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When asked which politician has stood out since arriving in the UK, Lance replies, “Suela Braverman.”
The Nigerian, who studies in Brighton and works as a recovery worker, is arguably his most powerful politician at the moment.
“Frankly, she has a very tough demeanor. She comes up with tough ideas and gets punched in the face multiple times. I would like to call it crazy, but let’s just call it tough.”
Kevin, who is also from Nigeria and lives and studies in Ramford, agrees. “She formulates her immigration policies and such, but most of the time when you ask her, what is the reason for this policy you are trying to enact? She has no answer. ”
Lance and Kevin are two of about 20 immigrants who participated in two separate focus groups organized by the political strategy firm Public First. I were allowed to visit exclusively. Two sessions provided valuable insight into the lives and feelings of those abroad who have chosen to make the UK their home.
The timing couldn’t have been better. In the morning of the two sessions, the latest net immigration figures were released, showing record numbers moving into the UK from around the world.
News of 600,000 arrivals from abroad last year sparked a new civil war within the Conservative Party, with many on the right-wing calling for the government to take further steps to reduce the number.
The focus group was largely baffled by the stance of Conservative politicians, and despite the strengthened rhetoric, some, if any, felt threatened by the words deployed by the Home Secretary and other ministers. there were hardly any.
Above all, there was confusion as to why the UK took such an approach to try to limit numbers.
“There are a lot of job opportunities that Britons don’t want to do, especially in hospitality,” said Daniel, from Argentina, who lives in Belfast and works as a customer adviser in a contact center. rice field. No staff is coming. ”
The most important question among some of the group was where the workers would come from, if not from abroad, if the British did not want to fill the jobs.
For those traveling from as far away as South Africa, the United States and Uruguay, or closer to home such as the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, job offers and chances of a head start in life were the most important factors. .
When asked why they chose the UK as their destination, the word “opportunity” came up above all else.
Miriam, a Spanish student living in Liverpool, said employment opportunities and salaries were the main reasons people chose Britain.
“The salaries here are much higher than in Spain, for example,” she says. “Because of Brexit, a lot of people have had to leave the UK, so there are a lot of vacancies and you can literally find a job whatever you want. I don’t have any qualifications, but I still get job offers all the time.”
Svecha, from the Netherlands, a barista in West Sussex who is currently on maternity leave and comes from a country widely considered as wealthy as the UK, felt the same way.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities in this country,” she says. “In the Netherlands, degrees are very important, so you need a degree to get a job in a particular field. It’s a country where you can move up if you want, you don’t necessarily have to have a degree.”
When asked to name three words to describe Britain, ‘vision’, ‘open-minded’ and ‘multicultural’ were the most frequently mentioned. Britain now occupies the same place of opportunity and acceptance that was once dominated by the United States.
Miriam, an Italian translator living in Brighton, exclaims, “It’s amazing how easy it is to do here and not have any problems.” “You have a choice. You don’t have to fight for a choice in the first place.”
He added that while Brexit may have eroded “trust in foreigners” a bit, Britain “remains a very open country”.
“As teenagers, we were sold a dream about England, in the same way that when you talk to an Englishman, you talk about America,” says Miriam. “People often think: England? Is it really a dream? But for us, we often hear stories of friends and family who are older than us, have successfully moved to England, and then come back to Italy. It made a big difference for them.”
Ed Shackle, a consultant at Public First, said the study had exploded into the notion that a post-Brexit Britain “is no longer the glamorous place it once was”.
“Our findings suggest that the country is still perceived as a hotbed of opportunity globally,” he added. Among the recent immigrants we spoke to, there was a genuine belief that England was a wonderful place to work and study, and that hard work would be rewarded here. “
But there was one British habit that none of the immigrants were willing to adopt: the British drinking culture. “The amount of alcohol consumed in this country is staggering,” says Lance.
Svecha also agrees with this. “At the Christmas party, everyone would be completely devastated and embarrassed. But do I have to show up at the office again on Monday? Why?”