Sunday, 11 August 2013

Food for Thoughts on a Summer Sunday Morning (and Music, too!)

Holidays are a time for relaxation. That goes mainly for the body, though, not so much for the mind. I believe that the mind must always be stimulated and today's contribution is evidence of that.

"A Day Without Immigrants": would you be able to get through it?
One of my favourite columnists in the UK is the current political director of the Huffington Post UK, Mehdi Hasan (left). Even when I disagree with some of his views, I can still appreciate the thinking behind his argument. The piece below appeared first in the New Statesman, a publication of which Mehdi is a contributing writer. For obvious reasons Hasan's article speaks volumes to me, an immigrant who has worked for ten years now in local regeneration, art, community and education projects. It's ironic that this post, which I copied and pasted here from The New Statesman's website weeks ago, will appear at a time when the current Cameron-led government is in the middle of a backlash on account of its recent controversial and (frankly!) racist propaganda against immigrants (if you live in the UK, you've probably heard of the "Go Home" vans).

I have not  sought permission for publication of this article and all credit goes to Mehdi and the New Statesman. I will, however, take credit for selecting the music. It is absolutely beautiful. Enjoy.

I have a modest proposal for the likes of Ukip, MigrationWatch, the Home Secretary, David Goodhart, Paul Dacre and, of course, the BNP. Why not call for “A Day Without Immigrants?” Wouldn’t that demonstrate, once and for all, that neither our economy nor our society needs migrants? That they are a burden, rather than a blessing?

“A Day Without Immigrants” was the name given to a rather innovative series of protests in the US in 2006, which brought more than a million Latinos on to the streets of 50 cities, from New York to Los Angeles. They boycotted shops, schools and their places of work to try to highlight the plight of undocumented migrant workers.

But here’s how I’d implement a similar boycott here: anyone in the UK born abroad or with a parent born abroad would stay at home for 24 hours. Any business or organisation founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant would close for the day.

Britain would be transformed – but, regrettably for the immigration-bashers, in a wholly negative way. In fact, I suspect it would be a pretty awful 24 hours for most Britons, dark and dystopian, even. Think Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later – but without migrants, rather than with zombies.

Let’s start with the trivial stuff. Who would serve you in restaurants or coffee shops? Who would make your sandwiches and wraps at lunchtime? What would be the point of going out to eat in the evening if there were no longer any Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Japanese, Turkish, Lebanese, Persian, Italian, Spanish and, yes, French restaurants open?

How about your health? Who’d patch you up and prescribe your medicines? Ministers and their outriders in the right-wing press like to scaremonger about the spiralling costs of so-called health tourism (which amounts to a shocking 0.01 per cent of the £109bn NHS budget) and exaggerate the numbers of migrant families that turn up expecting free treatment in our overstretched A&E departments. The reality, as the chair of the council of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada, has pointed out, is that “you are much more likely to have an immigrant caring for you than sitting up in front of the emergency department”. About 30 per cent of the doctors and 40 per cent of the nurses working in the health service were born abroad. Put simply, the NHS could not survive 24 hours without its migrant workforce.

The same applies to the social-care sector. If you have a sick parent living in a care home, you might have to take the day off to look after them. In 2009 a fifth of all care assistants and home carers – 135,000 people in total – were foreign-born; in London, 60 per cent of care workers were migrants. Speaking of taking the day off, neither the Deputy Prime Minister nor the leader of the opposition would have to turn up to Westminster for PMQs – Nick Clegg is the son of a Dutch mother and half-Russian father; Ed Miliband is the child of Polish refugees.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor would have to go to the Commons to warn that “A Day Without Immigrants” would, if extended over a year, force him to introduce a further £7bn of spending cuts and/or tax rises. Why? Migrants boost the British economy by £7bn a year, according to an OECD study published in June. That’s the equivalent of an extra 2p on the basic rate of income tax.

