At the weekend Pete and I got chatting to the staff behind the bar in the hotel that we were staying at.  Both were Eastern European, pleasant, hard working and hurt.  So very, very hurt by the prevailing attitude toward Eastern Europeans in the UK that they didn’t think we would care that one came from Romania and the other from Hungary, or that we would have very much respect for them at all.  They were at pains to say that had no interest in benefits, they didn’t come here for that, they came here to work and in my experience of working alongside Eastern Europeans on more than one occasion that is certainly the truth.  I have worked alongside Poles, Czechs and Latvians and they do work hard, very hard, well most of them, there was this one guy…but that’s a different story and he wasn’t lazy, he was in the wrong job.

While Cameron beats on the popular view that an influx of Eastern Europeans are going to put a terrible strain on the country most of the statistics do not support his arguments.  According to figures quoted in the Guardian only around 6% of immigrants from the EU (that’s the whole of the EU) apply for any kind of benefits in comparison to nearly 17% of British nationals.  Then you have to take into account that the ‘influx’ of immigrants into this country is tiny when you compare to other countries in the EU, Spain and Germany see far more foreign nationals living permanently on their shores than we do.  Then you must take into account that out of those foreign nationals resident here the vast majority don’t even come from Europe let alone Eastern Europe.

I find myself sitting here remembering the campaign a few years ago in which the BNP showed their ignorance by advertising ‘proud to be British’, ‘keep the immigrants’ out propaganda with the use of an image of a WW2 plane flown exclusively by our Polish allies.  I remember the Hungarian grandparents of a friend and, of course, the fact that my own grandfather was a migrant, having come here from Russia with his parents as a child.  I think about all this and my heart aches a little.

We live in hard times and fear often makes people aggressive, we seek to defend what we have and the tendency to defend it against anything or anyone unfamiliar may even be an evolutionary trait.  I would beg the British people however to remember that this nation is what is it because of immigration,  because of wave after wave of nations seeking first to conquer and then becoming naturalised, because of our own conquering days, because of travel and adaptation.  Our language alone shows it’s roots in many many others, verbalising our multinational heritage every single day.  If we seek back through our family trees, few of us will find that all of our ancestors were born on this little island.  Purity is overrated.

It may also be worth remembering how lucky we are and if our luck changes we may all depend a little on the kindness of others.  Take just a minute before you make a judgement and think how you might feel if you walked a mile in another’s shoes, you never know, one of your ancestors may have walked that same path a few generations ago.


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