Firstly, a little bit about myself: I am an Asian woman, in my forties, born and bred in England to Asian immigrant parents. I am married with 3 children and have lived in Brighton for the past 25 years.
My Dad came to the UK to university; he studied Engineering at Leeds then worked as an Electrical Engineer for the Eastern Electricity Board until he died (tragically, at the age of 39). My Mum came to the UK on holiday and met my Dad, they fell in love and got married (cheesy but true). My Mum worked for a living in a shop (she had been a teacher back home in Kenya but wasn’t qualified to teach here), had me and my sister and then went to college and did a PGCE in Primary Education and worked full time as a teacher. She also took and passed her driving test here (again she had a licence in Kenya but it didn’t apply here). It’s just as well she qualified and got a job because she had to work to support us once she became a widow with a 10 and 12 year old to support.
My parents chose to bring us up in a small village in Cambridgeshire, away from the Indian community because they felt we should integrate with the indigenous population and that was the best way to do it in their opinion. This made life quite difficult because they did not have family around to support them, e.g. with childcare, coping with bereavement etc. It was difficult at school because my sister and I were virtually the only non-white faces and were often treated as outsiders.
Some of my extended family also came to live in the UK, mostly in London, as they did want to live near each other and as part of an Asian community. The older ones (I am generalising but it mostly applies) don’t speak great English but can get by and the younger speak good if not perfect English. They ALL work and as far as I know (I am talking about probably 50 people) are very proud and do not claim benefits, live in a council house etc. Quite a few (foolishly in my opinion) send their children to private schools so are not even draining (sic) the British state education system. Not all of them are nice people (a nod here to @TomHarris4MP) but they just want to get on with their lives like anybody else.
In some sections of the press and some sections of the community (in Rochdale and elsewhere), immigrants (as a homogenous group, which they aren’t) are accused of taking jobs, being bumped up the housing waiting lists, filling up schools, not speaking English.
If they can’t speak English, I’m not sure how they can be taking the jobs which could have been done by ‘the locals’.
Many immigrants have jobs, pay taxes and own their own homes or pay their own rent.
Immigrants’ children are allowed to attend ‘our’ schools – I think that’s perfectly fair enough and an indication that we are a society with humanity.
Immigrants are given somewhere to live if they are vulnerable – again, an indication that we are a humane society and we help those in need of help.
The NHS would struggle to cope without immigrant labour.
I work as a nursery teacher/owner/manager in a very deprived, mostly white working class area. I have about 25% children from immigrant backgrounds. Most of our families (whether they are immigrants or not) are very grateful to receive free, high quality nursery education. Some people are hard to reach (need help but won’t engage or accept the help on offer), some are rude and ungrateful, some don’t speak ‘proper’ English. Many of these are the white, working class families.
From what I gather, Gordon Brown has made it clear that non-EU immigrants will need to have a skilled trade to be allowed to settle in the UK – fair enough in my opinion.
Hopefully Bigotgate will continue to stimulate discussion on the issues around immigration and the views of all sections of the community, including immigrants, will be welcomed.