The problem with putting a value on immigrants

Identity

Home Secretary Priti Patel recently announced that freedom of movement will end, in a bid to ‘open up Britain to the world’. Aside from the ludicrousness of this slogan, the move towards an Australian points-based system marks a stage of Brexit that begins to pander to the anti-immigrant and xenophobic attitudes that washed over the Leave campaign.

In her speech, Patel refers to herself as ‘this daughter of immigrants’. Patel’s position in government has been interesting for me to grapple with. On one hand, seeing an Indian woman with an extremely similar background to me in cabinet assumedly would be empowering for me, a PPE student. Yet, her willingness to adopt anti-immigration stances so easily does not sit right with me.

A points-based system would value people primarily on their economic value to the UK, considering occupation, qualifications and experience. Many people of colour just in this university could recount stories of hardship from their own families, and it is common for many of us to credit our parents and grandparents for their sacrifices made in migrating for our own successes. Patel’s new policy seems to erase these stories of multi-generational losses and wins.

While many migrate to the UK with ‘low-skills’, they work excessively hard, and more often than not, their children go on to graduate from top universities and enter the job-market with high-skill qualities.

Claims of the system streamlining the immigration process in order to filter out ‘low-skill’ workers to improve the productivity and efficiency of the UK seem antithetical to the stories of many children of immigrants, whose parents migrated with few qualifications and highly valued skills to give their children better chances at acquiring these. The concept of a low-skill worker seems redundant now that we have seen the introduction of the ‘key-worker’ in the pandemic.

Undermining the skills of many immigrants, which Patel claims we have become ‘dependent’ on, is an ignorant and bigoted approach to her role as Home Sec. It denies the obvious fact that while many migrate to the UK with ‘low-skills’, they work excessively hard, and more often than not, their children go on to graduate from top universities and enter the job-market with high-skill qualities. My family is an example of this, resulting in one child with Russell Group undergrad and master’s degrees – now working in the civil service – and the second studying at Oxford.

The policy position being taken by the Conservative Party is a dangerous one.

Reducing people to their immediate value and refusing to consider potential, limits both the potential immigrants and the UK. By measuring people’s worth at their time of application, the government is actively rejecting the reality of many – the reality that many immigrants move to the UK, not to take advantage of the economy, but to offer their children education and opportunities that may not be easily accessible in their homeland.

The policy position being taken by the Conservative Party is a dangerous one. It both undermines the stories and lives of those in the UK currently and prevents many from creating their own. Since the post-war period, immigration has been a key aspect of life in the UK. From Commonwealth citizens being invited in order to rebuild the country, to building relationships with EU nations, it is obvious that this new policy is a reversal of previous British sentiment that immigration makes this country a better place.

image creds: Ilyas Ahmed

Liked reading this article? Sign up to our weekly mailing list to receive a summary of our best articles each week – click here to register

Want to contribute? Join our contributors group here or email us – click here for contact details