An immigrant’s perspective on immigration

It wouldn't be wrong to call London the immigrant capital of the world

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The Independent Online

I am an immigrant.

Not one of those naturalised immigrants, but one who is the midst of attempting to extend his stay in this country right now. I am not from the European Union, I have an Indian passport and I often need to prove my right to live in this country.

I moved here in September 2009 to study my Masters from University of Westminster, and have been working with a company since May 2011. I pay my taxes, I have never claimed benefits and I have been to the NHS just once in the past three-and-half years.

For the duration of my stay in the UK, I have been in London and the multi-culturalism of this city has amazed me. It is the very much like one of those Chinese buffets where you will find just about everything - people from all walks of life and all parts of the world live here. It wouldn't be wrong to call it the immigrant capital of the world.

I have met people who find this point outrageous. I for one, think it is what makes London London. It is the allure of the city, it is also the reason why many people decide to stay here, visit and set up their businesses - from local restaurants to the big multi-national organisations.

Immigrants contribute to the UK economy, they also take away from it. The net effect of their impact is difficult to ascertain. For every immigrant who claims benefits, there may be one, two or three who contribute tax to the system. Do we have figures for 'good' immigration and 'bad' immigration? No, and this is what makes this topic very tricky to handle.

All the major parties in the UK right now seem intrigued by this subject and are trying their best to outdo each other in finding a solution to it. While, this may be a natural decision made by said parties, it is hard to not to ascribe it a knee-jerk reaction to the success of the UK Independence Party in the past few months.

I interviewed someone from the UKIP once. Abhijit Pandya - he stood for elections in the Harrow East council back in 2010. You can see parts of his interview, if you so wish. Pandya is the son of an Indian who migrated from Uganda, and was born and brought up in Harrow - a council with a sizeable Indian population.

He was vehemently opposed to immigration. The irony of his stance was not lost on him, but the fact that he was born in Britain gave him a sense of belonging to this country. I don't have a problem with that, I just want to merely point out that even some second-generation immigrants think that immigration is a problem.

The 'problem' of immigration is one whose roots lie in Britain's past. Immigration comes about as a direct result of a wish to move to a better place, find a better life. In most cases at least, this seems to be the motivation. Britain's colonialist past certainly has something to do with its current immigration predicament.

The East India Company travelled far and wide in the 18th and 19th centuries, and brought many nations under British control. But unlike most conquerers, apart from just governing these places, they also settled down and established many educational institutes which helped spread the English language.

After the end of the colonialist period, many of the newly formed nations were independent for the first time in their histories. Before this period they were largely segregated and ruled by different regional rulers or belonging to their respective tribes.

The newly elected governments were simply incapable of running these countries as they lacked the experience. Over decades or centuries the colonialists had almost conditioned the peoples of various countries to obey. In such circumstances, some people decided to migrate. And what better place to go than the home of the former rulers who were so very kind to teach them the language they spoke too?

Is immigration a problem? If someone gives you a stats-based answer, just know that it is probably to suit their own respective agenda.