I am a Migrant. Treat me with Respect

PUBLISHED: 14:44 30 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:51 31 July 2017

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Photo: Eagle20design)

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Photo: Eagle20design)


Migrant bashing is trending again. In virtual and real public spaces, anti-migrant hostility is palpable.

I am a Migrant. Treat me with Respect.

Et tu Jerry? The Labour leader, a lifetime defender of migrants and asylum seekers, now apparently believes the ‘wholesale importation’ of hard working migrants from Central Europe has destroyed working conditions for British workers. He expressed these views on Andrew Marr. Last June, on this same show, Corbyn blasted UKIP and fulsomely defended migrants and refugees. Unpredictable times often bring forth unreliable politicians who blow with the wind.

Migrant bashing is trending again. In virtual and real public spaces, anti-migrant hostility is palpable. The upsurge is incontrovertibly the result of sham Brexit promises.

Anti-EU voters sense their imagined, monocultural paradise is a chimera, that migration cannot be stopped. The inchoately frustrated are turning on “bloody foreigners”, even those long settled here or born in Britain. The lovely television cook Nadiya Hussain told journalists she and her siblings were suffering more racial abuse since the referendum; junior doctors and nurses have written to me about openly prejudiced patients who demand to be treated by white professionals; some playgrounds have become dangerous for children of Arab, African and Asian heritages. There is more and worse.

I receive racist stuff too, usually after I have been on television and criticised British government policies. Last week, on Sky News, we discussed the new film Dunkirk, which I thought was totally biased, beautifully filmed Brexit propaganda. I pointed out that 120,000 French soldiers were also evacuated from Dunkirk. The next day an email arrived: “You know nothing. We British won the war with the Americans. You bitch, you should be grateful to this country. We let you and your filthy lot in from Uganda’. To which I replied, a little more politely, ‘I will be more grateful when you express gratitude to colonial subjects who fought in your many wars, and we who have since come into the UK and made this country more prosperous and much less boring than it was in the fifties’.

Incomers have transformed the food, culture, competitiveness in sports and business, academic research, scientific developments and work ethics. Vast numbers of children from diverse minority backgrounds achieve remarkable exam results and evidence shows that an ethnic mix pulls up the standards for all kids. Even Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, believes the immigrant effect needs to be encouraged not lamented. Our NHS will not survive without foreign born doctors and nurses. Nor will the care sector. TV programmes about A&E departments show how dependent patients are on professionals from all parts of the world. The creative and sports industries and universities are currently quietly panicking as they try to come up with strategies to keep up excellence in an increasingly closed-off GB. I wonder if the most committed of nativists think more Olympic medals will be won if we keep out people who are not ‘pure’ blooded English, Scots, Irish or Welsh? That is now our future.

According to the ONS, in 2016, over 117,000 EU nationals left the UK, the highest on record since 2009. Private and public sector bosses issue warning about the dire consequences of these exoduses. Research by University College shows that between 2001 and 2011. European economic area migrants contributed 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits. How many of our people know that of all the EU countries, Britain has most citizens living abroad? ( Pew Research) or that even now, only 13% of the British population is foreign born?

The UK’s long history of contact with other nations has not resulted in a more aware, educated population. If anything, we now arguably have, more wilfully uninformed and senselessly jingoistic nationals than we had in the early seventies when I first arrived. British newspapers still maintained serious purpose, so too the broadcasters. Adult Education colleges were run by local authorities, I taught at one in Southwark. Britons had not been dumbed down. Margaret Thatcher started that process and it carries on. Millions of Brits lack critical thinking and basic knowledge. That’s why so many were easily duped by the Brexit gang and why so many believe immigrants are scroungers, criminals, takers and enemies within.

It really is time we immigrants, settlers, refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants were shown more respect and gratitude for revivifying this nation.

That won’t happen unless we fight more assertively against constant debasement and claim our rightful place.

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