Sticking with the economy, we’d have to board up iconic British stores such as Marks & Spencer (co-founder: Michael Marks of Belarus), Selfridges (founder: the American Harry Gordon Selfridge) and Tesco (founder: Jacob Kohen, son of Avram, a Polish migrant). UK holidaymakers would have to cancel their cheap flights on easyJet (founder: the Greekborn Stelios Haji-Ioannou).

Our universities, a multibillion-pound export industry, would take a hit, too, if foreign students stayed away. One in ten students in British universities comes from outside the EU and the fees that students from other countries pay are a bigger source of income for most universities than research grants.

What about sport? Imagine going to watch a Premier League game midweek as a Liverpool fan. Luis Suárez wouldn’t be playing. If you’re a Man United fan, you’d miss out on the ball skills of Robin van Persie; if you’re a Man City fan, it’d be Yaya Touré on strike. Chelsea fans? Say goodbye to Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.

Incidentally, if you were planning on using the Tube to go to watch Chelsea play, you’d find it in a pretty filthy state, the train platforms tagged with graffiti and strewn with rubbish: 95 per cent of London Underground cleaning staff are foreign-born. It wouldn’t just be the District Line that was dirty, it would also be your place of work: 89 per cent of office cleaners in the capital are migrants.

But the countryside would be fine, right? Wrong. Imagine all those unpicked crops and the effect: the rise in food prices, supermarkets opting for (cheaper) foreign over domestic produce, fruit farmers on their knees. The truth is that “native” Brits have not been interested in fruit-picking for years and, as the Home Office’s own Migration Advisory Committee warned in May, many of the UK’s fruit-picking businesses could close without new migrant workers from outside the EU.

On immigration, we hear constantly that voters don’t trust the official statistics or studies (a recent Ipsos MORI poll found that the public thinks that immigrants make up 31 per cent of the population –when the official figure is 13 per cent). So this may be the only way to win hearts and minds. A great boycott. A one-day strike by immigrants and their children across the UK, coupled with a ban on the use of immigrant-founded businesses by the “indigenous” population.

For a mere 24 hours. Let’s do it. And if it doesn’t transform public opinion, well, at least I’ll have had the day off work.

Next Post: "Humour and Music on a Summer Sunday Morning", to be published on Sunday 18th August at 10am (GMT)


  1. I think that would be an amazing, thought-provoking day. (Though I'd suggest emergency doctors & firemen opt out, for the safety of all... otherwise it could get a bit hairy.)

    One of the things I found amazing and fascinating (and, yes, a little bit strange) in the US was the number of people who knew their original background in great detail, and the number of events celebrating the traditions of "home" countries. I think that the UK could benefit from knowing a lot more about where our people come from. I love going to Chinese new year in London, but I do wish there were more such festivals. (Maybe they are, and I don't know about them, but I haven't heard of any outside of the capital.)

  2. Preciosa interpretación!.
    Que sigas descansando en tus vacaciones con la mente activa.
    Un abrazo

  3. Yes, indeed! The problems would be just as debilitating here in the States.

  4. Isn't the head of banking from USA?

    The idea for a stay at home day is a great one. I would have to stay home as one of my parents was born in Ireland. The latest behaviour - vans etc against immigrants etc is appalling and shameful.

    I am off to listen to some music you recommend now....

  5. That would sure bring those greed mongers to their knees.

  6. Thanks for your comments.

    The head of the Bank of England is from Canada! Go figure. :-0 No banking on that day.

    Rachel, personally, I would (wink-wink, smiley-smiley) include doctors, firemen and other hospital and emergency services staff with the proviso that they would carry a button to alert them if the emergency was a serious one. Just imagine turning up at your local A£E with a broken finger only to be told that the Accident and Emergency ward's been closed for the day because the management could find no replacement for the Filipino nurses, the South Korean technician, the Iraqi doctor, the Ghanaian receptionist and the Colombian cleaner (the latter being in a zero-hour contract). Just imagine that. :-) But of course, on a day like that I would make sure and I think Mehdi would also concur that emergency services wouldn't be affected.

