UK immigration has been good for the country, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated.
Addressing journalists in Parliament, the former Labour leader urged MPs that the debate regarding immigration needs to be “handled with care” to avoid tainting it with racist of nationalist opinions.
He admitted that migration “has to be controlled and illegal immigration has to be tackled head on” but refused to apologise for what many see as his overly-liberal approach to regulation in the past, claiming that the broader impact has been positive.
“Overall I would like to say that I think immigration has been good for Britain and most immigrants have assimilated well,” he stated, adding: “Don't make them a scapegoat for our problems.”
Blair's liberal approach to immigration was in stark contrast to the strict controls currently governing UK work permits and visas as introduced by the Coalition.
The comments come days after the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, claimed that his party has done “too little” in the past to balance the impact of immigration on Britain.
The former PM was also questioned about Britain's membership of the European Union. He claimed that it would be “dangerous and immensely damaging” to leave the EU at the moment, adding: “I think the UK has an opportunity to play a part in shaping the new Europe and it should seize it. And we should neither have an empty chair nor empty gestures.”
The debate regarding the country's membership of the EU is closely linked with immigration due to the open border policy that exists between the majority of countries within the group and Blair faced criticism from journalists suggesting that he should have handled the influx of working migrants from Eastern European countries differently.
“People look back and say you should have done more to restrict particularly Eastern European immigration,” he answered. “I look back on that, and you can have a debate about it, but personally I think the Polish community contributes a lot to this country. In many ways immigrants do a lot for our country. They bring fresh energy, fresh initiative and I think it will be a sad day if we end up targeting them.”