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The fault is not in our stars

  • Published at 12:00 am April 21st, 2019
Brexit carries a message of hate REUTERS

Nothing can stop migration -- not Brexit, not terror attacks

Back in 2011, I worked a few months as a security guard in a Central London office -- mostly covering 10-hour night shifts. The job was child’s play, relaxing in the reception desk the whole night -- except making one round of building patrol for 40 minutes. The only struggle was not to fall asleep. 

My senior fellow man was an old man in his early 60s. Throughout the night, we would expect only one visitor -- a toilet cleaner. Everyone entering and leaving the office building had to be on the logbook, but my senior fellow made an exception for the cleaner. 

On my very first day at the site, the cleaner came after midnight and my senior told me not to bother about the logbook entry for him. As I gave him a questioning look, he said: “It’s alright, he’s English.” Years later, still I recall his voice, his tone: “He’s English.” 

It was unusual of course, for that Englishman to be a cleaner. Before working as a security guard, I worked as a cleaner in a plush London shopping mall. That mall was manned 24/7 by around 50 cleaners. But I never encountered any white English people in that job. Most of the cleaners were Filipinos and Eastern Europeans.    

So, when my senior colleague said not to bother writing the cleaner’s name in the logbook, he had a point.  

Often, I did the day shifts. It was in those shifts I met one Dutch guy. Let’s say his name is Thomas.

Tall and a shaved head -- Thomas was about my age. He was economical when it came to talking. One day during lunch break, somehow our conversation veered to immigration.

He said he couldn’t stand when he saw a large black or Asian family occupying a council flat and living happily on welfare. These devious immigrants, he snapped, prefer to remain unemployed and have kids one after another to enjoy all sorts of social benefits available. 

Good and bad people are everywhere. From my interactions with the Bengali community, I knew his allegation was partly true. But what I found distasteful about Thomas’s remark was that he sounded xenophobic and racist. 

In the skin of a white nationalist, he generalized all black and Asian immigrants. He laid bare his heart and made his stance clear -- we whites work hard, pay taxes, but some non-whites and non-Europeans arrive here, gain the citizenship, and exploit the welfare benefits, our tax money. 

I didn’t engage in an argument with him, though I was gagged to ask him if he felt the same when he spotted a large white family on welfare benefits.

Five years later, in a June 23, 2016 referendum, the British people voted to leave the European Union. I am unsure if Thomas still lives in the UK.

A little over half the Britons (51.9%) voted for the Brexit. How does it feel to Thomas? As an EU migrant, does he feel like an outsider now? Maybe a little humiliated? Unwanted?

Well, when I was listening to his allegation against the black and Asian immigrants, I felt that way. I felt humiliated. Unwanted. Unliked. 

I lived in London for about three years and met many Europeans through work. The majority of EU migrants hailed from Poland, Hungary, Romania, and other poorer parts of Eastern Europe. They decidedly moved to Britain for work and a better life. That’s human nature. 

Reports have been published that since the Brexit vote, there has been a growing climate of xenophobia towards migrant workers, and as a result, a great deal of Europeans are leaving the UK. 

It is not surprising that Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch shooter, stated in his “The Great Replacement” manifesto that he supports Brexit.

He targeted the Muslim migrants because he felt that they seek to occupy his people’s lands and ethnically replace his own people.

Xenophobia is like a disease.

It grows like cancer. If we let cancer spread, people across the planet will be increasingly chauvinistic, fanatical, and divided.   

From time immemorial, migration has been part of human history. In search of a better life, to have a secure future, to gain knowledge -- people migrate for various reasons. No matter some are whites, blacks, or Asian. Nothing can stop the perennial streaming of migration. Neither Brexit nor any heinous terror attacks.

Rahad Abir is a writer, and is finishing his first novel.