Since the announcement last week by our government that new immigration laws are coming into place(read article, and Government announcement), I have been wrestling with the implications of such a rigid policy. I have felt a mixture of great sadness, that a country I have come to love and now call my own, would be so self-centred as to implement such laws; and feelings of outrage at the injustice it would bring and its utter limitations. Had these immigration laws been in place 15 years ago when I moved here, I would have never been able to even come close to meeting the points required to be granted entry. This government seems to only see the value in people as economic contributors. This point system for gaining immigration rights into the U.K., only considers the financial and economic worth of an individual wishing to move into the country. It is so incredibly constrictive.
It fails to see that there are so many other “skills” a human being can bring with them, skills that aren’t quantifiable, life experiences that have no monetary value, nor could possibly be put into words on an application form. There are so many people, who like myself, came into this country with, it would seem, absolutely nothing to offer. I arrived with 2 suitcases, enough money to pay a month or two of rent, no job offer waiting for me, and barely knowing two words of English. At the time I was finishing the last year at my French University by correspondence, and once I miraculously found a job waiting tables (thanks to a manager who gave me my first job, even though I didn’t understand a word she said), I slowly began to integrate in the local culture. I was able to emigrate to the U.K. because of the privilege of free movement, alongside the other privilege of having a wealthy family to support me.
My point is that, had I not moved to the U.K. when I did, my life would certainly be very different. Moving here allowed me to flourish and grow as a young adult; to meet the kind of friends, and work through life experiences, that have led me to be the adult that I am today, and become an ordained member of clergy in the Church of England. My “skills” as a clergy are still unlikely to be economically quantifiable. Holding a family through grief at its most piercing moments, helping them prepare for that service when they will say goodbye to their loved ones, presents no economic gain. Meeting a family and rejoicing in their new baby, or celebrating their engagement to be married, and helping them navigate the tough things life can throw at them; also doesn’t do anything for the economy. And yet, through all this work, we are graced with healthy communities, who feel supported through the good and the bad. We are blessed with congregations who are keen to do good and serve their local communities. A return to the life of this country that is impossible to quantify in monetary term.
The other rhetoric I feel extremely uncomfortable with, is this talk of “low-skilled/unskilled” and “skilled” workers. Not only does it clearly assume that there are those with actual “skills”, that this is the norm, that one should aspire to; but it also shows a great lack of respect for the working classes, calling their work “low-skilled” when often these are people who do the back breaking work. What this government considers “low-skilled” work, does in fact require the sort of skills few of us have. Workers in warehouses, factories, building sites, truck drivers, buses and taxi drivers, to name a few, are all physically and mentally exhausting jobs, requiring absolute focus, at the risk of life altering injuries. These are jobs with little prospect of an upward career, poorly paid, and can leave entire families in financially precarious situations. Making this arbitrary distinction between “low-skilled” and “skilled” leaves an eery feeling of 1st class and 2nd class citizens, that some people have more value than others, or are better than others, by virtue of their “skills”. It has the undertone of a Dickensian world with its patriarchal hierarchy, where “everyone knows their place”. If the Christian faith has anything to offer on this matter, is that Christ showed by example the exact opposite of such views. Christ called for an egalitarian world, and brought at the forefront of his story, the voices of those considered “low” by the hierarchy of his time. God chose willingly to be born of homeless immigrants, to be the son of “low-skilled” workers. I wonder what subversive advice Jesus would have given concerning such immigration laws?
Revd Solveig Sonet
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