The economic slowdown could lead to racial tension in Birmingham unless immigration is cut, a city MP has warned.
Rising unemployment will mean Britain needs fewer workers from overseas, Roger Godsiff (Lab Sparkbrook & Small Heath) said.
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said he represented one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country. But he told ministers: “We must be careful, however, that we do not undermine the excellent community relations that we have built up in that city.”
The MP warned that refusal to have a serious debate about immigration had helped the BNP.
Ministers also heard demands for men who marry under false pretences, in order to gain residency in the UK, to be deported.
Rob Marris (Lab Wolverhampton South West) said constituents had come to him for help after marrying a man from Pakistan who then demanded a divorce after gaining British residency.
The debate took place after Immigration Minister Phil Woolas launched a stinging attack on the Government’s own record on managing migration.
He said: “Our failure to resource the asylum processes has caused untold human misery and division within our communities.”
Although he insisted he was attacking previous Conservative governments as much as Labour ones, the comments were an implicit criticism of his predecessor in the immigration job, Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill).
Mr Godsiff told the House of Commons: “The constituency that I represent – Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath – is probably the most diverse and multicultural in the country.
“Apart from what we could call the old immigration, from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there has been immigration into Birmingham and my constituency from Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Yemen and, latterly, from Somalia and the horn of Africa.
The multicultural make-up of my constituency and Birmingham has added to the vitality of that great city. We must be careful, however, that we do not undermine the excellent community relations that we have built up in that city.
The spectre of rising unemployment poses the greatest threat to multicultural cohesion because it is self-evident that if unemployment rises, we need fewer people coming to the country especially when in parts of my constituency, in Sparkbrook, the unemployment rate has remained above 15 per cent, even during the 10 years of economic growth and falling unemployment nationally.”
Britain should consider limiting immigration from within the EU as well, he said. Later in the debate, Mr Marris warned that “loopholes” in the rules surrounding marriage were being abused.