I was pretty disgusted by the Metro’s front page headline and story today: “Migrants ‘ready to die for your British benefits'”:
Stories like this serve only one purpose: to criminalise those who wish to come and be a part of our country’s future. And it sickens me that so many of our politicians (most of whom should know better!) fall back on the lazy and irresponsible argument that immigrants are to blame for unemployment, low pay and poor housing. Oh, and the erosion of British culture and identity – whatever that is.
But these societal ills are nothing to do with immigration.
Government austerity, the savage welfare cuts, attacks on workers’ rights, and the failure to build affordable homes are to blame. Not people coming here to contribute to our economy, our communities and our future. Indeed we know that immigration is a net contributor to our economy: over £22 billion between 2001 and 2011. And we can’t escape the fact that the UK is a mongrel state, made up of many different identities and cultures; a product of centuries of movement of people. If the Scottish Independence Referendum is anything to go by, it is clear that we cannot identify a single British identity, a single British culture. And nor should we try to do so. Instead, we should celebrate our diversity, and value the richness that it brings to our lives.
Back in January, as I saw in the new year in Edinburgh, I tweeted a welcome message to Romanians and Bulgarians who achieved full rights to live and work in the UK. The European principle of freedom of movement is one we should treasure. Indeed, I wish we would extend it beyond European boundaries: geography should not determine someone’s legitimacy. I hope that, at least in Scotland, we will be able to move towards an immigration policy that is based on internationalist principles of equality and justice. It seems that most of us want this, and perhaps we can then dispel the myths and prejudices peddled by those who seek to use fear and hate as a means of control.