Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How Immigrants Are Revitalising London

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How Immigrants Are Revitalising London

Article excerpt

Not a day passes without a storm of anti-immigrant propaganda in the press. The leading exponent of this mischief is the Daily Mail. As I write, it announces a "Polish baby boom: fears for NHS and schools as a thousand Polish children are born every month". It goes on: "On current trends, there will be more than 13,000 such births this year," while "240,000 eastern European children have arrived in Britain's schools".

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Yet the parents of these children pay taxes, too. And it takes no more than two months in their first class for them to catch up with local children and progressively bypass them.

I took a minicab from Waterloo to Camberwell last week. The driver apologised profusely because he had to pick up his daughter from school along the way. As soon as she got in, she started to read the billboards we passed. Here was an agile mind, a natural leader who will bring her English classmates in her wake. She is no burden, more an asset to her school. I confirmed as much from teachers in my community. The children of Polish immigrants overtake the locals in the twinkling of an eye.

These cries of crisis in British hospitals and schools have little material basis. They simply are attempts to get extra funds from the Treasury by exploiting anti-immigrant sentiment.

I live in a south London community, stretching from Streatham to Norbury, where many eastern Europeans have settled. The men are largely in the building trade; the women find work in the service sector. They live in houses bought for letting. "Buy to let" is an expanding business in these parts, and the rents are exorbitant. Neighbourhoods have been rescued from oblivion by the presence of eastern European immigrants, who have joined Indians, Pakistanis, Africans and West Indians.

Many of these eastern Europeans are single men. …

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