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“We are not vermin”: Letter from an immigrant

Last Tuesday a leak revealed the government’s post-Brexit immigration plan. With divisive language that would not be out of place in a sensationalist tabloid, it essentially equates immigrants to parasites.

 

theresa-may-caricature-wikimedia-commons
Theresa May – Caricature Wikimedia Commons

Alejandro Palekar Fernández

 

 Many of us openly criticise Trump and his dreams of building a wall, but are our plans really that different?

Lowering immigration is the best way for the government to keep up appearances whilst sweeping the underlying problems (unemployment, the housing crisis, NHS funding, university tuition fees, etc.) under the rug. To suggest that restricting immigration addresses the myriad reasons which fuelled the Brexit vote is, frankly, insulting and reflects the government’s reluctance to face responsibility and construct sustainable solutions.

The leaked document discusses employment extensively, and proposes devising a system whereby employers would only stray from “resident labour” where necessary.

niños inmigrate noche surreal sledad pixabayThis perpetuates the rhetoric of immigrants “stealing” jobs that was so frequent during the Brexit campaign and ignores the two key reasons behind the employment of EU citizens: that they are the only ones willing to face the poor conditions, low wages and bad working hours of certain jobs, or that the employers choose them based on their skills and experience.

It would be absurd to ask employers to opt for less qualified candidates purely on grounds of them being British: rather than fighting institutionalised racism, the government appears to encourage it. Similarly, the recent downfall in strawberry pickers shows that many industries require this EU workforce.

If working conditions are meagre and salaries are disproportionate to living costs, this is not because of EU workers but due to their employers, and something needs to be done about it. But, of course, it is far easier to impose artificial blanket provisions.

inmigrant-migran-euro-brexit-pixabayThe plan includes many other problematic aspects, including imposing a 2-year limit on many visas, which would simply discourage immigrants from investing in the UK, and tightening the definition of EU “family members” allowed to remain, tearing families apart in the process.

The leak also proposes that all immigrants be required to give their fingerprints, which appears to serve no purpose other than equating foreigners to criminals, through a complicated system which will probably come at taxpayers’ expense.

London is a hub for diversity, a melting pot for different cultures, and that is part of its charm. I am an immigrant who holds British citizenship, and London, where everyone has a different background, is my home. I feel both unjustly vilified as an immigrant and deeply ashamed of the government representing me as a British  citizen.

Immigrants are not vermin: we make an important social, cultural and economic contribution to this country. But if our role is as one-dimensional as this document suggests, maybe we should just get rid of all foreign influences.

migrant-workers-1358036_1920Given the UK’s history of invading, controlling and manipulating other nations for its own gain, this seems particularly hypocritical – even the crown jewels originated somewhere else.

But ban tea! Ban houmous! Ban curry! Ban Despacito”! Ban the English language itself! Perhaps I am missing the point, but then again, perhaps I am not. History has taught us how dangerous and corrosive this protectionist attitude is, but we can avoid the pitfalls of the past – if we want to.

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One Comment

  1. Luisa Stanzione

    Brilliant !!

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