Immigration should be based on skills

Passport being handed over
Passport being handed over

I write, as the son of an immigrant, to put forward a different viewpoint on immigration.

My father was a citizen of the Republic of Ireland who recalled being forceably taken as a young child out of his National School to form a human shield around British Army engineers, repairing a bridge blown up by the IRA. Nevertheless, as a young adult his only option of making a living was emigration and he chose England as his destination.

In the hungry 1930s he had no difficulty finding work, hard, manual work as a labourer, be it mowing with a hand scythe on the hill farms of Yorkshire, potato picking in Lincolnshire, fire-beating on industrial boilers or navigation work with the other Irish navvies of the famed McAlpines fusiliers. He ended his working life still labouring, in his 60s, on the Arsenic Plant at William Blythes in Church, Accrington. This was in the 1970s and, surprise surprise, his fellow employees were other immigrants from the sub-continent or eastern Europe – the only work they could get, nasty unpleasant, beneath the locals, and lacking in much health and safety in those days!

Like my father, his co-workers, were proud of the fact they had never claimed a day’s dole.

In 1940 after the war broke out, my father had two options, to scuttle off home to Ireland until his conscription papers were returned, wait a while and be welcomed back as a construction or munitions worker, or take the King’s shilling and sign up to fight the abhorrent tyranny of Fascism.

He was well educated and a well-read man and fully understood what he was doing when he opted to don the British Army uniform, “to fight the greatest evil the world has ever faced”. His immediate reward was for some chinless wonder, ex-public schoolboy officer to accuse him of cheating during an intelligence test, as being Irish, he “must be thick”.

Of course this was in the heady days of boarding houses with signs displayed reading:“No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”. It is generally accepted, certainly in Ireland, that some 200,000 Irish men fought in the Second World War, English figures tend towards 60,000 but they ignore those who were, like my father, domiciled here.

Meanwhile some 2,500,000 men, (men our Government gave British Passports to in the days of the Raj) from the sub-continent of India. fought for the Allies, primarily against the Japanese, tens of thousands dying, just as their ancestors in the Indian Army had died during the First World War. At the same time hundreds of our Polish airmen friends were instrumental in defeating the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and are among “the few”, to whom so many, owed so much.

These days I find nothing has changed; most immigrants are hard-working and law-abiding and do not come here to sponge on the welfare state, which was designed as a safety net, not an alternative career path. How many immigrant families do you know, where three generations have never held a job? I think you will find those in that position are all born and bred here!

When you want a corner shop, open all hours, you can bet an immigrant is running it! When you want a taxi on New Year’s Eve, you can bet an immigrant will be driving! When you need a carer who respects the elderly, you can bet it will be an immigrant! When you want an NHS nurse or doctor, odds are it will be an immigrant!

I accept there are issues and I welcome the recent efforts by Muslim clergy to clamp down on the radicalisation of young Asian men and women. I agree the wearing of the Burka is anti-British and women driving cars looking through slits or grills in some medieval headress has no place in this day and age. I maintain that Sharia Law is anti British and must not be tolerated, along with honour killings. It really is key that the moderate majority put the zealots in their place.

It is true we are a small and crowded land-mass and it is time to adopt an Australian-type policy for immigration, but not one based on colour, race or creed, based only on what skill set do you bring? We need to maintain a sense of perspective and pay scant heed to sensationalist stories on TV about Romanian Gypsies, which tar all immigrants with the same brush.

The failure of the mainstream parties to address these issues is what has given rise to BNP or the new “BNP light” – UKIP – successes and a collision course which will serve only to cause unrest, turmoil and violence.

Just imagine a future where we raise the drawbridge, lower the portcullis and isolate ourselves from Europe, retreating into some reactionary shell. What do you imagine it will look like? In my view North Korea!

Sean Gallagher,

Brockhall Village