When legislation was passed allowing the free movement of people within the EU, it was a widely praised act. People were free to work in the EU, live in the EU, or just simply enjoy the pleasures its countries have to offer. However, as the years have passed, the functioning of the world has changed, allowing for many negatives on the issue of free movement, and migration in general, to surface. There are many arguments which have developed in regards to migration. Climate change is probable the most widely used. Experts in the field have warned that the Earth does not have sufficient water for today’s population, let alone by the time it doubles by 2050. The same can be said for food resources, particularly as it has been predicted that natural disasters will wipe out large parts of the world’s food growing surface. Other arguments include the destruction of the Earth for future generations, overpopulation and ethnic conflict.
The UK is home to all of these arguments on the issue of migration, and the country appears to be split in opinion as to the density of the problem, and solutions to the problems it has faced with overpopulation. Recent figures have indeed shown a vast rise in population in the UK. The Independent Office for National Statistics (ONS) projects that the population of the UK will reach 70 million in 2029 compared to 61.8 today. Nearly all of the increase will be in England. 68% will be due to immigration.
It has been argued that such high levels of migration are being allowed to take place without the consent of the general public, or in fact even without allowing the people’s voices to be heard at all. Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, has expressed his disdain about this and argues citizens should be entitled to a voice as the figures being produced on population in the UK imply that the nature of British society will be changed irreversibly for the generations to come. In April of this year, David Cameron also spoke out against overpopulation, stating that immigration needs to be taken back to the levels of the 1980’s.
Other studies have argued that given a generation, immigration will add a population the size of London to the UK. During this period, the UK will also experience a demographical change in that it will move towards an ageing population. The Department of Work and Pensions in the UK have predicted that there will be a significant increase in the number of people living in the country over the age of 65. They have also stipulated that one in five of these people will live until their 100th birthday. It is argued that this demographical change will add to the problems which will occur when overpopulation and climate change issues are linked. People over sixty-five tend to use more energy in their homes, particularly in regards to heating, putting more strain on natural resources such as water.
Shifts in demographic have also created crises, or ‘crunch’ points across the UK, particularly in urban areas. Here, water supplies, air quality, and waste management are suffering from a greater impact of demand and consumption. Therefore, in regards to environmental well-being, the UK is too far off being self-sufficient enough to cope with overpopulation and must learn to balance their resources.
Another massive issue which may arise from migration and overpopulation in the UK is an increase in racial discrimination. The logic behind this argument states firstly, overpopulation put pressure on resources. It is then argued that as new migrants tend to have larger families than nationals, they are putting an unnecessary strain on the country. The fear is that such opinion many lead to racial retaliation and conflict between groups.
So, what suggestions have been made in order to prevent overpopulation and its consequences in the UK? The main opinion is that governments have lost control of the borders over the years, and therefore they should put restrictions on immigration in place. This will indeed score points for politicians from those in favour of ‘securing and protecting British jobs’ and it will also give politicians a way to avoid taking responsibility for failing infrastructure, and dire public transport by blaming immigration and overpopulation. Whatever the argument, it is clear that the government needs to take some kind of stance, and a stance which will help the UK in a practical and a moral way, not by inflaming problems. For example, David Cameron, recently warned about the “discomfort and disjointedness” that uncontrolled immigration has led to in some British communities. Whereas the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cameron, has said such comments were “very unwise” and risked inflaming racial tensions.
Whatever the argument may be, it is clear that problems are on the horizon not only for the UK, but for many countries worldwide. The inability of a government to meet the needs of its population is unacceptable. Therefore, all governments at risk of negative effects of overpopulation must provide protection in the face of climate change and any challenge, no matter how small, which may trigger frustration and lead to tensions between ethnic groups and political radicalisation.