I’m a migrant. In October 2006 I moved to Britain to take up a job that I couldn’t find in my own country. At first I wasn’t taking a job away from British people: the grant I was hired on specified that the post should be fulfilled by someone from abroad. But I stayed in Britain after my contract finished, and I took up positions that could also have been filled by British people.
I’m a migrant. Like those people from eastern European countries like Poland and Romania. But because I’m from a western European country, I was accepted into British society without much trouble. I do not need to justify my presence here. I am not, like the Polish people I shared a house with when I was a student, coming from a situation of hopeless unemployment and poverty; I am not exploited, forced to pay extortionate rents and to get up before dawn to work hard for 12 hours on a job the people in this country do not want to do, so I can send money to my family back home, and maybe one day start a little business for myself there.
I’m a migrant. Like those people from countries like Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan who are trying to reach European coasts on leaking boats across the Mediterranean, or who are desperately attempting to get on a train or lorry through the Channel Tunnel. I could have had safety, a well-paying job, good health care and social security in my own country, with the added benefit of being closer to my family. In contrast, they come from places that are dangerous, where there is war, terrorism and persecution, as well as poverty. Not places I would want to live.
I’m a migrant. And so I struggle when I hear these people being vilified. They are not really all that different from me. Why do we fail to understand and respect their motives for trying to come here? I find it especially hard when I hear harsh judgments from Christians. Are we not called to be compassionate and gracious, full of love, like our Lord? Are we not strangers in our own land, called and even commanded to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2)? I am not pretending to have the solutions to the current problems, but I would dearly like to see the tone of the debate changing from an us-versus-them to a what-if-I-were-one-of-them discourse. So here you go: I’m a migrant.