The knowledge that Romanians and Bulgarians would have the right to live and work freely through Europe (as all other EU citizens) as of January 1st has led to heightened political and media furore in the preceding weeks – from talks of yearly caps on immigration to schemes to protect the social services – which has left many upstanding Romanians and Bulgarians feeling rightly stigmatised. And their indignant voices are loudly to be heard in social media and blogs. The UK media stands accused as the chief perpetrator of disseminating anti-european and ill-informed sentiments. But if you look around, you will find measured opinions and fact-filled articles relating to the issue from both conservative and liberal news outlets. That is, if you choose to inform yourself. It is just as easy to read a few headlines which confirm previously held prejudices. From my point of view, there is no place for a 2nd rate European citizen. Either you are in Europe or you are not.
Discrimination is never ok. We all know that and accept that in a passive way. But yes, it prickles more the closer you are to it. And in a way, the more of us who feel it first-hand, the less likely we are to propagate it. Having your perfectly valid passport scratched suspiciously as an extra form of security check by the ‚friendly‘ man at border control or watching your mother being bullied by a clerk at the home office is enough to be sensitised on the issue for life.
Politicians have a duty to address immigration issues and journalists every right to discuss varied points of view. But the way in which immigration is handled – from politicians and journalists through to home offices and border security – should be with more respect. To everyone. Regardless if the person in front of you is well integrated and educated or worse off than you and looking for a better start in life. And if the officer at passport control chose to be pleasant about it as he did his job, that would be ok too.