    Have a very good week.

    Greetings from London.

  7. It is even more relevant here in Australia where the white people at least are immigrants. And in the scale of things, relatively recent immigrants.
    I am currently cringing at our treatment of asylum seekers in particular but immigrants more generally.
    This is a brilliant piece. Thank you.

  8. wow now that would be quite the revolution eh...and perhaps pretty eye opening as well...def something that is still ongoing here in the states as well...if only, you know...

  9. I am uncertain if the tangled web we weave is more or less divisive in England than it is in America, but I think I will refrain from attempting a thoughtful comment about this issue, CiL. It is too complex and, actually, too provocative for me on a Sunday, summer evening.

    So, instead, I will simply enjoy your music while I watch the sunset as it takes place six hours west of you.

  10. yeah...they don't really think about the consequences it would have and how our countries would lose much of their diversity and lots of other important things too

  11. Here in the US, everybody is an immigrant except the Native Americans. They were the only ones that didn't come here from another country. All the rest of our ancestors came here from another land. So many who oppose immigration forget that they too are immigrants.
    Love the music!

  12. We are all immigrants...what is wrong with those people. I heard there are not enough immigrants to pick the strawberries in CA. We need immigrants, we need their diversity!

  13. Yes indeed! Amen.. And I agree with Rachel - we need to celebrate the diversity of other cultures and always keep an open mind.

  14. One of the things I've always loved about America is her reputation as a "melting pot." Watching the parade of athletes representing us in the Olympics makes me proud that no "one look" defines us as a people.

    But in spite of the fact that most of us are either immigrants, or descended from immigrants, our history also reveals many shameful backlashes against large chunks of immigrants of one particular nationality or the other. Unfortunately, it continues to this day, but not just in America. It seems that more and more countries are experiencing an influx of immigrants, and they too, are becoming melting pots. And over-zealous politicians and economists are still warning of immigration's dire consequences, and calling it a "bad thing."

    This was a brilliant article. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  15. Beautiful Music.Thank You. Yes,I like Mehdi Hasan too...I heard him speak in Hyde Park during the bigT.U.C. March in London in 2011.A rare intelligence ,one sadly missing in many quarters recently.

  16. Gosh...when I examine my ancestry, I must be an immigrant too!
    My mother's family are Finnish, and my father's from the Isle of Wight...and beyond that...well, there was the Norman invasion...haha:D

  17. Wasn't the Go Home Vans trying to deal with 'illegal' immigrants? So far as I understand it, the others are very welcome for reasons stated by the many comments and more. Illegals are here - as it says - illegally and to my mind that isn't fair on those who wish to come to the UK legally. I am pure English but many of my friends come from other parts of the world and I love them all.

  18. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Valerie, I'm sorry to disagree with you but the "Go Home" vans were not about illegal immigrants. They were about reclaiming the ground lost to UKIP by the Conservative party. They were about being tough on immigrants, regardless of their status. Just to prove my point, recently there was a raid outside a tube station in London, in one of those areas where citizens appear to be of a "darker blue". The police and immigration officers were hoping to catch illegal immigrants and yet found that the ones they arrested were here legitimately.

    The "Go Home" vans are about a government that wants to distract attention from the fact that it doesn't know what to do with the economy, is cutting funding to essential public services with the intention of privatising them as quickly as possible. When even Nigel Farage, the renowned bigoted leader of UKIP, protests against the vans, you know that Cameron and co. have gone too far.

    No, the vans were never about "illegal" immigrants. The vans are "the others".

    Greetings from London.

  19. Mario no había venido todo este tiempo porque dijiste que ibas a estar de vacaciones (o asi lo entendí yo) sorry, que tonta soy!!

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  22. wow imagine no immigrants would make people think and I am one too ;_) lovely music

  23. Marvellous. Good sense and good music brought together in one blog. As one who is isolated for a few days staying amongst Mail-reading, UKIP-loving, relatives, your blog post was like a breath of fresh air.

