If I believe every tweet and every stereotype, then hordes of migrants are streaming into the UK to take our jobs, exploit our benefits, and break our laws.
Let’s be clear about this – migrants are grossly misrepresented and all too often shunned by British society. I’m not denying the problems surrounding unsustainable immigration, but the debate preceding yesterday’s Referendum often reinforced the demonisation of immigrants.
Firstly, let’s look at how many migrants are arriving here.
According to Migration Watch UK, there are 630,000 people entering the country each year. This figure, however, splits into EU and non-EU immigrants. So, overall, only 270,000 EU immigrants are coming to the UK. The relevance of this? Well, being outside the Schengen Border Free Zone, Brussels only has marginal impact on this group. Furthermore, we already have full control over the remaining 360,000 people. It is false to say that we ever lost our borders.
So what do these people then look to do?
Simple: start taking jobs. Note the lack of the popular phrase ‘taking all our jobs’. The British population seems to have a chronic fear of highly employable European workers flocking to their country, CVs in hand.
This most common of stereotypes couldn’t be more unjust. So desperate for work are these people that they move hundreds of miles across Europe, and in return, they are forced to accept the lowliest jobs. In fact, according to Oxford University, four of the top five most popular jobs of foreign-born workers are deemed ‘low skill occupations’ – jobs like factory work, food preparation, cleaning.
Representing immigrants as greedily taking jobs from the British is simply unfair – in truth, they humble themselves by taking low paid jobs that Britons don’t want. And then we resent them for doing it.
The Vote Leave campaign constantly showed itself to misunderstand the topic of immigration. It instead cemented the derogatory view of migrants that a worrying proportion of British society is showing itself to have.
But what about international threats, and the need for security?
I was shocked when UKIP Leader Nigel Farage recently raised this issue. It is wildly inaccurate to claim that immigrants are especially likely to break the law upon arriving and it consolidates this fear of otherness. Statistically, it is totally unfounded – for example, in 2004, an immigration spike of 84,000 was met with a negligible change in crime statistics, according to Government records.
However, what shocked me most was the fear that Mr Farage was choosing to spread with these accusations. These people are no more criminal or dangerous than the British. A criminal is a criminal, regardless of nationality, and Mr Farage chose to warp the truth about this in order to sow fear.
By no means does immigration solve all our problems – indeed, UK population growth is undeniably unsustainable. However, after the last few weeks’ debate, let’s remember not to dehumanise or demonise immigrants. These are real people asking for help, and our reaction to their plea is all too often unjustified and heartless.
-- Tom Williams is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds