Why as a Pole I back UKIP immigration policy
As an immigrant from Poland, the reason why I support UKIP's immigration policy is that it is very much in my interests. It is far more nuanced and intelligent than the other parties' approach. It should be embraced by all
If one had to point to three key policy areas that have helped UKIP build its wider public support over the past few years, they would be EU-scepticism, energy self-sufficiency and immigration. Of these three areas, immigration has become the mainstream media’s preferred platform for the sustained barrage of attacks on UKIP.
Nigel Farage’s statements and UKIP’s policies have been repeatedly misinterpreted in order to portray UKIP as a party of bigots, racists and generally an unpleasant bunch.
The intent, it appears, has been to shame any voters thinking of supporting UKIP. The narrative is as follows -- if you have concerns about the UK’s existing open-border immigration policy that means you are intolerant; if you are intolerant that means you are xenophobic; if you have a problem with immigration it is most likely because of their race or ethnicity.
And we know all too well how seemingly harmless rivalries between ethnic groups eventually led to some of the most appalling atrocities of the 20th century -- the Armenian Genocide, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Holocaust, the Dersim massacre, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, etc. The list goes on and on.
So the monstrous question implicitly posed by some is: who in their right mind would support a party whose proposed policies begin down the path of ethnic hatred? Who in their right mind would support the new Ku Klux Klan?
But UKIP not only does not want to ignite any ethnic tensions within the UK, but more importantly, it is the only British party that has a clear and convincing plan for preventing any national or ethnic conflicts in the future.
Let’s consider the British political scene up until the early 2000s -- roughly until the EU’s largest enlargement in terms of population and territory; when in 2004 10 countries of Southern and Eastern Europe joined the EU’s existing 15 nations.
Until that time, UKIP’s public support remained at steady and relatively low levels. If you as a Brit were concerned with the issue of immigration -- be it numbers, the social profile of immigrants, or the mere fact of seeing foreigners on your street -- you would either keep these thoughts to yourself or, if you were that way inclined, you might even be driven into the arms of the British National Party.
The BNP was seen as a platform for voicing immigration policy concerns and there was very little alternative. The BNP and the likes of it had a monopoly on the topic of immigration, making it taboo in the mainstream public debate. The immigration debate, if it existed at all, was periodic, superficial and self-censored.
The fact that the public debate was self-censored does not, of course, mean that British people did not have strong opinions on immigration -- they just rarely went beyond the dinner table or pub chats among friends.
However, the reality is that the issue of immigration is a complex one and deserves an honest and serious public debate. UKIP was the first serious British party that took the Westminster-avoided issue of immigration and declared there was nothing wrong with putting it on the table.
At the same time it clearly signalled to the public it was taking the issue away from the preserve of the BNP in order to make the debate more mainstream and civilised.
In UKIP’s world, the immigration debate is as far from the issues of race or ethnicity as it can be.
Instead, it focuses on three key aspects: pace of immigration vs. pace of integration, type of immigration, and regaining control over immigration policy.
Great Britain, just like any other country in the world, be it the USA, Canada, Australia or Poland should have the right to know and control who is allowed to settle down here, work here, and build his or her life here, as well as the pace at which that happens.
The benefits of immigration in general are well established and known. Hardly anyone within UKIP questions them. A number of independent studies have shown that economically, immigrants contribute more to the British economy than they take out of it. However, UKIP recognises the issue is more complicated than that.
Firstly, it is not only about macroeconomics, but also about culture and societal cohesion. If Indian, Polish, Lithuanian or Syrian immigrants are to feel at home in the UK, they need to be welcomed by the existing British communities they are joining.
These immigrants cannot be perceived as a threat, but as an enrichment. They cannot replace the local culture with their own, brought from their home countries. Instead, they need to accept and enrich the local way of life.
To ensure that British society remains vibrant, coherent and integrated, and shares a common set of values, the rate of immigration cannot outpace the rate of integration. To ensure these two rates match, the UK needs to be able to control the number of immigrants that come to the UK. It is a quite simple principle.
Secondly, different social groups in British society are impacted by mass immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and elsewhere in different ways. Since most immigrants in the past 10 years could be classified as predominantly blue-collar or grey-collar workers, these segments of British society were most impacted by increased job competition, and the resulting downward pressure on wages.
In contrast, British white-collar workers have, for the most part, benefited from the recent mass immigration. The rapidly increased supply of labour in the manufacturing, construction, hospitality, custodian, mechanical, maintenance. and other sectors means it is now cheaper to get yourself a haircut, renovate your house or fix your car without much adverse impact on your white-collar wage.
For this reason, in addition to being able to control the number of immigrants that arrive, the UK also needs to be able to control the skill-sets of immigrants that cross the Channel. Again, it is a simple concept and has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.
UKIP, unlike the other British parties, understands these nuances; it proposes a set of policies that keeps Britain open to immigration, but at the same time addresses the major problems described above that are directly related to the open-border policy.
The implementation of UKIP-proposed policies would ensure British people, no matter their social class, do not feel threatened and alienated by the newly arriving immigrants, and welcome them into their communities with open arms as has been the case over many decades in the past.
As an immigrant from Poland, living and working in Great Britain, the last thing I want to see is my compatriots being discriminated against or attacked on the street due to the mere fact of being Polish.
Equally, I don’t want to see ethnic minorities sealing themselves off to mainstream British society and living in parallel communities.
Many minorities, including Poles, are very good at integrating into British society and not socially disrupting the local communities, when we arrive at a steady rate. Poles that I know are a great example of that.
After studying, working and starting families in the UK we apply for British citizenship, recite the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and become proud Brits, even if we still have overly-complicated surnames.
But let’s be perfectly clear here. In order for new immigrants to feel at home in the UK, we first need to ensure that native Brits feel that their communities across Britain continue to be their beloved homes.
Tomasz T. Zajączkowski is Secretary, Friends of Poland in UKIP
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