  24. It's a question of rationalizing the needful. Immigrants are everywhere and the conditions affecting their homes and jobs impact on their neighbors and co-workers. How tolerance can be brought to a higher level is something that had taken the attention of those with good intentions. However feelings of insecurity is felt by both the divides. That is the underlying problem! Great thoughts CIL!


  25. What a day that would be ~ Would certainly make people think! By the way....delightful choice of music!

  26. i hope we can learn to appreciate our various cultures and enjoy the differences we each bring to this world!

    thanks for your visit today!

  27. Most of the US would be closed - not a bad plan. Now, how do we implement it, here and there where you are?

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  29. t always gives me a boost to hear how many different languages are spoken around me in London and I think ethnic groups enrich and counter balance our national culture. Having been involved with caring for an elderly relative, I'm incredibly aware of the huge contribution of immigrants to "caring", and I know how hard most of them work too. I am such a mish mash of races myself that I am sure I would fall foul of any Hitler style cleansing operation, and my husband's family are entirely immigrants without a trace of indigenous British in them.

    So I don't support racism, and I think we absolutely must all get on together if we live so close. But still, I think that things are heading for trouble if we don't stop immigration. For a start, I am absolutely disgusted at the way many British employers are sacking locals and replacing them with people who undercut them. I visited a small West country town recently, which has a proud history and many beautiful buildings, but its streets are now packed with poor immigrants, all the nice shops have closed or are closing leaving only rock bottom cheapest (immigrants don't buy, and locals are out of work so cannot afford to buy). Every person I spoke to was burning with the most bitter and poisonous resentment, they loathed the immigrants. It was both sad and alarming. I am also becoming seriously worried at other problems which are exacerbated by more people flooding in. The competition for social housing, the impossibility for so many young people and their kids to live near families in SE England because of housing prices., the increasing chorus of warnings from medics and nurses about the risks of the overstretched NHS, the fact that I know many kids now who cannot even get a school place for September. Yes, of course the government is largely to blame, and we all know that any "reforms"Cameron and Co. create will be done with an eye to maximising the returns for their cronies, first and foremost.

    But I notice that the politicians are becoming noticeably more hard line about many social issues, they want to look strong and decisive, as if they are tackling the things that people really care about. Don't you think that the more threatened ordinary people feel, the more they will support what they perceive to be strength and determination from their leaders to tackle their grievances and problems? I know many people - friends and relatives included - who now support UKIP when they would never have dreamed of supporting them before. I myself get fed up with the organised groups of Roma beggars and hustlers I now have to negotiate in my local streets and I personally am against a whole new flood of Bulgarians and Romanians coming in. Tthe fact is that there are too many people in this small country and the problems are becoming significant.. And many people are only too eager to take advantage of these problems to make money or get power for themselves.

    It's still hard to put the against-immigration view without sounding like a racist or a bigot. I hope I am not one, and I hope you don't mind me saying this. What do you think? PS I cancelled my last post because I posted before I had finished editing it!

  30. Popped in on the blog because the sun's popped out for lunch, apparently. :-)

    Jenny, I value your opinion. It is sound, grounded on fact and experience and it's the sort of feedback that I can discuss freely with a native.

    I can only imagine what must be going through the minds of some locals in Britain when a sudden and large group of immigrants with no proper command of the English language appear on the horizon, in their hitherto sleepy town or city. I really try to do my best to understand it. At the same time there are many elements that put those immigrants there and not many depend on the locals' volition.

    Economics, geopolitics, conflicts (aided sometimes by the British government's decision to sell weapons to rogue states), job opportunities (overlooked by the locals because they don't provide a decent salary). I could carry on. Then, you have funding for ESOL classes being cut, first by Labour and then by the coalition. It's a recipe for disaster.

