"None of us have to go back very far in our own family histories to find some connection to migration. My ancestors were among the first wave of Huguenot refugees from France in the late 1600s, fleeing religious persecution. They settled in the Midlands and brought the lace trade with them, which led to economic prosperity for that region. The word “refugee” came into the English language around that time. It’s a story about how migrants and refugees come with skills and the desire to make something in the place where they settle.
I have spent my whole adult life working with marginalised communities in some way or other. In North West of England constituency, these areas have been settled by many migrant populations from all over the world. Many of the communities have faced a lot of discrimination and racism for decades.
Ever since we had the Brexit referendum vote in 2016, our migrant communities have been experiencing a terrible increase in racism and hatred: online, offline, in the street and in the media. Many of these communities don’t know if they want to stay in the UK now and they don’t feel welcome anymore."
The media is playing a big part in whipping up racist sentiment and xenophobia in British society, they are allowing a populist ideology to take hold. It’s important now to bring communities together. The arts and culture are great tools for doing so, because it enables people to share things that they care about and find parallels between communities rather than differences. I witness this openness in my constituency.
Within the EU, we have to make sure that our policies allow for inclusion when it comes to education, employment and support for entrepreneurship. We have to recognize that people coming to our societies are bringing their aspirations and skills with them, and we have to show that we have societies that will be welcoming.
photo credit: iom/thomas marchal