"Immigration has been a blessing for our country".
"This country was built on the back of hard work by migrants".
I wish that during the course of this referendum campaign we would hear more statements like these from our leading politicians and thinkers - because it's the truth.
Like me, I'm sure many of you are thoroughly depressed by what at times seems like constant immigrant bashing on our televisions sets and in our newspapers. Those who want us to leave the EU on 23rd June, are resorting to the 'immigration' card because they have lost all credibility on the economics of Brexit, which would be disastrous. I'm sad to say that the Remain side have not pushed back hard enough on all the false claims that the 'leavers' are making. If they want to make immigration an issue in this debate, let them. It'll give our side the opportunity to present the facts about how good immigration has been for the UK.
As the grandson of refugees from Cyprus, I know how much migrants to the UK from all around the world have contributed to our society. I know because my family have given back to our economy and our local community. Because my neighbours’ families have, my friends’ families have. I come from one of the most diverse parts of the country, the London Borough of Brent. Here, people from all around the world live and work side by side. It works in Brent and in communities up and down the country because we view our diversity as our greatest strength.
Immigrants have long chosen to settle in Brent and in communities all around the UK. If we think back 60 years, as the post-war economy and public services began to be constructed, immigrants from the all corners of the world were welcomed to our shores. They helped to make Beveridge’s vision of a post WW2 welfare state a reality. In particular, it must be noted that migrants have from the outset been the life blood of our beloved NHS. Nurses from Jamaica, doctors and surgeons from India and more recently catering and cleaning staff from Poland - all have played a pivotal part in ensuring that the NHS has remained the greatest healthcare system on Earth - an envy of many in the world. The facts speak for themselves, 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses who work in the NHS are European migrants – without them our health service would completely collapse.
Another myth that the 'leavers' often put forward surrounds the perceived economic drain that European migrants are on our benefits system. This is utterly untrue. The stats that are in the public domain could not be further away from what they are saying. The picture they have sought to paint, depicts European migrants as lazy and work shy, who have come to the UK because of our 'abuse-able' benefits system. My experience of European migrants is the polar opposite of this view. When my grandfather arrived in the UK from Cyprus in the early 1950's he had a mere £10 to his name. My grandfather was a grafter, he came to the UK to make something of his life, and explore the opportunities that our country offers. His story is not unique, it's the same story for European and non-European migrants who have arrived in the UK from the 1950's to this day. European migrants have boosted and supported our economy, they have paid their way and helped to ensure our public services are properly funded. Those who seek to objectify and stereotype European migrants do so because it's easier than attempting to defend their own incoherent economic arguments which simply do not add up.
The 'leavers' are using immigration to divide our communities. We can't allow them to. They want to pit immigrant against immigrant, and seek to make a certain 'type' of immigrant more valuable than another. As the grandson of immigrants from a Commonwealth country which is also now a member of the European Union, I'm clear that migrants from all backgrounds have contributed enormously to our society. Whether we are talking about an immigrant from Pakistan or Italy, it is essential that we recognise all have played a role in shaping this country.
We only have a few weeks left to win this referendum. We can win by putting forward the positive reasons why we should remain a part of the European Union. The economic benefits of our membership and the security that comes from cooperation and peace are critical. For me though the biggest reason is the benefits of free movement across Europe. Being in the European Union enables us and our neighbours to travel freely, to work and live in the 28 member states as we choose. This freedom has allowed millions of Brits to emigrate to other European states, and we have been able to welcome Europeans to the UK. As this campaign draws to a close, as the undecideds begin to choose which way they will vote on 23rd June, we should shout loudly and proudly about how good immigration has been for our country and all people. We won the economic argument a while back, now let's win the immigration one too, because if we do, a Remain vote becomes more likely.