As you probably gathered from the few posts I previously published on this website, I’m Italian.
I was raised in Italy, attended Italian schools, and only fluently spoke my native language for the first 11 years of my life, yet my fascination with everything English had started long before the mandatory language classes in secondary school.
The UK was the home of my literary heroes, Shakespeare and Orwell, the place where the Beatles were formed, and the land of everything BBC I loved to watch.
In my teenage years, the UK was the land of dreams and magic – not only because of Harry Potter and Narnia – where everything could happen: even before learning the language, I knew I had to at least visit it one day.
Aged 16, I visited London for the first time, and there my fate was sealed.
When, two years later, my friends were deciding the faculty they would have liked to attend in our local university, I was struggling to convince my parents to let me move to London.
While it’s common for British young adults to move far away from home to study, their Italian counterparts remain closely attached to the familial roots that make the rest of Europe believe us to be “mammoni”, or at least somehow reluctant from straying too far from the parental unit.
Despite the attempts to try and make me rethink my plans, my family later accepted my decision and fully supported me through the ups and downs of the UCAS process: the whole think nearly had me stay home with how difficult it was to apply to uni compared to the much simpler Italian process.
In September 2012, after a full three months of near break down, I packed my bags and moved to London – in Shoreditch, an area I had never even mentioned before – to start a BA(Hons) in Journalism.
Three years later, I have now a two-months old degree in my hands and another year to earn my MA, still in London despite the frankly unreasonable prices, and still in love with the country despite the attempts of several politicians attempting to thwart my idea of it.
Home Secretary Theresa May wrote a scorching editorial on the August 30′ Sunday Times denouncing the increasing numbers of EU migrants entering the UK over the past year.
The stats from the Office for National Statistics recorded a whooping 330,000 entries overall, with a 56,000 increase within the European Union.
May accused the Schengen treaties–effective everywhere in the EU except for the UK since 1997 – of granting freedom of passage within the Union and UK to too many people, therefore preventing the Cameron government from implementing an immigration cap promised before its first election in 2010.
The Home Secretary also accused the many EU migrants of taking advantage of Britain’s welfare state and benefits.
Many critics have already pointed out the flaws in Mrs May’s statements, including John Cridland, a member of the Confederation of British Industry, who said to Sky News that “[t]he evidence shows that the vast majority of people coming from the EU to the UK come to work and benefit our economy.”
Personally, I contributed the British economy a grand total of £35,000 in an economic climate that it’s going to make it very difficult for me to find a decent paying job before the age of 30, if I’m lucky.
My university course, quite renown nation-wise, accounted for around 60 members, 10 of which EU or extra-EU: thanks to us, the economy benefitted from an average of £203,700 over three years. Most of us are already either in further education, or working their asses off in a non-paid internships.
On July 16, 2015 it was revealed that Mrs May – probably in another attempt to demonstrate her firmness and strength to possible future Tory supporters – was looking into ways to tighten visas rules for overseas students: this new rules would require prospective students to demonstrate their ability to independently support themselves in the UK.
As learned by BBC Newsnight, May believes universities need to create a new support model independent from international students.
In 2015, there was a total of 70,530 non-EU applicants to British universities (average UK-bound income: £1.124bn*) and an additional 48,930 EU applicants (average £440m*).
Now, I’m not a mathematical genius, but, miscalculations aside, the one above remains a good amount of money benefitting the United Kingdom, its people, and its infrastructures. More accurate stats from the 2013/14 financial year show that the education business brings in £30bn to Britain.
At least 85 per cent** of recent graduates will remain in the UK following graduation, spending their pay-checks in general goods plus rent and transport – which, in London, is going to eat a loooot of it.
I’m not saying all this just because I’m pretty much being personally accused of damaging the living conditions of a country I consider home, but I also feel insulted on behalf of the thousands of workers who daily move to the UK hoping to find a better future.
I’m not sure Mrs May realises how her accusations are not only deeply upsetting, but also quite wrong, and I stand convinced time will prove once more that EU, and non-EU, immigration indeed strengthens the UK.
EU citizens have demonstrated time and again their strength and willingness to achieve a better future: not only do they persevere in time of crisis, but also show great courage in leaving behind their homes to work in a country that is now accusing them of stealing and cheating.
Every day I see dozens of EU nationals working their way to a decent wage bussing tables, helping customers in retails, or otherwise occupied in UK businesses.
When I hurt my ankle and needed x-rays, I was welcomed to the hospital by a lovely Bulgarian nurse who made me feel safe and helped me through the unknown process – not the x-rays, as I’m quite acquainted to those, but the whole go-without-a-ticket kinda thing – explaining me what to do.
When my wi-fi stopped working in the middle of drafting my dissertation, a young man from Poland and his Italian colleague kept asking me if I wanted more tea as I occupied one of the most comfortable tables in Café Nero.
The United Kingdom has slowly become a home away from home, and I’m frankly terrified that once I’ll go back to London I’ll start being judged based on my country of origin instead of my abilities as a journalist.
There have been too many victims of prejudice – whether it was based on colour, religion, political alignment, or country of origin – and we should have learned the errors of our predecessors: I hope I’ll be proved wrong, and Mrs May learns that immigration enriches a country.
So it was for the US in the early XIX century, when Irish, Italians, Spaniards, and Russians began to move. So it was for Germany when Turks and Armenians made their way north. So it will one day be for the United Kingdom.
As an afternote, I’d like to point out that the benefit system so famous in the UK is pretty much unheard of in Italy. So at least May can be sure no Italian will be asking to use it.
Featured Image by Aurora Bosotti