Your View: The Great British Immigration Row: Why Nigerians should care

ukbaChannel 5 hosted a very boisterous (or shall we say rowdy) debate on Tuesday on the contentious issue of immigration. On the panel and by far the most vocal was presenter Katie Hopkins, Louisa Zeissman and Vanessa Feltz.

The debate was commissioned as a YouGov survey found strong public concern about immigration, with people saying only the economy will be more important in the 2015 general election.

The poll also revealed six out of ten people believe it is essential that migrants should be able to speak English, while 67 per cent think British people should be given priority for jobs. Seven out of ten voters want immigration reduced or stopped completely. 

Now, these aren’t new statistics and we always knew that this debate would be heated and controversial as this topic never fails to bring out the guns on both sides of the argument.

What troubles me is the lack of constructive response from the UK immigrant community. It’s almost as though we’re ashamed of living in the UK and are guilty of crimes against the British people by migrating here.

For Nigerians in the UK, speaking out should be even more pertinent, given the reputation we have as a bunch of corrupt people scamming the British public and the world in general even though we all know that this isn’t true.

We live in a multicultural and global world and it’s obviously taking some people a bit longer to adapt to this massive change, hence, they need find someone or something to lash out on in protest; in this case, immigrants. 

As an immigrant, I do feel some empathy for the majority of the British public who have genuine concerns about the future of this country and the impact that excessive immigration is having on the country. Just reading comments online regarding the views expressed by Katie Hopkins on the show was confirmation that as unsettling as it is, a lot of people actually agreed with her that immigration should be cut down to the bare minimum. It was also obvious that there’s growing resentment against immigrants in the UK.

Take a look at this comment by a Daily Express reader for example:

“The inevitable conclusion of the on going invasion of our country by unwanted and unwelcome foreigners ( not immigrants ) will definitely end in civil war and bloodshed on our streets. I say foreigners because to use the word immigrant sort of gives legitimacy or legality to a situation that is regarded as corrupt and immoral as well as threatening for we White Indigenous Britons. In every opinion poll or news paper poll the British public have always overwhelmingly opposed and rejected all or any immigration to our shores. The fact that we are now governed by a REGIME of power mad tyrants–denies us the right to have our legitimate say in to who can come to live here and who cannot. The main reason is that this vile regime as BETRAYED Britain by secretly and deceitfully giving our sovereignty to a foreign power to be governed from afar by despots and vile foreign Maoist /Marxist unelected jobsworths –ie Borroso and Co. The reality is we do not WANT foreigners in great numbers “

My problem lies with the minority (who seem to make the most noise) with right wing views who will stop at nothing to tarnish the image of all immigrants in order to justify their racist views and policies. Of course, the chief propagator of this is UKIP members as I just can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would vote for this party, even if you’re against mass immigration.

This is a party who’s members attack women and who’s leader claims that women must choose between having a family or pursuing a career. Another member of this same party recently claimed that homosexuality was to blame for the heavy floods which ravaged Britain this winter. If they came into power, they would stop the building of Mosques and make Muslims live by a certain code. How this makes them any different from the Islamist extremists they are targeting beats me.

If you vote UKIP just because you’re against immigration, you might unwittingly be signing youselfup to a disgustingly intolerant way of life.

Katie Hopkins was apparently the star of the show even though she was shouted down quite a lot by the rowdy crowd who were mostly immigrants. She made some salient points regarding schools and the health service being overcrowded and stretched to the limits as a result of the constant flood of immigrants into Britain.ukba2

With a resent data published showing that most of the babies born in England last year were mostly to women born outside Britain, the top countries being Poland, women of Afghan/Iraqi origin and of course, us Nigerians. It’s not to difficult to see why the British public are concerned.

I don’t believe immigrants are ‘stealing’ any jobs from British citizens. There has been strict controls put in place for the last couple of years which has drastically reduced the number of immigrants who can come to work in the UK from countries not in the EU. For example, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get to stay in the UK after your studies here, as most routes like the Post Study work Visa and Highly skilled Migrant visas have now been scrapped.

You also can’t come into the country on a work permit as the company offering you the position must show that there isn’t a British person within the area who can fulfill the requirements of the role satisfactorily and this is very unlikely.

If you do wish to come to study, tuition fees have risen significantly over the last couple of years by an average of £2, 000 making it even more difficult for the average Joe from Nigeria or any other country to come and study.

So who are these supposed immigrants coming to steal UK jobs and where are they coming from?

I feel people should distinguish when making broad statements about immigration because contrary to what a lot of people think, the EU actually accounts for the bulk of immigrants coming to live and work in the UK.

In a reverse of the restrictions on countries not in the EU, the UK is actually opening its borders to more immigrants from new countries joining the European Union and the irony is there isn’t much that they can do about it.

African immigrants hardly have access to these benefits the British public feel that we’re siphoning. Sure, there are a few unscrupulous elements within the Nigerian community who have obtained benefits illegally or through deception but there are also British people conning the government out of thousands too.

Most Nigerians would rather hustle for their money, even it means working two jobs or even three to make ends meet.We have a strong work ethic and love the good life too much to let opportunity pass us by. In our culture, staying at home and waiting for benefits would be tantamount to begging for a living.

The typical Nigerian immigrant living in London, whether highly educated or not will want a satisfactory standard of living and would also need to earn enough to send money back home, which will be incredibly difficult on benefits.

You can’t have a debate about immigration without having something about Nigeria being thrown into the conversation making us scapegoats. This is highly unfair and Nigerians need to speak up.

Nigerian immigrants living in the UK or even anywhere in the world for that matter have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. We are no one’s victims or scapegoat. In every sphere of the British society, you’d be hard pressed not to find a Nigerian or person of Nigerian descent making huge contributions in their community.

We have high profile people of Nigerian origin making Britain proud and until these people or the rest of us start making this known, the invaluable contribution Nigerians are making in the British society will continue to be overshadowed by negative media reports and right wing propaganda being pelted out by people with extremist views.

If we end immigration, artists like Tini Tempah, Chiwetel Ejiofor (who is on course for an Oscar) would not be here to make Britain proud the way they do. I won’t even bother listing the many more amazing and extremely successful Britons of Nigerian descent who shape the landscape of this country and contribute in making it a great country to live in and be associated with.

The British public are some of the most tolerant people in the world, God knows most of us immigrant communities would not tolerate half of what they let us get away with but we need to focus on the real issues instead of chasing shadows.

The UK has an immigration problem. It didn’t just start now and it certainly won’t end now. This debate will still be going on for generations but let’s call a spade a spade. As long as the UK is in the EU, mass immigration will not stop and there isn’t much the government can do about it.

Britain’s membership of the EU is crucial for the UK as well as the EU. I won’t be drawn into who gains more and who loses, but if the UK intends to continue enjoying the benefits of being in the European union, I’m afraid stopping or reducing immigration is not an option (unless the government can negotiate a deal with Brussels), rather, initiating a process of accepting and preparing for it will probably be the best way to go.






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