the world should be, and so in a sense he's not going to dirty his hands with trying to think hard about what that framework of rules might be. And that's a problem, actually, for the liberal Left in this debate, is that because they want to adopt a position where every, that the world's a terrible place, I won't get involved in discussing … So what you do, is, you leave the ground then to rightwing populists, who are perfectly capable of inventing whatever rule is going to go down best in the Daily Mail.

[40m56s] Fox: It, it's also the case that, um, it is quite possible to have a discussion about morality and philosophy without always going on "What's your policy outcome, everybody?" and, if you can't do it, then you're not allowed to say it. But I thought, because, you know, I think, think about the context of this. We have an EU, which I'm not very enthusiastic about as an institution, that boasts proudly of its fact that it has open borders, and then as soon as Lampedusa happens …

Buerk: Internally.

Fox: Yeah, no, but internally, but what I'm saying is that we are the free Wesr, we have open borders, um, unless you're African, in which case, clamp down, clamp down, clamp down.

Buerk: We, we're running out of time. What do you make of Harriet Sergeant's er, er, er, point at the end, that it was all right for us around the table, presumably because we're middle class and, er, and we, we don't have these particular problems, but for the working-class people, this is … this … If that's what you call them these days, er, er, you know, this is profoundly detrimental?

[41m44s] Fox: Well, she seemed to imagine that, you know, that the middle classes gain because we could employ the services of, I mean, you know. Is … What world is she living in? But I, but I think it's just disingen …, the working class historically has gained from a solidarity with immigrants. We are all from immigrant stock one way or another, very often, so that's a false, er, ah, argument, in my opinion.

Buerk: Anne?

McElvoy: Well, there's an element of playing the man or woman, not, not the ball; but, and I think actually, yeah, there is much more to be gained from immigration for everyone than she wanted to reflect. On the other hand I think it is absolutely fair to say there is a group of people in this debate whose voices are, have not previously been heard; and I do think that, you know, she, she spoke rather eloquently to that.

Buerk: OK, that's where we're going to have to leave it. That's it for this week from our panel: Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor, and Giles Fraser, and from me. Until the same time next week, Good-bye.