Immigrants are helping this country to flourish
Express & Star columnist Annabal Bagdi celebrates the benefits of immigration for today's Talking Point
Immigration – we’ve all got an opinion on it, haven’t we?
Sometimes it feels hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear a new controversy about this supposedly age-old problem.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – healthy debates about issues affecting our country, especially in the wake of the Brexit vote, must be positive, right?
Just last month, the biggest survey on immigration was published, with almost 20,000 people across the UK sharing their views.
It threw all sorts of stats in the air – just 15 per cent of Britons think the government has managed immigration competently and fairly; just 17 per cent trusted the government to tell us the truth about immigration; and even fewer trusted MPs on the matter.
Researchers also found 65 per cent of people think migrants bring valuable skills to the economy and public services, and 59 per cent believe diversity is good for British culture.
But that’s the problem right there. That means, 35 per cent of people don’t think migrants bring anything ‘valuable’ to this country, and more than 40 per cent believe diversity doesn’t bring any benefits to our culture.
Call me a cynic, but I think that’s pretty devastating. Yes, the numbers may be low, but that’s still an awful lot of people who can’t think of a single benefit of a mix of cultures, ethnicities, religions, languages and histories, all in one place.
Both of my grandfathers volunteered to fight in the Indian Army for the British during the Second World War.
Their sacrifices meant they could leave their native lands and travel here to re-build post-war Britain in the early 1960s.
Leaving behind their jobs working on the family farm, they bravely took the leap to start a new life in a foreign country thousands of miles away, a country they had been invited to join, a country where their help was needed.
Never a blight on society, their tireless work ethic and longing to do better is a legacy engrained into my family.
The West Midlands has one of the largest Sikh populations in the UK because of family tales just like this.
It meant immigrants, like my dad, came to the UK as children, knowing they had to work relentlessly to make their parents’ journeys worth it – and they have.
How could anyone suggest these immigrants brought little, if any, value to society? It’s truly heartbreaking.
And it’s not just Indians – immigrants from Commonwealth countries across the globe have been invited to the UK to address labour shortages, to support the NHS, to teach in our schools, to work in our factories.
The inspiration behind the Birmingham Balti, the sacred weekly fish and chip supper, and even Marks and Spencer, and of course, Tesco – all down to immigration.
Whatever anyone’s thoughts on immigration in today’s society and how it should form part of our Brexit deal, it’s hard to deny that the immigrants who came to the UK pledging to contribute to post-war Britain helped this vibrant country flourish.
The UK is full of diversity, and it’s beautiful.
It’s a place I for one am very proud to call my home.