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In his March 25 letter, “Assimilation under strict codes,” Justin Downes does a disservice to his Asian friends in London not only when he claims that migrants “put a huge strain on the educational and health facilities of the country,” but also when he implies that unassimilated foreigners are responsible for the “crime-ridden” streets of the capital city. How is it that his Asian friends can achieve success in Britain’s multicultural society yet “peoples from quite different cultures” cannot? This is a paradox that he leaves unanswered.

There is no doubt that crime rates in Britain are higher than those in Japan. This is for complex reasons, but two points are perhaps worthy of note: First, a survey last year suggested that more than 50 percent of the crime in England and Wales is alcohol-related. And it is often this public drink-related crime — as prevalent in small towns as it is in London — along with the media’s inevitable sensationalizing of criminal activity that leads to the popular perception that criminal activity is soaring. Second, figures produced by the Home Office for 2005 and 2006 tell a very different story. The risk of being a victim of crime in England and Wales is the lowest since 1981, while overall crime has fallen by 44 percent.

As Japan’s population continues to fall, the encouragement of immigration is being cautiously considered as a means of increasing the workforce.

We should not be misled. Recent research by the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that, besides increasing the labor supply, migrants to Britain brought much-needed skills, had higher employment rates than their British counterparts and, with fewer children, made less demands on the education, health and social security systems.

Building a multicultural society is not simple, but the benefits can be enormous. It requires respect, tolerance and an appreciation based on facts rather than fears of what all members of society can contribute.

nick wood

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