[Warning: this is long, semi-political and basically a rant, although I have tried to back up my statements with fact as much as possible. It may lack structure and seem at times emotional, but I don’t feel like emotion can easily or usefully be separated from this subject. Make of it what you will.]
I wanted to write this as a reaction to the right-wing, Daily Mail-style anti-immigration rhetoric which is currently being shared by many Facebook users, some of whom are my friends. Understandably, in a time of recession, economic upheaval and high unemployment, people are frustrated and concerned about their prospects and standard of life. However, this too often manifests itself in the form of knee-jerk nationalism, which the right-wing press does much to inflame. British unemployment is blamed on immigrants, who - supposedly - are handed positions that rightfully belong to British nationals. However, immigrants are also blamed for draining the welfare system, through - supposedly - their wilful abuse of unemployment benefits. (Either they’re taking all our jobs, or they can’t be arsed to work. Pick one and stick to it, Daily Mail.)
Recently, there seems to have been a huge increase in the amount of nasty, nationalist, reactionary propaganda circulated on Facebook and the like. Specifically, the kind that targets asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and which lumps all three into the same category - “immigrants”. It’s almost become a dirty word.
This is worrying on more than one level: both on a national scale and, for me, on a more personal one. This may come as a surprise to people who are unaware that such a status can apply to pale-skinned, red-haired, overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon British nationals, but it’s the truth; I am an immigrant, too.
I have been an immigrant for six months, and I will remain an immigrant for two more. Like around 68% of immigrants living in the U.K., I am employed and do not claim any state unemployment benefits. I am lucky enough to be able to rent my own accommodation without state support, like around 78% of immigrants living in the U.K. (Bear in mind that these figures are only around 10% lower than those of British nationals. Inarguably, these are hard times for everyone.)
My situation, as a 22-year-old employed immigrant living in a country where over 50% of young people are unemployed, is an incredibly privileged one. Although the situation is currently rather dire in the U.K. (and even more so in Spain), as first world citizens we would do well to remember that we are still hugely lucky. Our governments - ailing, corrupt and imperfect as they may be - do a comparatively excellent job of making sure our young, old, sick, homeless and disadvantaged do not want for shelter or food. The majority of us are extremely unlikely to die of starvation, thirst or curable diseases. Most of us are not likely to die at the hands of another human being, nor at the request of the state. We are the safe, sound minority, there but for the grace of God, or more accurately geography. I look around me at the people even in this country, both nationals and non-nationals, who have not been as fortunate as me, and I am reminded of how thin the margin that separates us truly is.
If you are reading this, I hope you will do yourself a service and educate yourself on the facts before you choose to perpetuate some of the illogical, poorly-researched and frankly racist arguments supported by the right-wing media and some politicians. I also hope you will really think about what might have become of you and your family, had you not been born into such lucky circumstances - and whether or not you are comfortable with the idea of denying other human beings a share of such arbitrary good fortune.