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Emma Raducana – a lesson on immigration

2021 September 14
by Paul Vallely

There was much chortling after Nigel Farage sent a message of congratulation to Emma Raducanu, the first British woman to win a Grand Slam final for 44 years. For, though she learned her tennis in England, she was born in Canada and her mother is Chinese and her father Romanian. Among the many virulent anti-immigration messages previously put out by Mr. Farage was one suggesting that most people wouldn’t want a Rumanian living next door to them. It would surely have been more in character for the great Brexit campaigner to have greeted the teenager’s triumph by complaining about foreigners coming over here and taking all our tennis titles.


Sadly Mr Farage was not alone in attracting accusations of hypocrisy. The Prime Minister, who also sent congratulations, in 2013 complained that the chief contribution of Rumanian immigrants to British life was to boost the numbers of people rough sleeping on the streets of London.


There is a serious point here.  Emma Raducanu’s Twitter biography reads: London – Toronto – Shenyang – Bucharest. She has previously spoken proudly about the importance of her mixed heritage and the particular qualities she inherited from Chinese and Romanian culture.  Her success demonstrates how cultural difference can be a strength, rather than a weakness, to any nation.


The importance of immigrants to the British economy has been underscored by the problems which have arisen for many employers since countless foreign workers left Britain after Brexit. It is a particular irony – in a week in which the government is celebrating official figures showing that a post-COVID economic recovery is underway – that Britain’s bosses have been again lamenting the absence of foreign workers.


General unemployment is now below 5 per cent. Yet there is a record number of employment vacancies, particularly in farming and in the leisure sector. These are jobs previously done largely by immigrants. Yet government ministers seem deaf to employers’ calls for immigration to be relaxed to ease the problem. Ministers apparently expect those vacancies to be filled by unemployed Britons.


This is part of the hardline nationalism which inspires policies such as Priti Patel’s plan to turn back small boats carrying migrants in the middle of the open seas – and her draconian policy on migrant detention which the courts found earlier this year, following several deaths in custody, breached human rights rules.


Farmers this year have been so short of labour for fruit-picking that food has gone to waste in the fields. The problem, say leaders in the agricultural and hotel sectors – is that the skills of the unemployed, and their geographical location, do not overlap with labour shortage needs. Very few former steel or chemical workers in Hartlepool are likely to travel to Somerset to pick apples. Some London hotels wages have been almost doubled yet still can’t find employees.


Previously, one leading apple grower, Ali Capper, said it was a win-win situation in which farmers were supplied with seasonal labour and migrants returned home with the money to build a house and educate their children. But now, she observed “we seem to be running our whole immigration policy on an ideological basis”. Emma Raducanu is living proof that there is a better way.



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