    I agree with you that when it comes to Britain, one's dealing with a small island. Cuba, for instance, is bigger than England and at a push, could give the British Isles a run for their money, sizewise. We're just slightly smaller, but also, we have not had the same immigration patterns you have had.

    So, don't worry about sounding like this or that, or coming across like this or that. Generally speaking the British people I have met in almost 16 years here have been rather tolerant and understanding. But then, again, I live in London and as you rightly asserted, this is a very multicultural city. In rural Britain it's a different story.

    Thanks everyone for their thoughtful comments.

    Greetings from London.

  31. Just like someone said above, it would be more relevant in Australia and so would it be in the USA. I think some may look at the immigrants as an irritant, but it also proves to be a necessity for many countries.

  32. Hey Cuban! Thank you for the great comment on my blog, love it when we can all share a laugh :-) This however is no joking ,matter. The US would be empty. We're all immigrants here!! Well I guess not the Native Americans... I'd still be freezing my tail off in Norway and I would never have found the love of my life... All this "us vs them" is so crazy---who was it that said "We have met the enemy and it is us"....Great thoughts as always:-)

  33. A thought provoking post. I appreciated the music too. In the footsteps of the father...wonderful!

  34. Thanks for your response on my blog. Your comment was kind but it had me back here re-reading my own post and I found I was quite surprised and a little dismayed because some of what I wrote reads in a way I do not particularly like - which just goes to show me how hard it is to discuss this. For instance, I notice that I say I don't like to be hassled by organised Roma beggar gangs. This does not mean I'd prefer to be hassled by organised British beggar gangs, nor does it mean that I think all Roma are beggars in gangs, and I certainly have nothing against ordinary Romanians and Bulgarians who have lived for years under pressure and corruption and are doing the best that they can.

    What I meant, and had not quite pinpointed when I was writing my comment, I think, is that I would like to see a legitimate way of stopping exploitation - either greedy natives exploiting immigrants' neediness to the detriment of local society (as happened in the town I mentioned) or immigrants who come here (or are brought in) to take material advantage in a way which will cause hardship to locals.

    And it is so very, very hard to discuss this without using specific examples.

    I am starting to feel that a better way of discussing this is to focus on a couple of main issues. One could be that "we are all here together now, and it is in everyone's interests to get on together." Another could be that "we must now opt out of anything involving unrestricted immigration" - at least till we've got some solutions to problems like housing.

    Above all to remember there there is no future in picking out particular groups of other human beings, many of whom will have come here specifically because they yearn for a more tolerant way of life.

    I won't delete my comment, but hopefully it can be taken together with this one....

    Enjoy your holiday!

  35. Thanks, Jenny. Both your comments were very welcomed by me and, I hope, by everyone who visits this blog.

    One reason why the debate on immigration is necessary and it must be open to all, including first and foremost people born and bred in this country is that it can be and has been easily hijacked by individuals and organisations with a racist and neo-fascist agenda. Last night I was in Newham at a concert and I was amazed at the diverse range of people who came out to see Brand New Heavies and Incognito. The majority were people of my age and older, but there were a lot of youngsters in their baseball hats and hoodies, veiled Muslim women and, what I think it was, little groups of Eastern Europeans here and there (believe me, I can pick up an Albanian accent in no time. :-D). On one of the giant screens there was a message running on a loop when there wasn't any music on stage. I'm not quoting but it read something like the borough wanted its residents to not just have a house but have a home. It's important to stress the difference between the two words. I live in a house but when I go to Cuba I always say nowadays I go home from home and then return home. London is home, too, just like Havana and that should be one of the aspirations and motivations when thinking of bringing new immigrants. It's not just that they provide an economic benefit to Britain, but also that they feel welcomed and want to stay and adapt to the British way of life, whilst keeping their identity and enriching ours.

    Your comments are really valuable to me as a blogger and free-lance writer. I feed off them. :-) Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  36. Yes, that's the kind of thing which gives me a kick too, and gives me hope.



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