What is an immigrant? Is someone that should be despised for “coming over here and taking our jobs and benefits?” Or is it just a person that is trying to take up residence in another country by choice or circumstances out of their control? Opinion seems divided at the moment, with a concerning majority on the side of hostility.
That means that being an immigrant in the UK right now is a pretty difficult situation to be. Read on for some of the current issues that the immigrant population is facing.
Getting into the UK
Getting into the UK is often held up as the Shangrila of immigrant destinations. It is argued that because we offer benefits and free health care, a large proportion of immigrants head for the UK as their first country of choice.
The concern by those that hold this view is that because we are only a small island, that we cannot take such a large influx of people. It is argued in a lot of British tabloid media that immigration is putting a strain on our benefits services, as well as the NHS.
However, it is worth remembering that there is a difference between immigration and asylum. Many people confuse the two. Asylum seekers or refugees are granted access to some benefits and health care. Usually, because they have had to leave their country of origin in haste and with few possessions.
It is also is worth remembering that being accepted as an asylum seeker is not the easy process everyone thinks it is. Refugees have to go through the process of showing how they were persecuted in their country of origin before they are granted status.
Immigration is different in that the subjects don’t have to be under any persecution to apply for immigrant status. EU immigrants have a different status to non-EU ones at the moment.
Non-EU immigrants have to go through the rigorous process of immigration before they can enter the country legally. They need a Visa and may be refused if they do not have work and a residence already in place. It is also worth noting that immigrants are not immediately given access to social houses or benefits.
Some people raise concerns about illegal immigrants coming into the UK in secret or on study visas. They are concerned that they will stay when their documents do not cover this. If this is the case, then the UK government may choose to deport them when they are alerted to their presence.
Staying In The UK
Some people may be granted immigration status, and be able to work and live in the UK for a period of time. But it is more complicated to stay here in the long term. Persons wishing to stay permanently will need to apply for ILR. Or Indefinite Leave to Remain. This is the legal standing that long-term immigrant can get. It allows them to stay in the country and claim benefits the same as other residents.
The process of gaining an ILR is not easy. Persons wishing to stay will need to be able to prove their status and show the reasons why they need to stay.
These can be things such as being married to a UK national or being in full-time employment here. Persons applying for this status will need to check things like their documents for ILR. They need to and make sure everything is in order before they make their application and have their interview.
It is possible for some immigrants to get some help with getting everything in order before they take the interview. One problem that immigrants can come across when applying for their ILR is that it can be tough for non-English speaking applicants. The use of legal terms and requirements in a tongue that is not their first language can be confusing. That is why it is helpful to get as much assistance as possible when going through this process.
The Changing Political Situation
While we were a member of the European Union, we had a free movement agreement where people from the EU could come and live and work in Britain without a Visa. The same applied to English immigrants living and working within the EU.
However one of the main debate issue during Brexit was the concern that UK jobs were being taken over by EU residents. People were especially worried that not enough were being left from UK citizens.
The UK will not close its border to EU immigrants completely. But it does reserve the right to more strictly control who is granted entry to work in the UK. Also, Brexit also gives the UK government the power to stop massive influxes of EU residents seeking work in the UK at one time.
Finding Work In The UK
So EU citizens will, for the most part, be able to work in the UK. But what does that actually look like? It seems that the view is that many people are coming across to the UK and getting jobs that Uk people would need. But how easy is it to find a good job when you are an immigrant?
Well, firstly the general attitude towards those of non-Uk heritage has taken a hit since Brexit. It seems to be that at least people are less willing to embrace workers from outside of the UK.
It is also important to note that many of the EU immigrants that come over for work are working way below they professional level. There are plenty of university graduates that find themselves not in their chosen field but picking and packing in factories. This is because the money offered there is better that what they would get at home for the job they have actually trained for.
It isn’t an ideal situation to work so hard to gain qualifications only to be doing something that anyone with basic training can do. So it is unlikely that they will take to these roles in the long term. So while these jobs may pay well comparatively, they might not be right for a long term career move.
People’s Attitudes in The UK
Something that is very tough for immigrants in the UK at the moment is some of the British populations’ attitudes towards them. After Brexit, there was a spate of racially motivated attacks that was reported widely by the media.
Living in what is perceived to be a hostile situation and taking a risk to be allowed to earn a decent wage for hard work, seems pretty unacceptable. It can make the feeling of alienation and isolation that many immigrants experience all the more difficult.
The key problem with this is that if people feel under threat, they will retreat back into groups of their own culture. This prevents integration into British society. If this happens, it will only widen the ‘us and them’ mentality, which is not got for either side.
However, this is not how everyone in the UK feels about the immigration situations. There has been an outpouring of support across business and social media with the hashtag #refugeeswelcome. Which is a gesture of solidarity for the Syrian refugees resident in the Calais jungle trying to come into the UK?
It also shows that not everyone is fearful of people that are refugees and immigrants. It is important to remember that there are still plenty of Britons that are happy to embrace those from other cultures with open arms. Those that encourage hate and fear are not the only ones with a voice.