Monday, 27 January 2014

Immigrants: cutting the branch we’re sitting on

After withdrawing some money to pay for the service, I walked over to the car wash where our vehicle, with Danielle sitting behind the steering wheel, was surrounded by seven men with mops and sponges busily covering it in foam and rubbing every speck of dirt off it.

It was barely a couple of minutes later that they dropped sponges and buckets and, as she jumped clear, moved in with brushes and vacuum cleaners to make an equally thorough and comprehensive job of cleaning the inside.

I got chatting with one of the men and it emerged that he was from Romania. He gave me a sideways glance as he said it, worried no doubt that I might have been touched by the anti-immigrant rhetoric that seems to ratchet up every day in Britain. It particularly targets Romanians and Bulgarians: these two groups won automatic right to live and work in Britain on 1 January, after seven years of transitional arrangements since both nations joined the EU in 2007.

There hasn’t been the predicted flood of people from the two countries. There has, however, been a wholly predictable deluge of poorly informed invective against immigrants, charging them with coming to this country to claim benefits (in reality a smaller proportion of immigrants make claims than of native citizens) or indulge in crime (a smaller proportion of immigrants are convicted of offences than of the native population).

Workers not criminals. And doing useful work too
So what's UKIP's problem? Or the Tory right's?
Poorly informed the attacks may be, but they still hurt. 

Immigrants appear in every walk of British life, not just in car washes. In particular, large numbers are employed in healthcare: immigrants make up 11% of total NHS staff and 26% of doctors. And the poison is beginning to get to them. For instance, a trainee doctor in England, Felicia Buruiana, told the Guardian that ‘people would tut or pull a face when I said I was Romanian.’

Are we really so insensitive to the feelings of other people that we are prepared to be that offensive to them, even when they’re working hard to help us – and in the case of healthcare staff, to help us when we most need it?

And to be that offensive based on such a completely inaccurate reading of the impact of immigrants on our society?

The behaviour seems shameful, but also counter-productive: if we deprive ourselves of the services of people who are hardworking or highly skilled, or both, we harm ourselves at least as much as them.

So why do we persist in doing it? Why do we side with the Tory backwoodsmen and the mendacious propagandists of UKIP against such welcome contributors to our quality of life as Dr Buruiana? Isn’t it time we learned to be superior to that? 

Even if we can’t behave better for reasons of ethics, or simply good manners, we should just to protect our own interests.

After all, everyone of us gets ill some time.


Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with all your sentiments, it goes without saying, but a posse of people of whatever nationality forcing their unwanted services on me at a Service Station would really annoy me.


David Beeson said...

Ah, I wrote unclearly. It was a car wash and we'd taken the car there specifically to get it washed. So we were pleased rather than the contrary by the large numbers of people working on it...