Flashback to some immigration posters

ooo look at the lovely migrants

here’s a post i wrote a while back on http://janiejones00.tumblr.com/1480812388

Stuff I got angry about this week: The Immigration Posters

OK, I’ll start with this; obviously I’m not arguing against the benefits of having more fireman/teachers/forces of light. We should have loads of these, and with immigration becoming a Balrog to an extreme-right Gandalf “YOU SHALL NOT PASS CALAIS!” it’s nice that someone has actually tried to do something not blatantly racist.

And yet, there is some serious point missing afoot here, which is damaging in it’s own way; the sorting of people in categories of what comprises a “good” immigrant. That is an immigrant who comes to the UK already possessing a level of professional experience and/or decent level of education. These people are able to use these advantages to integrate quickly into British culture, having learnt English while studying Nuclear engineering in Krakow or New Delhi, and upon attaining residency, is able to find a decent paying job that doesn’t alienated you from the pleasantly middle-class standard of living enjoyed by your English neighbours. Brilliant.

And yet for every “successful migrant story” like this, there are equal numbers of foreigners (and I’m talking in broad terms here; from Spanish ravers to Eritreans who arrived sellotaped to the bottom of an Eddie Storbart lorry) slaving away in takeaways for £4/hour, which may or may not actually get paid to you, depending on how exploitative your employers feels that day, and encountering the great British institution of drinking-till-you-can’t-see-then-assaulting-someone; hidng from their skinhead neighbours who appear to hate you for no apparent reason; or simply underground, sleeping 6 to a room or on the street, constantly looking over your shoulder and knowing you could get picked up at any moment and packed off for an all-expenses-paid holiday to Yarlswood.

I’m not trying to undermine the achievements of the people featured on these posters, but we need to be very careful when looking at immigration from this angle. Doubtless part of their appeal is to right-wingers who want to introduce an “Australian style points system” (Australia being celebrated worldwide for it’s fair and totally-not-racist treatment of refugees). The focus is taken away from why people become migrants in the first place (Newsflash: generally not because they are masochists who like being blamed for literaly everything), or the fact that many people come to the UK with little education, and despite their best efforts or wishes, will simply not be able to even become a Human Rights lawyer, or even his secretary.

As well as not being representaive, the campaign glosses over issues faced by migrants trying to find work. Such as foreign professionals who are told their qualifications are not recognised here and that they need to retrain. Imagine, you worked as a teacher in a Nigerian village for 15 years until Boko Haram burnt it, then by luck and guile you managed to get yourself to the UK where you asked for and received asylum, a process which took almost two years. While waiting for a decision you were not allowed to work professionally, although you might have done some volunteering from time to time, but you were very much looking forward to getting that residency and try to scrape together a normal life again. You make that first-trip to the JobCentre, confident that you will be able to find a nice little teaching position quickly, after all, the British are always banging on about not having enough teachers aren’t they? But your personal advisor, Karen, who can’t even be bothered trying to try and pronouce your name correctly, tells you you don’t have the qualifications (nevermind all that experience!) and unless you fancy doing a PGCE (back to university! But you’re in your 40’s!), the best you can hope for is a zero-hour contract in unskilled manual labour or at ASDA. Time to start contributing to the economy Mr Adebayo!


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