No matter where you are in Europe, 'immigration' is somewhere on the political and media agenda. Both tend to play on the negative aspects, such as the ghetto building and benefit claiming, fraud and crime, but is the reality? The most recent example of the media-political bias on this subject surfaced with the recent integration of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU. The Daily Fail trumpeted imminent the arrival of 25 million benefit scroungers 'just waiting to invade' Britain. We had similar headlines in some sections of the German Press, and naturally we now have Ministers all proclaiming their 'determination' to restrict access to 'benefits' for immigrants. What all the newspapers and other media have failed (and so have the politicians) to mention is that the "25 million" number represents just about the entire populations of Romania and Bulgaria, the vast majority of whom have absolutely NO intention of moving countries.
In fact, the Home Office has now revealed in answer to a Freedom of Information request that the number of Romanians who have taken up residence in the UK since the beginning of the month is less than 24, and all of them have jobs. And before anyone squeals 'stealing our jobs' they have been recruited to jobs that couldn't be filled 'locally' for reasons best known to the employers and the local jobless. There are a number of independent reports pointing to the fact that the vast majority of immigrants from the EU arrive in the UK (and elsewhere) to take up employment local people either didn't want, or didn't have the skills for. Yes, 'benefit tourism' (in Germany it is called Sozialtourismus) does exist, and there will always be those who take advantage of a system, but they are a small minority.
Those who know me, also know that I immigrated to the UK in 1988. Yes, I am an immigrant. I didn't come cap in hand looking for a slice of the benefit system, I came to take up an offer of employment, and the first ten years in the UK were anything but fun, and anything but easy. I earned too much to qualify for assistance in anything, and too little to have any spare cash for luxuries for me, my family or anyone else. I supported my retired mother whose pension fund was non-existent until her death in 1999, I paid maintenance to my ex-wife until I retired in 2006, and I paid into both a pension fund and the UK tax system for all of that time. In fact I still do, though I am now retired on the very small pension I did manage to build. I am not untypical. The vast majority of those like myself, who migrated seeking a better life for their families, or a different political culture, better opportunities or simply a better life often find they have to make huge sacrifices in order to realise their goals. It isn't easy even if you are moving to the 'land of your fathers' and speak the same language, think you share the same culture and so on. As you quickly discover, you will always be an 'outsider', a stranger betrayed by the little nuances, the little differences in understanding or approach to dealing with life.
The current hysteria in the UK over 'immigration' betrays a deep seated insularity in a section of the British mindset, and what is most interesting is that it is often those who burble on about the benefits of 'multi-culturalism' who foster these fears. As an immigrant I made the conscious decision to leave behind anything and everything I was used to. I did everything I possibly could to integrate myself and my family into the society we moved to. We joined the local church, the children went to the local school (with hindsight, the choice of their first school was a disaster), we deliberately did not start every conversation with 'when we were in ...' and made light of answering questions prefaced 'when you were in ...'
I know very few people who have immigrated who haven't made the same effort and for very similar reasons. We wanted to be a productive part of our new country, and we didn't want to bring all the baggage of the old one with us. Sure, there are some little family things that you keep, but on the whole, you put the old aside and try to fit into the new. Everyone I have met with a similar background, whether from my former home, or from anywhere else in the EU or the world, came to a pre-arranged job, is in employment, pays tax and contributes to society, the economy and the life of their community. So why are ALL immigrants now regarded as freeloading spongers by the media, politicians and Whitehall?
I do believe that a large part of this is down to resentment in some sections of the population. They see some immigrants choosing to set up closed communities in enclaves in our cities, bringing with them a different culture and perpetuating it instead of adopting the hosts. They hear rumours, or there are well reported cases of fraud involving someone labelled an immigrant by the media, and fall for the assumption that this is 'representative' of all immigrants. It is not helped by attempts by the Multi-Culturalist brigade to stifle any debate on the grounds of 'racism' or any other '-ism'. Somewhere in all of this some other aspects get lost as well. Often immigrants take on jobs in parts of their host countries that the 'native' workers refuse to move to in order to take the employment. Or taking the job would cost them their benefit provisions. There are many reasons underlying the problem of pools of unemployment and immigrants 'taking jobs' the locals won't.
The annoying thing is that the media, politicians and civil servants completely ignore the fact that the majority of immigrants - even those whose family roots, heritage and culture is not rooted in Europe or the UK - are hardworking, extremely productive (if you've no alternative but to work hard, that's what you do) and nett contributors to the economy, society, the NHS and the benefit system. Most are also nett contributors (as I was) to pension funds. We've made our homes here, and we (most of us) come from societies which demanded that one stood on ones own two feet and didn't expect to be bailed out by the taxpayer, or provided for by the state.
As a senior adviser to the Treasury has told the Treasury Select Committee, immigrants are, overall, good for the economy. Perhaps it is time someone in the Media and in Whitehall acknowledged that and made more of it, instead of labelling us all as scroungers. Yes, I am retired. Yes, I am in receipt of a small pension, but I am still paying tax, and I am still doing odd paid work - and paying tax on the remuneration - to keep my end up. Nor am I alone in that. Overall, I am firmly of the opinion that I have made a positive contribution and I am very sure the same can be said of the majority of those, like myself, who have worked, are working, and will work extremely hard to the overall benefit of UK and European society. It would be nice to see that acknowledged occasionally!
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