quinta-feira, 23 de junho de 2016

Why do some of us with migrant parents want to vote for Brexit?

Why do some of us with migrant parents want to vote for Brexit?

Maybe it’s the desire to integrate and feel British. But beware – by drawing a line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrants, Vote Leave is deploying a cynical old tactic

Iman Amrani Wednesday 22 June 2016 19.17 BST

According to the British Election Study, the overall vote is pretty evenly split between Brexit and remain, but two thirds of Britain’s minority ethnic voters favour staying in the EU. At first glance that might not appear too surprising, but in a debate that has focused heavily on immigration, what is it that has made a third of minority voters – many of them the descendants of immigrants themselves – lean towards leaving?

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It would be reasonable to assume that ethnic minorities would be turned off by the fear-mongering and xenophobia directed towards eastern European migrants, most crudely put in last week’s “Breaking point” Ukip poster. Indians, Pakistanis and Jamaicans have been subject to similar vilification in previous decades but surprisingly, in the lead-up to the referendum I’ve heard more and more examples of first- and second-generation non-EU immigrants warming to stricter rules on EU migration.

Sometimes their voices sound just like those of their white compatriots. They too are worried about the jobs market, pressures on public services and change, but resentment towards a perceived “open doors policy” for eastern European immigrants runs deeper than that.

Those born here to migrant parents from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean come from a long line of ancestors who played a huge role in making Britain what it is today. Their story in Great Britain is one of struggle, and the battles they had to fight to integrate, in the years before equality laws, were more difficult than the ones facing EU migrants today.

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The leave campaign has played on these feelings, framing the immigration debate in such a way that makes it appear inclusive to those descended from Commonwealth countries while depicting eastern Europeans as the threatening “other”.

Earlier this month Michael Gove and Boris Johnson said that following Brexit and the end of free movement, “We could then create fairness between EU citizens and others, including those from Commonwealth countries”, adding that they will “end discrimination against non-EU countries”.

So we have the bizarre situation where rightwing politicians who have never traditionally sought ethnic minority voters are finding a way of reaching at least some of them – while maintaining their anti-immigration stance.

Somehow they’ve managed to draw a line on immigration that allows them to court those descended from the former empire
Somehow they’ve managed to draw a line on immigration that allows them to court those descended from the former empire – the “good migrants”. As the referendum looms ever closer, the focus has moved to “bad migrants” from the EU, who are accused of scrounging or “taking our jobs”, though the relentless fixation on immigration as the source of all our problems remains the same.

This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I remember a few years ago being on a diversity scheme when the conversation turned to the topic of immigration. I was shocked to hear several participants express their concerns about the number of immigrants coming from eastern Europe. “I worry about if there are enough jobs to go round,” said one young woman who had applied for the scheme on the basis of her Indian background.

Discussions I’ve had in the past few weeks have made me even more aware of the fears that many young minority ethnic people have. With so many young graduates struggling to get full-time work, and many sectors lacking diversity and minority representation, the idea of increased immigration can leave young people from migrant backgrounds wondering how this will impact them.

I, however, don’t believe what I have read about EU migrants because I have my own experience to go on. When I was in sixth form I worked evenings as a waitress at the Cambridge colleges. I served dinner to students who looked like Boris Johnson dressed in Harry Potter capes. The catering staff I worked with were mostly Europeans, from Poland, Spain, Lithuania and France. It was definitely a union of Europeans who kept the kitchens running.

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The eastern European colleagues I had during those years were some of the nicest, most hard-working people I have ever met. When college functions ran late into the night, they were the ones who volunteered to pick up the hours when no one else would. Many of them were saving money to send back to their families.

Those of us with migrant parents are familiar with this experience. So why is it that some of us feel threatened?

Perhaps it’s the desire to integrate and feel “British” – after all, what’s more British these days than saying you’re worried about immigrants? Whatever it is, I hope that voters from all backgrounds remember that, although immigration has become the biggest issue regarding our EU membership, history shows us that migrants have always been scapegoats for the failings of our politicians, and the only thing that has changed is the groups who have been labelled as the problem.

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