The recent BBC Wales documentary 'We'll Keep A Welcome?' broached a question, but did it answer ?
It was a very powerful programme which - sad to say - would've had far less viewers than the more sensationalist 'Skint'. It was produced with great care and compassion by a man of the town himself, Iwan England.
It focused on four people who had emigrated to Merthyr and also the woman responsible for running the organisation in the photo, Dr Lesley Hodgson.
It managed to do what no amount of statistics can achieve and what parties like UKIP and the far right do not want us to experience : to see the individual stories behind all the media headlines and to empathise closely with these immigrants.
Of course, Hodgson made a vital point from the beginning: Merthyr is a town built on immigration.
Not only that, but she acknowledged that there have been past tensions. In the 19th century, there was considerable resentment of the Irish who were drawn - like Spanish and Italians later - by the lure of employment in ironworks and mines.
In the early 20th century, Jewish people suffered greatly from racist attacks, as they tried to set up businesses.
Yet today, the Irish, Spanish and Italians have become totally integrated into our society.
The programme also showed the emergence of UKIP in the month leading up to the General Election and the opening of their office just down the High Street from Focal.
While the documentary movingly traced the lives of the four immigrants and the wonderful efforts of Lesley Hodgson to help them, it also let the UKIP candidate David Rowlands view his ideas and showed him electioneering down town , claiming to be the party 'of the working-class'.
There was footage of our anti-UKIP demo outside their office, just after it had been opened. What was lacking perhaps were the dreadful statements made on that day by their candidates ; typically bigoted and callous.
What was also lacking was an analysis of why UKIP did so well in a town with an erstwhile reputation for the socialist spirit.
But, in a way, that is asking too much of a half hour documentary.
What I found most touching was the way that several of the immigrants had come to embrace Merthyr as their home and had experienced a very positive reaction from our people.
Jorge, owner of the Crown Inn, was full of optimism, as he set about refurbishing this most historic of pubs, where the Chartists met regularly. He was even generous to those who supported UKIP, arguing that they just didn't want any more coming in .
Fernandez, the owner of a Tapas Bar, had married a local girl and , like Jorge had been drawn to the town by work at the meat factory, St. Merryn's.
Above all, there was Beata, who helped Hodgson as a translator and who perceived the threat of UKIP. Her six year-old daughter had been born in Merthyr and , sensing the rise of UKIP, had said - ' Don't leave mummy. I live here....this is my place.'
Even Mariuz, who struggled with the language and seemed the least integrated, was striving for a better life by sheer hard work.
These were stories to counter UKIP's propaganda about shops which barred Welsh people ( a myth which candidate Rowlands was caught saying to people on the street ).
The contributions of recent immigrants are already tangible, as Hodgson explained. Our High Street would be virtually nothing but Pound shops, Charity shops and money-lenders but for them.
But , more than that, they add to the local economy with wages earned at the factories and to the culture with their food and music.
When I lived in W. Germany in the 1970s there were many Gastarbeiter (guest-workers ) and these were temporary workers.
They were greatly resented by the Germans and the Turks ,in particular, were regarded as almost sub-human by some.
Yet, when the myth about the great German economic miracle is closely examined, you have to say that it was also built on their endeavours. At a nearby town the mines would not have functioned but for the Spanish and even in the small town where I lived, a carpet factory (which was the main industry) was sustained by Gastarbeiter .
Naturally, it is difficult for people to see the positive side when they are struggling to survive.
Yet it is illuminating just to stand outside Lesley Hodgson's office and read a window-full of posters, each one illustrating perfectly what individual immigrants have given to our society.
So the answer is an ambiguous one.
Yes, there is a welcome.....but there is also great resentment which is exploited by UKIP's simplistic message of : 'Blame your neighbour'....... and not bankers, politicians and corporations , who are the real culprits
MUSLIMS UP YER!
I woz walkin up the ill
(tidee area, real quiet, no trouble)
when I seen em.
Thought I woz bloody allucinatin!
Four of them Muslims -
caps, long white robes an ewge beards.
We don' get nothin
like tha up by yer,
on'y cornershops an doctors.
My first instinct wuz bombs,
oldin ostages, doin be'eadin's,
one carryin a suspicious package.
Sayz t myself - ' Now Dar,
stay calm mun! Reach f'r-a mobile,
no sudden moves or starin.'
'Iya!' one shouts, smilin.
I stares at-a package,
fulla fresh-picked blackberries.
'Orright?' I greeted back.
Maybe buryin summin or a trainin exercise?
Maybe they jest wanted stuff f pies?