Immigration is a subject that polarizes opinion, and rightly so, for there are really obvious pros and cons behind this deeply divisive political discussion. Whatever the answer is, whichever end of the political spectrum you abide to, there are thousands of Brits like me, who have immigration to thank. When we discuss the issue with such vigour on programmes like Question Time, especially leading up to the elections, let us bear that crucial fact in mind.
My grandfather, Jacques, moved to Britain over fifty years ago, when Jews were being persecuted in Egypt. He came from a family of fourteen siblings, all of whom scattered across the globe, in search of calmer tides.
He chose Manchester, for it's industrial prowess (although on rainy days he sometimes wonders why he didn't choose San Francisco). Without any grasp of the English language, he managed to make a life for himself, becoming one of the UK's largest clothing importer and supplier. He often refers to himself in those heady days as the 'Bra King.' This makes me feels somewhat uncomfortable as his grandson.
Nevertheless, the fact a man, escaping persecution, with no grasp of the English language and only pennies in the bank, can start a life for himself, in such a tolerant and hospitable environment, is testament to the country we live in. I would not be born to tell his tale had it not been for immigration. Of how he met my grandmother in Lytham, Saint Annes. How he went on to bear four children, one of whom my father. Each having gone on to contribute to society in their own indelible ways; my father a second-generation importer (my brother the third), one of my aunts a leading charitable figure in the North West (Works with Christies). Nobody would dispute their 'Britishness.'
So lets get things straight. Immigration DOES helps the United Kingdom. Our National Health Service has thrived from an influx of Europeans and from further afield. And for those right wing nutters, many of who are sports fans, are they unable to distinguish between the foreign footballers that grace our pitches every weekend from the Polish care worker in their local hospital. Both have come to the UK to make a living and contribute to society. They fail to register the non-sensical problem with this duality.
Ah that's right, how about the question of assimilation? The same nationalists frown at the Muslim or Jewish community for continuing to practice their, 'draconian' or different religious pursuits. I often hear, 'these communities keep to themselves, and show no interest in integrating with our society.' This brings us conveniently to the burka debate. It is all fear mongering, narratives weaved by the men and women in power to encourage uniformity and homogenization.
Somewhere along the line, politics has forgotten the beauty in difference. We should be glad to have such a diverse community. We should be pleased our children go to school with kids from all types of backgrounds. Difference shouldn't trigger fear, and inspire politicians to stir approval for their radical ways.
My grandfather came to the United Kingdom as a complete foreigner. He has spawned two generations who contribute to this country in ways of vital importance. At least I think so. We all have immigration to thank in one way or another.