Selbin Kabote: Stereotyping migrants: nurturing xenophobia in the UK

GMT 15:58 Wednesday ,18 December 2013

 Migrant Voice - Selbin Kabote: Stereotyping migrants: nurturing xenophobia in the UK

Selbin Kabote

Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced that the government has set out moves to overhaul welfare rules, including stopping new EU arrivals from receiving out-of-work benefits for their first three months in Britain and making it harder for them to qualify for state support. The curbs on new migrants follow concerns fuelled by the UK Independence Party, and shared by many on the Tory right, that tens of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians would head to Britain after their restrictions on working in the UK are lifted on 1 January 2014. However, I agree with Romania’s labour minister Mariana Campeanu, who said that migrants contribute greatly to the GDP and should be welcomed to fill vacancies in the UK. Mrs Campeanu was recently quoted by several local UK newspapers as saying her countrymen were already meeting shortfalls in key UK professions such as nursing and social care. Although it is important for any country to protect its borders and its citizens, I am however of the opinion that Britain should be in a position to welcome Romanians and Bulgarians and other foreign workers who take up jobs including those that are sometimes shunned by local workers. A headline in a Daily Mail article on the 21st October 2013 read: “Recruitment boss brands unemployed 'lazy' after NO ONE applies for FIFTY jobs - in UK town where 2,000 people are without work.” According to the Daily Mail article Danny James, owner of recruitment agency Consistent Personnel, urgently required unskilled workers for at least three months' work at a local food factory. Mr James said when he posted an advert at the local Jobcentre in Worcester, not a single person came forward in time for the start of the contract. This article is just one of the many that have appeared in British newspapers over the past few years reporting the frustrations of many farmers, care home managers and business people who struggle to recruit local people to do certain jobs. I am of the opinion that if some Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish or other migrants from the EU or non EU countries were in Worcester when the fifty jobs were advertised, they would have definitely taken up the jobs within a short space of time. It seems there is a need for migrant workers. When I conducted a research earlier this year, in an effort to explore the emotional cost of immigrating to the UK, I also found that migrants do come to the UK to work and not to claim benefits. Twelve out of the fifteen economic migrants from Africa whom I interviewed - comprising teachers, nurses and social workers - said that although they have been in this country for over ten years, they have never claimed benefits. The outcome of this research confirms the arguments of many migrants who say that they come to the UK to work and contribute positively to the British economy, and not to claim benefits. The outcome of my research also made me agree with the sentiments of  Romania’s ambassador in London  Dr  Ion Jinga, who mentioned that British politicians and some parts of the local media are using his people “as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong in Britain today.” He told Channel 4 news that since some British politicians are always in a permanent electoral campaign, someone has to be a victim. Contributing to the debate on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants, the Bulgarian ambassador Konstantin Dimitrov recently hit out at “anti-Bulgarian propaganda” from some British politicians which he said served only to agitate social tension in the UK. My observations on this debate on migration leads me to the conclusion that stereotyping migrants will lead to a more xenophobic society which will impact on all of us, not just migrants. I fear that as a result the many British nationals who have migrated and are living and working in Eastern European countries may also end up being victims of xenophobia.        


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