Our nation — like most nations — was built on migration. But many descendants of migrants forget that fact after a few generations, especially if they share the basic characteristics of the native population.
Were her skin a different hue, my mother would be classed as a second-generation immigrant, through her own mother, who emigrated from southern Ireland in her youth to work as a nurse in a London hospital.
Had neither my grandmother or mother married an Englishman, then I suppose I too would be considered a third-generation immigrant, and on demographic questionnaires would have to specify, “White Irish.”
What of the children of my mother’s sister, who married an Indian man? What do they become? Whereas I can confidently declare myself British, to some, the identity of the next generation of children will always be in doubt. My extended family is filled with complex identities, our various states of belonging predicated mostly on skin colour alone.
I personally don’t understand the current political discourse concerning migration, because across whole swathes of the economy we are in fact facing an acute labour shortage. My own employer has a dedicated team specialising in overseas recruitment, seeking to headhunt healthcare professionals and scientists from abroad, to make up for shortfalls in the indigenous skills pool.
I don’t know why our politicians don’t just stand up and tell the truth: that the nation is reliant on migrant labour, and always has been. Don’t like that? Oh well, get used to longer and longer waiting times for hospital appointments then.
If it is said, “We must increase wages to attract indigenous labour,” then do so, but make it sharpish, because at present we’re just playing cutting off our noses to spite our own faces. We’re both saying, “No more immigration” and, when contemplating unfilled jobs we might do instead, muttering, “No thank you!”
Migration has been a part of the human story for as long as we have roamed the earth, and research into the genome makes that clear. Genetic research reveals that we all trace our roots back to elsewhere, for as a species we have long been nomadic. A natural response to environmental and social factors.
But, alas, in this age of focus groups telling us that people want to see more Union Jacks, I suppose it would be a brave politician who would utter such truths. So it is that we must baton down the hatches instead, and pray for the best.