We Need To Change The Rhetoric On Immigration
While I am proud to be a Liberal Democrat, and for the most part agree with our manifesto, there was one part that really stuck in my throat.
We’ve got a ‘firm but fair’ policy on immigration.
Firm but fair.
FIRM but fair.
That sounds like a policy about crime, about tax evasion, about *bad stuff*.
Now, the actual policy is not a good one – it talks about restricting the areas where people can work, to make sure that we don’t have more and more people coming into the same areas – but it’s markedly more liberal than the other two parties, in that we have things like an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
But it’s still fundamentally accepting that immigration is a problem. And that’s just wrong.
This affects real people. See this for one example. Another example is my wife. As an immigrant, she has made a large net contribution to our country. When she’s been unable to work, she’s been unable to claim benefits, so she’s not taken from society – I had to support her. On the other hand, when she’s worked, she’s still paid taxes. She’s not entitled to vote, and we had to pay several thousand pounds just to get her permission to live here at all (and would have to pay even more were she to want citizenship).
People complain about immigrants adding to the population. You know what adds to the population? HAVING CHILDREN adds to the population, yet we don’t see tabloid newspapers talking about ‘the baby problem’. We don’t talk about being firm but fair on motherhood. And of course babies, unlike adult immigrants, have to be supported by society for between sixteen and twenty-one years before they can start being productive at all – immigrants *have* to work from day one, because they can’t claim benefits.
And the people who come over here, the immigrants, are generally the ones who do the jobs that people born here *won’t do*. I don’t know how many of you realise this, but the NHS would collapse overnight were it not for immigration. Not just doctors – though we import enough of those that it would be a problem – but nurses, nursing assistants and cleaners.
And even there, they’re doing the shitty jobs. Until two years ago, I worked on a mental health ward. During the day, the staff were predominantly British-born, but during the night they were all African immigrants. This wasn’t an isolated thing – this is true for the vast majority of mental health wards in the city where I live, and I suspect it’s true for other areas of health, too. They did that work because night shift work on a mental health ward is one of the most horrible, soul-destroying jobs you can imagine. At not much more than minimum wage, you have to put up with a constant fear of physical or sexual assault, the loss of any kind of normal social life, long periods of boredom punctuated by periods of cleaning excrement and bodily fluids off walls, or stripping the sheets off beds of HIV positive drug users who are known to hide needles in them. And coupled with that, there’s the threat to your *own* mental health, as you spend ten hours every day in the company of people with schizophrenia and become accustomed to that being the ‘normal’ way of thinking.
To put it bluntly, there are simply not enough people in a privileged, pampered country like the UK who are willing to put in that much work for that little reward. Immigrants are.
And contrary to what parties like Racist UKIP say, we do not have an ‘open door’ policy for immigrants. VERY far from it. To come over here my wife firstly had to marry me – otherwise she could never have come to live here at all. She then had to pay £750 for a two-year visa, at the end of which she then had to pay £1500 for the right to permanent residency. She also had to take a test on British life to prove she was worthy of staying here – and they were questions that NONE of the British people to whom I showed the practice test could answer. She literally had to be more British than the British to live here. And if she wanted to get citizenship and actually have the right to vote – the right to have a say in what happens to her, a right the rest of us take for granted or don’t even use, she would have to pay another thousand pounds or so. And those are the prices from a few years back – I believe they’ve more than doubled since.
We have an unconscionable, unjustifiable situation right now, where *all* the major parties are, to a greater or lesser extent, pandering to the outright *LIES* being told by racist fuckheads in the right-wing newspapers. Even my own party, who are, I repeat, better than most on the issue, are still being far too illiberal on this matter, trying to find nonsensical ‘solutions’ to a non-existent ‘problem’.
I don’t regard nursing assistants as a problem. I don’t regard *my wife* as a problem. And I am becoming increasingly disgusted at those who do.