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To fight against anti-immigrant xenophobia in the UK, we need migrant unity

As the world celebrates the October 2021 Black History month, I believe more than ever that there is now a growing need for migrants and their supporters in the UK to forge a united front in the fight against anti-immigrant sentiments in the United Kingdom.

In my opinion, a united front aimed at steering the conversation about migration and refugees is especially needed in view of the recent controversial announcement by the British home secretary, Priti Patel, that boats carrying migrants across the English Channel from France could be turned back from the UK. Hopefully, the policy won’t be put in place. France is strongly against the plan, saying it breaks maritime law and accusing the UK of blackmail. But even if it isn’t, the fact that this tactic is personally approved by the home secretary is an example of how anti-immigrant the UK can be.

Following such unfortunate remarks by the home secretary, migrants and pro-migrant activists now need to stand together and fight any anti-migrant sentiments in the UK and the rest of Europe as a united front. In my view there is a need to bring the lived experience of migration into the debate on migration, since it can be argued that as long as politicians in the UK continue to blame economic problems experienced in the UK on migrants, xenophobia will continue to increase.  

As a migrant myself, I strongly feel that it is very important for migrants and their supporters to come together to act in unity, since there are some people in the UK with a right-wing mentality who see migration as an emblem of everything that is wrong with the country.  In this regard, it is important to continue to challenge some misconceptions on migration.

In recent years, many far-right movements in Europe have won during elections, and what is worrying now is how the mainstream parties in the UK and Europe are responding to the rise of the far-right movements in Europe by pandering to their voters’ anti-immigration stance. In my opinion, the anti-migrant sentiments in the UK and some parts of Europe can also be attributed to the negative media rhetoric around migration by some far-right sections of the British media. it is clear that the media has a powerful impact on people’s attitudes on migration. 

Following the widespread negative stereotyping of migrants by certain sections of the British media, I believe that there is a need for everyone involved in the migration debate to engage with the majority of people who are of the view that immigration is good for society. There is a great need to establish a common ground with this group for the purpose of overcoming the anti-migrant xenophobia in the UK. 

it can be argued that people who are concerned with highlighting the voice of migrants should emphasize the need for UK citizens to pull together in an effort to find ways of creating jobs. Migration activists should mention in every discourse on migration that scapegoating migration will not create jobs, as it is the responsibility of the entire society to dispel discrimination and make migration work. 

As we celebrate the October Black History month, I am of the view that there is a need to find ways of dealing with bigoted migration language, without falling into the trap of the abusers. It is also very important to place emphasis on the need to work together to make migration work. 

The negative effects of immigration on the tax and welfare system are often the first argument made against immigration. However, research to demonstrate this is very seldom cited. Against this backdrop, the University College London (UCL) Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration decided to analyse the figures. The UCL researchers found that that immigrants from the EU make a positive contribution to the UK economy.

Led by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattinin, the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) carried out research which showed that EU immigrants make a positive contribution to the UK economy. The full report, The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK, published in the Economic Journal in 2014, shows that immigrants who arrived in the UK since 2000 have contributed more than £20bn to UK public finances between 2001 and 2011. 

Moreover, they have endowed the country with productive human capital that would have cost the UK £6.8bn in spending on education. Over the period from 2001 to 2011, European immigrants from the EU contributed 64% more in taxes than they received in benefits. It also shows that recent immigrants are 43% (17 percentage points) less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than British nationals.

The figures have provided a solid basis for objective discussion and to demonstrate the inaccuracy of populist notions that EU migration is detrimental to the British economy, health and welfare system. So much so, that the findings have been cited in Parliamentary debates and Select Committee discussions and have had a direct impact on legislative acts of policy.

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About the author

Selbin Kabote is a Zimbabwean-born Birmingham-based journalist. Selbin worked for many years as a media trainer in the UK. He worked with migrants and asylum seekers to arm them with the media tools that they need to speak in the media and in public life. The tools also enabled them to create their own media platforms for the purpose of telling their stories.

Before coming to the UK many years ago, Selbin worked as a Sub-Editor for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation-ZBC in Zimbabwe and as Journalist producer for the external broadcaster of the South African Broadcasting Corporation-Channel Africa, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Selbin is an activist who believes in the power of highlighting positive arguments for migration as he is of the strong opinion that many migrants who come to settle in the UK have the will and capacity to make the country a great place.

This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story click here.

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