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An Open Letter to UK Politicians From an Immigrant Woman

by Dhanya Nair
Thursday, April 16, 2015

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Dear UK politicians,

I've been meaning to write this for a long time but every time I stop myself thinking who will ever listen to me - an immigrant woman? However, the "I am an immigrant" campaign by the Movement Against Xenophobia has given me some courage to speak out. You might have seen some of the posters, comprising ethnic minority of various professions proudly proclaiming that they are immigrants.

This campaign makes me both happy and sad. Happy because, as much as you hate us, immigration and immigrants are the reality of globalisation. Sad because you have systematically vilified us. The fact that we need such a campaign in this day and age speaks volumes about your divisive politics.

The election campaign is heating up and I have been following all the debates. Truth be told, I am slightly tired by the way you have made villains out of us. The message you are sending out is wrong in so many levels: NHS is in crisis? Blame the immigrants. Recession? blame the immigrants. Jobs have been cut? Blame the immigrants, The world is ending? Yes, yes let's blame the immigrants.

I ask you: WHY? Why such vitriol against people like me? Why are you still making discriminatory policies? What have we done wrong? Recession was the fault of few greedy bankers and poor financial regulations - job cuts happened due to it. We did not come here to steal jobs, there was a scheme called the highly skilled migrant programme which attracted people like us. And to be here we pay through our nose. You accuse us of putting a strain on NHS but the fact is most of us rarely use it except in case of emergencies.

A simple Google search will till you that around ten million people in UK are over 65 years old. An ageing population means an over-worked health care system. There are numerous other reasons for NHS crisis but all I hear from you lot is that it is the fault of immigrants, especially those like me, from non-EU countries.

Since 6 April you started another scheme: a health surcharge for migrants. Non EU migrants - although Australian and New Zealand nationals have been exempted - have to pay £200 per year for the NHS. This on top of usual fees. So a family of three will be shelling out £600 every year for a service they rarely use. May I ask why such a scheme for tax-paying, hard-working immigrants?

In 2011-12, the NHS officially spent £12million, or 0.01% of the health service's £109billion annual budget, on foreigners' health.  The number is small because immigrants tend to be younger (there is an age limit) and more economically active - thus less requiring NHS services.

You paint immigrants as lazy, benefit thieves so let's do some maths, I've been in this country for little over three years. So far, we have spent around £8,000 on our visa fees. For our daughter's visa, we are spending £1,030 as application fees plus a £600 surcharge (for three years).

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is a huge sum. To make this kind of money, we have to work really, really hard. I like this country, its culture and even the weather but I really wish you would realise that people like me are a force to be reckoned with too.

As a writer and journalism student I have learned a concept called balance reporting. Hence whenever I hear your lot, I wonder why when you claim that immigrants strain the NHS, you never even for once state that we contribute a lot to the economy via taxes and visa fees.

The timing of this scheme is brilliant. Clearly, you want to appease to a certain section of the society. But with such policies, you are actually alienating another big group. More than 14% of UK population comprise BAME communities. Yet, your policies continue to discriminate us.

As an hard working immigrant, all I want is a fair opportunity to live here but given your racist policies, I am inclined to think that I might as well hope for utopia.

Kind Regards,
An immigrant woman

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