THE BLOG
19/03/2015 06:11 GMT | Updated 18/05/2015 06:59 BST

Hostile Migration Debate Affecting EU Citizens in UK

Blaming EU citizens for the effects of UK public sector cuts and poor policies ignores the real value of EU migration, victimises migrants, and serves no useful purpose for the country either.

Hostile debate

Little is known about the impact of this current hostile debate on everyday lives of migrants and how it feels to be on the end of this toxic rhetoric.

I came from Poland to the UK twelve years ago with an interest in studying migration and relations between ethnic groups. This country is my new home, but I am increasingly worried about the hostile nature of the debate about EU migration. My feelings of unease are not helped by the way the mainstream parties and some media have embraced this position in the run-up to this year's UK election, while neatly side-stepping the need to do anything about wider socio-economic inequalities in British society.

Other migrants who, like me, came to live in the UK just before or after the EU expansion in 2004 now talk of violence, harassment and hostility. Some despise the question "Where are you from?" and prefer to hide their nationality in their everyday life to avoid being scapegoated.

Britain is no stranger to conflict and tensions between white British majority and non-white minorities, of course. Now there are new tensions and new forms of racism burrowing out from under the surface. If they didn't know it before, recent arrivals from Europe now certainly know they are often perceived as unwanted and 'other'.

This isn't helped by the Ukip' s Nigel Farage pledging to "make rules more fair for our friends in Commonwealth countries", while closing borders to EU citizens. So Commonwealth migrants are 'friends' and EU citizens are 'enemies'. Some may see this as a ploy to attract the votes of Commonwealth migrants in marginal constituencies highlighted in a recent research report.

Positive impact

It's not all bad news. Recently, some in the media have used the abundance of research available to highlight the positive contribution of EU citizens, recognising the skills and experiences we bring, our tax contributions that support public services, our impact on economic growth and employment and the way children from EU countries boost overall educational attainment.

What's more my own observation, based on taking part in quite a few voluntary schemes myself over the years, is that many migrants are passionate offering their time as volunteers so that they can make a difference to their local communities.

Too much of the current 'debate' about immigration in the UK skips over the fact that most EU citizens both want to be, and try to be, part of the fabric of British society. Sure some have decided to return home. Others though have put down their roots in the UK. In fact, growing numbers become new British citizens. Their children born and bred here will most likely identify as British. Most migrants simply want to be accepted, to be seen as ordinary people and live happily alongside their neighbours. Taking the positives from the situation - social, cultural, and more besides - would be a good way for Britain to start feeling comfortable with its new residents.