giovedì 7 maggio 2015

Dear David Cameron

You don't know me. We've never met.
I'm an immigrant, a European, or more specifically, one of the PIGS. Now, don't make that face, please, I know we're a real headache for you at the moment. But it's not my fault if your plans to cut immigration failed because you were watching the east and masses of us sneaked in from the south. We didn't plan it, I promise. We are the proof of your failure, but we honestly didn't do it on purpose.

I just wanted you to know that I understand. When immigration soars like this, it's always hard to adapt, things get a bit tense, fear and suspicion take hold. It's never easy. People worry. I know Nigel Farage is giving you a hard time, garnering support like he does, appealing to people's worst instincts rather than their sense of reason. He offers quick fixes to complex issues. Are things in a mess? Blame the immigrants! Let's take our country back, and to hang with Europe. It just fills our Union with foreigners who come here to steal our jobs! He has all the right rhetoric (reminds me of someone in Italy).
The difference is, David, that Nigel Farage is an "extremist", he can badmouth foreigns as much as he likes. You need to be a little more diplomatic.

So, you promised that if you are Prime Minister after the election, you'll negotiate to reform the European Union and Britain's relationship with it, starting with the issue of free movement. And if that doesn't work out, you're not ruling anything out. In that case, European citizens will be required to leave if they haven't found work within six months and they can only apply for welfare payments after living here for a minimum of four years.

Between you and me, that might sound good for the voters but are you sure you can afford it? Will it really deter European immigration?

Of course, there's no getting away from the fact that you have a great welfare system (compared to where I come from) that's sometimes exploited. But what's your quick fix? Cut benefits to immigrants! If they can't find a job, send them packing, we don't want scroungers here.
The painful but potentially more effective solution is: if it's scroungers you're after then maybe you should look closer to home. There are people already in the country who spend their lives on benefits, some even have children just to get a council house, choosing to live out their existences at the state's expense. You'll find far fewer amongst European immigrants, especially those from the southwest corner, most of whom come to Britain with one main goal in mind: to build a future.

I'm not just pretending to know about these things, I've studied the figures. A CReAM study showed that rather than draining Britain's finances, European migrants actually pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. The co-author of the study also said that new migrants from western and southern Europe were exceptionally well qualified. To recreate the same level of "human capital" the UK would have had to spend £7 billion on education.”

So that's the point right there, dear David, we're capital (I think you'll like that word). We may be a problem but we're also an enormous resource, if you manage us properly.


I'll tell you a little bit about my own experience.  It might not be everyone's, but it'll help you to understand. I used to work, work, work, but it was impossible to earn enough to survive. What about state support, you say? Forget it, the state in my country seemed to be doing everything in its power to drag me even further down. 

Do you know what welfare I relied on? Where my benefits came from?

From my family. The people who kept a roof over my head for as long as they could then tried to be there for me whenever I needed help; my mother-in-law with bags of groceries, a neighbour who'd bring me fish, friends who'd repair my PC without charging me, you know, the kind that say, "don't worry about the money, my shout this time."
My welfare net, the only one that really works in Italy, was the family network I was born into and the network of relations I built for myself, of the meaningful, help each other out in a crisis kind, the human bonds that meant I've never felt alone. Do you really think I'd have left all that to live on your benefits?
What I was looking for was the chance of a future I can't have in Italy. Not benefits.

When I arrived, I didn't know anything about benefits. It was only when I tried to sign up for a free English course that I was told I could only take it if I was on them. That's how I ended up on the Jobseeker Allowance, the system that helped me to survive for a few months while I looked for work, took some courses and even got some glasses so I could read better. 

Dear David, I'm really grateful for everything I received but let me tell you, it certainly wasn't easy and it didn't make me feel good.
It felt like begging.
Appointments at the job centre were excruciating; not being able to bring my advisor good news was frustrating, I felt like I was being judged, I was inadequate, and forced to follow procedures that were rigid to the point of absurd.

I had my share of suprises along the way too: when I got my first interview I was sent to a shop where I could buy (with your government's money) some interview clothing. I felt like crying, I just wanted to hug my advisor the way I would've hugged my mum.
When I got my first job as a cleaner I said my farewells and thanked everyone.
I'll never be able to thank you enough for what you did for me but I sincerely hope I never have to set foot in a job centre ever again.

I'm self-employed now, and very proud of having submitted my first tax returns and made my first monthly national insurance payment. So, you can stop worrying David, your money was well spent.
My partner has been working for two years as well, his boss is happy to have found someone with his skills and such an enterprising spirit.
He pays national insurance too, and that's great, but what if he were to lose his job before the four years are up? Or if he can't find anything else quick enough? We would have to leave, wouldn't we, and that would make the whole investiment you made in me pointless, and my investment in you, when I brought what little savings I have to your country.

If you ask me, cutting benefits won't stop Italians from coming, because that's not what they're after.
If they just wanted to get by, they'd stay at home with mamma.
You need to target our other weaknesses, but without appearing to be against immigration. Maybe you could invent some new public order laws and use them to arrest or deport anyone who claps when their flight touches down on British soil. Or set new noise limits for loud voices in public places, then fine anyone who exceeds them; three fines tops and they're out.
Just wait and see how many Italians that gets rid of!

But, jokes aside, do you really want us to go? In other words, do you really not need us?

The International Business Times says you cannot do without immigration if you want a stronger economy. Immigration is the cheaper option given that birth rates are so low in the UK and the native population is getting older.  Immigrants are usually adults who come ready-educated and ready to work. There's no need  to invest in their education and training. It's like the full package turning up at your door, ready to fill skill gaps in the UK, set up businesses and create - not take - jobs.

So, you were just joking, weren't you? Go on, you can tell me, it was just bit of pre-electoral fun, wasn't it?
I realize uncontrolled immigration is dangerous and that you could end up with all sorts, rotten apples included, and they need to be stopped. But there has to be a better way.
Like tightening up the grey area, the time it takes for a foreigner to integrate, settle and look out for him or herself.
The money you want to save in benefits could be invested in creating more advisors in that amazing National Career Service you have that helps foreigners to understand the rules, to work out how the labour market works, how to write a good CV, and how to get on a career path.
Set up new English courses. I realize we should learn the language before we come but language really is what makes full integration so difficult so help people to learn it quicker. I know, I've been through it.

I can't emphasize it enough, David. If this country were to stop being the open nation you so proudly call it, what a great pity that would be. 

Yours sincerely,

Monica

(this is the English version of my previous post. Thanks indeed to Denise Muir for translation)