As the daughter of a first generation immigrant, I am very keen to make clear my views on immigration and to put the Labour case on immigration. My dad came here on a single boat ticket from India when he was 18 in 1956 – his parents sold everything they could to pay for this, so he could be trained and work hard to help his family. He married my mum, an English woman, and settled here, like so many others. He and his family, me and my two sisters, have always worked hard and contributed to this country in so many ways – as a classical pianist and teacher, my dad contributed his unique musical skills and helped to inspire hundreds of musicians and teachers who have gone on to inspire many others and contribute to our cultural life. I see myself as part of that tradition.
We are a nation of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants – and we’ve helped build this country and make it what it is. We contribute our skills and we pay taxes. We also know that there are rules about immigration for good reasons – from security to economic. I want us always to make sure we are proud of our tradition of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, others who want to contribute to our country, students who want to learn in our universities and partnes/families of British citizens. This also means making sure we don’t let in people who may want to cause harm – it wouldn’t help us to protect refugees and asylum seekers if we also let in the people from who they are seeking asylum, for instance.
As members of the EU, we are also benefitting from the free movement of people and labour – this helps us to be able to go on holiday in Europe but also to go and work in different EU countries, which many of us will do in our lifetimes. It also helps our young people to have the choice of going to a university in the EU.
In a recent speech about immigration, Miliband has said that his parents were immigrants and he is grateful and proud that Britain gave them refuge and enabled them to build their home here.
He pointed out that problems have occurred in workplaces around Britain but he didn’t blame this on workers from abroad. I know you will share his outrage that some immigrant workers have had their wages stolen and have been made to live in appalling conditions. I do and I agree that it must be stopped so I am pleased that the next Labour Government will make it a criminal offence to exploit migrant workers by undercutting their pay or conditions and we will increase fines for firms who avoid paying the minimum wage. We will also stop recruitment agencies from hiring only from abroad and stop agency contracts being used to undercut wages.
One consequence of employers being allowed to get away with exploiting workers from overseas has been that it pulls down the living standards of British workers – often those who were already lower earners and who need Labour to protect them. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the people who have suffered loss of income or difficulties finding work or somewhere to live in this recession have blamed immigrants for their problems, and some political parties have been quick to try to benefit from this. That is why I want the Labour Party to be very clear to show that immigrant workers are not to blame and nor are refugees and asylum seekers.
I would like us to put more emphasis on showing how little migrant workers take from the state compared with what they put in. Also I’d like us to make it clearer that, if there are problems we will tackle them positively. For example, that we will not simply insist that people speak English in jobs where they are in contact with the public but that we will help them to achieve this.
If elected, I will be helping to make Westminster a truer reflection of who we are as a country. I will be better able to campaign for greater understanding of immigration and of the contribution immigrants make, as an MP, within parliament, including in my own party and in public.
I’d also like to remind us all that it’s always been the Labour party who has passed the laws on tackling discrimination and promoting equality which help to make this country a safe as well as vibrant and diverse place to live. Many of us from the global ethnic majority are very well aware that it’s always been Labour who has made us welcome and helped us to make our homes and way of life here.
I’m a daughter of an immigrant and I’m proud to be a Labour candidate for parliament.