From 19:45 until 21:30
At Lansdowne Crescent Methodist Church
Influence of Migration on the UK: What Does the Future Hold?
The Lansdowne Question Time Public Debate on Saturday 22nd October was another great success. During the 60 minute debate the large audience engaged with the panel on a wide range of questions and comments about migration.
After an introduction by Rev Alison Richards, chairman The Venerable Robert Jones, Archdeacon of Worcester introduced the panellists who each spoke for 5 minutes. Don Flynn, Director of the National Migrants Network had three main points. Firstly, the UK has always received migrants from Roman times onwards. Secondly, the UK has benefitted by receiving well educated and trained people, particularly since World War II in areas such as the Health Service, and more recently from non-Commonwealth areas working in agriculture and the public services. Thirdly British people have the challenges of helping migrants to settle, and overcoming opposition.
Shari Brown is Project Coordinator of Restore, a Birmingham Churches project which supports refugees and asylum seekers and has experienced being a migrant herself, having to leave South Africa during the Apartheid years. She urged all British towns to respond more readily; of Britain’s population less than 1% are refugees, while in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbour, it is 25%.
Sarah Soyei, Director of EqualiTeach, works in the field of equality of education and challenges to racism in schools. She said that media distortion and misleading figures lead to prejudice, and most opposition to migration comes from parts of the country with the fewest migrants. There is a need to celebrate diversity as there is not just one way to be British.
Philile Mbatha, a migrant from South Africa, is a dentist in Worcestershire. From personal experience she was able to describe the stresses of being a migrant and the need for support and help for families, particularly as some migrants have no choice but to become refugees.
After coffee, several members of the audience asked questions: on the resources which would be needed to welcome migrants; dialogue with those who fear migration, especially of Muslims; how to counter the intolerance of the National Press; the impact of Climate Change on migration; the impact on Britain of highly educated people emigrating. The Chairman skilfully linked several questions together and members of the panel and the audience had the opportunity to respond.
The atmosphere at the debate was receptive and positive, with nobody apparently representing the anti-Muslim or anti-immigration views emailed to the organisers before the event. To conclude, the advice to the people of Malvern was to continue to work locally to welcome migrants, holding workshops, involving local politicians and the local press. Inspirational teachers help children to adapt very quickly, and diversity enriches the life of the nation.