“We want our country back”. The most damaging phrase to have been uttered in the UK in years.
The Brexit result was a shock to many. I recall my journey to work that morning having a completely different vibe, as fellow bus passengers seemed to all have the same look of disappointment, and to some extent, grief written all over their faces. How could this happen? We had wrongfully assumed that as a nation, we were mostly on the same page; that the possibility of leaving the EU would be something we would laugh about in months to come. But alas, the numbers were there for all to see. It was a done deal.
Those that voted to leave the EU did so for various reasons. Some were concerned about the control that the European Union had over UK laws, whilst others objected to the financial implications of membership. But the ones who shouted the loudest were some of the leave voters who were against immigration. Not only did they proclaim that “we want our country back”, it seemed they had various tabloid propaganda in support of their views. Immigrants were being blamed for everything that was wrong with the country, a sentiment that brought with it a chilling familiarity. Soon enough, reports of racist incidents came to light, as those who had already been harboring contempt for anyone that didn’t look or sound like them, used the result as license to openly spread hate. But what makes the whole thing sad, and even tragic to an extent, is just how misinformed they are. Because to know this country, to REALLY know it, means knowing just how much of an asset immigrants and immigration have been.
Helping the NHS
Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS in 1948. It would be the first time that all health services would be considered part of one umbrella organisation, and would provide free healthcare at the point of delivery. Much like the mess we find ourselves in today, the actual cost of running the service was wildly underestimated. It proved more popular than Bevan had anticipated, and it became apparent that he would need to look beyond the borders for some additional help.
The department of health launched a proactive campaign to recruit nurses from the caribbean and various other parts of the commonwealth, to assist the NHS during its crisis.
Though they were keen on being ambassadors for their home countries, Great Britain was considered the ‘mother country’ for many of these nurses, and they were proud to have been called upon for help. But it wasn’t an easy ride. Many faced prejudice at work, and were not treated equally even though they were just as qualified as their white counterparts. They had openly racist patients to contend with, and struggled to find their place within a society that generally made them feel unwelcome. But they stayed. They broke their backs to assist the NHS that was buckling under pressure, because they believed it was their calling to do so. Many left families behind to help the cause, and that should never be forgotten.
Broadening British palates
We’ve all heard jokes made at the expense of British cuisine; food has never been considered one of our greatest contributions to the world. Whilst fish and chips is the epitome of heaven on a plate, and a shepherd’s pie can feel like the equivalent of a warming hug, for those with more of an adventurous palette, they are unlikely to cut it.
Many of the dishes that are classed as British favourites today did not originate from these shores. In fact, Indian, Chinese and Italian foods top a number of polls, proving that international influence has played a big part in enriching our lives for the better.
In the world of work
Contrary to what some of the tabloid rags may insinuate, immigrants are not here ‘stealing jobs’ from British citizens.
Oftentimes they accept a wage that means they can barely make ends meet, and life is simply about surviving. People have come from afar to work in the UK for many years; not to purposefully deprive others of jobs, but to build better lives for themselves and their families. And knowing that the opportunity is better than what they may potentially get back home, some employers waste no time in exploiting them. Nonetheless, immigrants have provided the backbone to many industries that we have come to rely heavily upon for decades, and our economy would have collapsed many times over without them.
Without immigrants, there are a lot of great things about this country that simply wouldn’t exist today. Being closed-minded and demanding that they all ‘go home’ is incredibly short sighted – what if they actually listened? We’d be kissing goodbye to incredibly talented medical professionals, lawyers and artists; our hospitality and service industries would be crippled; our transport system would be (even more) chaotic.
So if you’re struggling to express positive feelings towards immigrants and have managed to refrain from saying the phrase, “we want our country back”, let me help you out – start with “thank you”.
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