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Professor Sir Paul Collier Challenged On Al Jazeera Over Claims That "Nigerian Immigrants To Other Societies Tend To Be Untrusting And Opportunistic"

By Al Jazeera English Network
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On Friday’s episode of Head to Head on Al Jazeera English, Professor Sir Paul Collier, former head of development research at the World Bank, was challenged over his statement in his book Exodus: How Migration is Changing our World that “Nigerian immigrants to other societies tend to be untrusting and opportunistic.”

Appealing to the many years he’s been working in Nigeria and quoting the fact that his own doctor is Nigerian, Collier explained that “people tend to bring their culture with them,” although this is not linked to race.

Head To Head host Mehdi Hasan pitched Collier versus panelist Dr Titilola Banjoka, a British-Nigerian doctor and advisor to the European Union and the United Nations on migration issues.

Banjoko dismissed Collier’s book as a “story book,” lacking “evidence,” and describes the Oxford economist’s arguments as “wrong” and “dangerous.” She accused Collier of confusing “the level of trust of government” with “the level of trust of societies,” adding:. “Nigerians are very trusting [but] they’re distrustful of government and that is the same everywhere.”

Collier currently advises several organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the British government on policy-making and strategies for Africa. He is also a Professor at Oxford University and renowned author of several best-selling books, including The Bottom Billion, Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism, and Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places. He is a regular contributor to publications such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Collier told Hasan and an audience at the Oxford Union that he wasn’t “advocating stopping migration” but that “people should come, get skills, get education, go back.” He claimed tighter border controls and more restrictions are needed to prevent “an acceleration” of migration that he believes could be harmful.

Drawing parallels between climate change and immigration, Collier claimed that “too much diversity” leads to an erosion of cooperation in societies that “shows up in much lower levels of trust.”

Challenged to define the word “indigenous Briton” and say whether Hasan, a British-born son of Indian immigrants, can be considered one, Collier struggled to give a clear answer, stating that “there were various definitions” of the word, and standing by his claim that “the 2011 UK census shows that indigenous Britons have become a minority in their own capital.” Hasan, in return, pointed out that the 2011 census found that 63% of people living in London are born in the UK, and that the white-British ethnic group is a minority in the capital.

Collier also stood by his writings that refugees should return to their country when peace is restored, but when pressed by Hasan on this issue he explained he isn’t advocating people should be repatriated forcibly. “The presumption should be that people should be provided with a safe refuge, with some sort of presumption of return” and that “they should, where possible, retain their links (…) so that when the conflict is over (…) then they can go back and help rebuild their country.”

During the interview, Collier and Hasan also discussed whether mass migration helps or hurts developing countries.

Hasan was joined by a panel of experts, including Banjoko; David Goodhart, author of the book The British Dream; and Philippe Legrain, economist and author of the book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them.

Watch and embed the full episode at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA1-JtBACeg .

For more information on series four of Head to Head, visit http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2013/06/201365124941624704.html . In each episode, Hasan goes head to head with a special guest, asking the probing and hard-hitting questions few dare to ask on the big issues such faith, foreign intervention, the Middle East, US foreign policy, and the economic crisis.

All episodes of series one are available online: http://www.aljazeera.com/profile/head-to-head.html .

Follow Head to Head on Twitter @AJHeadtoHead.