It’s taken 90 years for the word ‘migrant’ to settle into the English language describing someone or something that moved from place to place. Dictionaries will tell you that this happened circa 1670 to 1760, sometimes between the secret treaty of Dover and the Seven Years War, both involving dodgy dealings between the French and English.
Only much later have the migrant become equivalent with agricultural or itinerant workers or people born outside their adopted new country. A suggestion has also been made about migrants moving seasonally for a better climate but this surely applied to animals and birds leaving British Isles dare I guess.
Whoever was moving from place to place and whatever the reason, there’s been more and more of them, a staggering 3.3% of world population is living outside the country of their birth according to UNFPA today.
Until about 1990, Britain saw more people leaving its shores compared to those coming in. But this was set to change due to many reasons – affordability of travel being one and opening borders between more and more European countries another – of many other indicators.
What politicians and commentators won’t tell you is that a good chunk of the migration into UK still continues to be from the old and new Commonwealth Countries – a surprising 49%. Another 40% is split equally between the Old and New EU – the New EU sometimes also called Eastern European or the EU Other (Oliver Hawkins, Migration Stats Feb 16).
So next time you watch that BBC question time or Minority Report – count how many times the word migrant is used to describe a Pole, a Bulgarian, Romanian or a Roma – as opposed to French, Greek or Indian. (Last time I counted it was 25 more times).
Ask any public sector agency how many of these ‘migrants’ do they deal with I bet they won’t be able tell you. Thanks God we have the likes of the Sun and Daily Mail to remind us of the figures!
The categories for East European and White Other remain largely blank on Census sheets. And many new communities living in Britain – parents and NHS patients continue to be puzzled – perhaps if they were asked whether were European and what was their ethnicity, language or culture – the answer might be a little bit more enthusiastically given. After all, all these monitoring forms palaver is for the purposes of establishing Equality!
There – we would see ourselves sitting proudly alongside the French, German and perhaps Catalan – which is what we had all desired in those cold months of 1989.
Perhaps we are dumb for not raising our hand and challenging the current debate. But hang on a minute – that’s not what Slovaks, Polish, Czechs, Hungarians and Lithuanians do. We like to complain privately – in our own living rooms – just like in the old days. Or perhaps we are just too busy working all the shifts on offer only not to be deemed ‘vulnerable to benefit tourism’.
For those who do want to find out a bit more about these new Europeans who never describe themselves as migrants, check out the Facebook pages of Nash Dom, Slovak and Czech Clubs, EWA CIC, Polish Expats Association, CEE Mediation Consultancy and many other great organisations that are doing their best to empower these communities. Perhaps one day they’ll find their way onto the mainstream TV and media.
Shall we wait for it to happen ‘naturally’?