Friday, 22 March 2013

Is the debate about immigration harming the UK? An Immigrant’s perspective?

I must say that over recent weeks I have started to become a tad angry. Is this a sign of growing age combined with my gender (grumpy old man syndrome?)[1] or something else? I hope it’s something else...

But I really DO think that the current “debate” about immigration is getting out of hand and it can and will do serious damage to the UK’s reputation aboard and to our own sense of who we are and our place in the world.

Sometimes I try to put myself into the skin of someone wanting to come to the UK.... such as an Indian or African, European (or indeed anyone from abroad really... Bulgaria, Romania, Germany...). Perhaps I am a business-person, student or tourist. Should I think twice about coming to Britain? Perhaps there are more welcoming places to go to. Should I really “do business” with this country?

An “immigrant’s” story? It seems that really quite a lot or people (including some of your senior politicians) really don’t want me around – or at least that’s the general message I get. And you can get quite angry and emotional about it (I have seen your BBC Questiontime programme when immigration comes up for “discussion”).
 Could it be the case that you really just want my money, or the investment that I might bring to the UK, but really you don’t want my kind of people to actually come, live, or stay for anything more than a couple of days?
 All this talk about immigrant “scroungers” worries me. After all at some point I might fall on hard times (despite being ok currently). Or I might want to live and stay somewhere (would I be depriving some “native” person of a home?).There is such a shortage of housing I hear and its getting more and more expensive - but I’m not sure I caused this, did I?
 Or I might become ill and need to use your health service. Or am I perhaps someone who actually works in your health service, as a doctor or nurse from overseas? Do you really want me here? Do you really want “my sort of people”, or do you just want me to sort out your staff shortage problems (and your heart condition), accept your crap working conditions and exploitative low pay and then quietly disappear “back home”... for ever, and never come back!
 Look, I know I speak with a bit of an accent – I cannot really help this, not actually being British born and breed you see. But is it really true that you cannot understand me, or are you just being lazy? I have spoken and studied English virtually all my life, but it is my second language. Do you have a second language? Do you know what it’s like trying to communicate in a second language all the time? Do you really resent the fact that I am in your country and just tolerate my presence for your own ends but don’t want to listen to me or hear what I am saying?
 Should I worry that just walking down the street is seen a provocation to you, simply because I am here and look and speak, well, foreign. I understand that even some people born in the UK get abused or attacked because they look “foreign” (or not quite “English” enough) so what chance do I stand?
 Would I be alright if I were rich? After all I am not one of those really poor foreigners who have simply come to work, to escape poverty; or are seeking to escape persecution. I have something to bring to Britain, don’t I? Money! They have nothing to offer – they only take! But hold on a second, is this right? Have poor immigrants to Britain only ever taken?. Have they never put anything back? Or have they perhaps put more “back” than they have "taken"?
 I hear a few stories about Britain’s history (and indeed other countries as well) being the history of immigration. Is this true? Did I hear that England has been populated over the centuries by Saxons, Celts, Romans, Jutes, Jewish people, Muslims, Hindus, Huguenots, Irish, Indians, Bangladeshis, people from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe.... Did all these immigrants contribute nothing to the success of your society or economy? Did they all just take? I suspect not; but I also suspect you don't really care about the truth if it doesn't fit with your bigotry, prejudice and arrogance.
 I understand that to become a British citizen nowadays you have to do a British history test. Does this include the history of immigrants into Britain and the contribution that “people like me” have made? Or are you just interested in Kings and Queens – although I understand these stories can be quite nice. I have even heard of your Queen Elizabeth I – didn’t she approve of slavery, invade my country and encourage the first immigrants to other people’s countries? Weren't some of your Kings and Queens originally foreign... perhaps like me!?
 I think you British (or at least some of you) need to grow up and realise that Britain, England, UK (whatever you think you are!) is part of the world; there is only one world and that world is changing rapidly. I know this can be a bit hard to take and understand, but that's not really my problem is it? People are now moving around the world in their millions (by the way, most don’t come to Britain you know?) and some are going to come to Britain, just as some of you are going to live aboard. That's just the way it it these days.
 I think you need to start to see us “foreigners” and immigrants to your country not as a threat, but an opportunity and as neighbours. After all if you don’t like me as your world neighbour, there isn’t, as yet, another planet that you can move to!
 I would like to be your neighbour, your friend, your colleague, part of your family even... but do you want me?

[1] Look don’t contact me at this point about age prejudice. I am aware that this “grumpy old man” stuff IS age/gender prejudice, right! But I do think that as I age I am becoming more intolerant of intolerance and my anger levels rise!


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