Theresa May and Amber Rudd probably wouldn’t like me. An international student, using the NHS, receiving Student Funds, don’t pay taxes, and I work a job – I am by all accounts a leech on the welfare system of the UK. There’s something strangely refreshing about knowing that these two women – two of the most powerful women in Westminster, wouldn’t really get along with me. I’m not so sure why – I think I’m an okay guy, but I suppose this just fits the current political climate in UK nowadays: A deep nationalistic push from all sides of the political spectrum, underpinned by anti-immigration rhetoric.
Brexit happened, and the UK will now leave an organisation dedicated to inter-European cooperation on the economy, climate, environment and health, external relations and security, justice and migration. UKIP won four million votes: Farage, in between trying to be that guy we all would have a pint with, has convinced large swaths of the country that the out of touch elite have opened the immigration floodgates, placing pressure on services, denying jobs to native Britons. It is not enough these days to be a patriot – now that patriotism must come at expense of someone else, and the longer Ms. Rudd talks, the more inflamed this patriotism becomes, on its way to becoming something darker and nastier.
The UK is a wonderful place. I’ve met some of my best friends here; I am studying at a world class university, and would happily make my future here after I graduate. Yet over my three years studying here the impression given is that I am not welcome. I should not get a job and contribute to the British economy, or to enrich the culture, politics, or any number of other areas of societal life that I could by remaining here. Part of the reason I chose to come here is because I wanted to live and study in a multi-cultural country, one that was proud to welcome all who would seek entry, where intellectuals and refugees alike have been welcomed, a country where nationality was an interesting bullet point, not a damning headline, and yet I fear that that has been lost.
Like it or not globalisation has happened – the world has gotten smaller, and yet it remains as big as it’s ever been. May and Rudd’s approach to immigration and international students is frighteningly out of touch, and desperately in need of revaluation. The rhetoric does not match the facts – immigrants perform jobs Britons won’t do and can’t do, but you don’t get more Britons in these jobs by kicking the immigrants out: that just leads to industries being understaffed and underqualified, in which case no one wins. Internationals contribute at least £7bn a year to the UK economy according to Universities UK, and many of us do not remain in the UK, instead taking the skills and talents earned back to our home countries to benefit them instead.
I want to stay, but if the anti-immigration push continues with the intensity it’s been going at in the recent months I’ll need to seriously reconsider that decision. So please Theresa – have a sit down and a cup of tea with me. I promise I’m not out for your job.