Working class families will bear the brunt of the migrant crisis, the Guardian has admitted in a guest post by a left wing academic. Lisa Mckenzie, an LSE sociology fellow and author has written that, while the wealthy make a show of helping migrants, it is the working class poor who will have to give up what little they have to accommodate the newcomers.
Mckenzie has spent years studying working class communities in Nottingham and, more recently in London’s Tower Hamlets. She has described the effect that immigration has had on those communities, recounting how 15 year old girls were propositioned by Iraqi men on the streets.
“During the early 2000s, refugees arrived and settled in Britain from many war-torn places, most of our making,” she writes.
“At the time, I was working with a group of women living on a council estate in Nottingham who were becoming increasingly worried about the number of what they called “asylum seekers” living in an already very poor and under-resourced neighbourhood.
“The tensions on the estate had been rising for some time due to housing waiting lists, the lack of housing, and the length of time people were waiting to see a GP. Although the women did not blame the asylum seekers exclusively, they could see the added pressure on services.
“But they told me that they were most unhappy and frightened that every day, as they walked through the precinct, a group of men they referred to as “Iraqis” were constantly asking them for “business”, meaning sex. It happened to me on several occasions. The women felt angry and disrespected at these incidents.
“One woman told me that she and a group of women had “battered” (physically attacked) “one of the Iraqi asylum seekers” for asking to buy sex from one of the women’s 15-year-old daughter. When I spoke to this woman about it, she said: “Why should we be the only ones having to put up with this?””
According to Mckenzie, the working classes are aware that they can’t voice their concerns for fear of being branded racist. Some have turned to Ukip as a way to make their voice heard; other communities became more insular.
“The dominant narrative in Britain for working-class people is about feeling powerless, having no say, being disrespected, and having accusations of ignorance, small-mindedness and racism thrown at you if you point out that your neighbourhood can’t take much more,” she writes.
“Over the last 20 years, and especially during New Labour’s modernising project, poor, working-class communities have looked for other representation, sometimes in the form of Ukip. Sometimes they have removed themselves from the debate altogether and become inward focusing. As refugees start to come into Britain, tired and desperate, politicians from left or right, local or national, must not be allowed to make political capital from their situation, and from the people already struggling in poor communities.”
She also blasts the middle classes who make a big show of compassion through offering their homes to refugees – well aware that the brunt of the problem will be borne by the working classes in the form of sliding further down the waiting list for social housing, school places and health care.
“While the wealthy and the powerful make grand gestures of buying islands and giving homes, and the liberal left offer their spare rooms, in reality it will be the working-class people of Britain who will share the little they have,” she says.
David Cameron has promised to take in 20,000 Syrian asylum seekers over the next few years. Councils who have been turning away British people requesting social housing have already promised to make room for the Syrians by putting them to the top of the housing list.
As of September 1, there were 19,374 people on Tower Hamlet’s housing waiting list. Of those, nearly 1,400 had been waiting in excess of 12 years for a home.
Despite these figures John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets last week called on David Cameron to take even more Syrian migrants, saying that 20,000 “is a start. But it isn’t enough.”
He pledged to “lobby the government to play a larger role in addressing this crisis by committing to take in more families and over a shorter time frame,” adding that Tower Hamlets was “happy… to make an offer to receive families”.