Immigration has been a hotly contested issue in the last several years - with its often negative portrayal in our society, it is often not clear why immigration can be a force for good. You only need to take a cursory glance at tabloid newspapers (I'm looking at you, Daily Mail and The Express) to observe the utter hyperbole and fear mongering that our country is being taken over by immigrants. With headlines such as 'white boys are failing in schools because of immigration' and 'British families will lose out from influx of cheap labour from Romania and Bulgaria', these media outlets have succeeded in whipping up hate and hysteria for the masses of impressionable readers.
It's little wonder that figures from the British Social Attitudes 2014 survey found that 77% of people supported a reduction in immigration levels while UKIP's anti-immigration rhetoric has witnessed former Tories and even in some cases Labourites supporting them.
But as a daughter of immigrant parents who came to the UK for postgraduate studies at university, I can safely say that the way immigrants are perceived (particularly exacerbated by right-wing media outlets) is frankly absurd and borderline ludicrous. My dad has been a humanities teacher his entire career in secondary schools in the UK, teaching young people necessary skills to survive in a highly competitive society and my mum is a librarian and university lecturer in London while doing the 'second shift'. We have never once 'sponged off the state' while sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle, as voracious consumers of the Daily Mail would assume. Rather, my parents have been making an active contribution to the state through their work and tax-paying. When I'm confronted with such anti-immigration rhetoric on so many levels, it simply doesn't reflect hard working people like my family.
And it certainly isn't just my parents who have been paying taxes and making a positive contribution to public finances; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development published a report in June 2013 arguing that migrants in the UK pay more tax than they use public services. Thus, without immigrants society would therefore have to make cuts to public services and would lead to higher taxes. Yet newspapers and politicians fail to mention that as a result of immigration to the UK, British taxes are lower and the deficit is smaller. It's shocking that due to economic uncertainty people have become more hostile to immigrants, viewing them as 'taking our jobs', when in fact it should be the reverse.
And with my university boasting the accolade of the UK's 'European university', how is immigration necessarily a bad thing? University of Kent prides itself on being one of the most cosmopolitan universities in the UK with a strong international community. Boasting 140 nationalities at our university, having a study body that is diverse is so enriching for your development. Off the top of my head alone, I have French, Finnish, Pakistani and Greek friends and it certainly makes life far more exciting. In this sense, diversity of culture is advantageous to everyone.
As a society, Britain has prided itself on our tolerance for LGBT issues, civil liberties and justice, yet immigration is still a controversial subject. I long for the day I don't have to see headlines such as 'immigrants taking our jobs' and hope that we can celebrate the diversity of the British population. But whether that's happening anytime soon is highly doubtful.