“Both me and my wife work for the NHS for 20 years. We are EU citizens. A GP and a dentist”
“All the migrant staff in Watford General currently caring for my father.”
“When I was being treated in the Lister recently, my life was made much better by the lovely Chinese doctor.”
“Nurses from the Philippines who nursed my son in ICT. The NHS would collapse without them!!”
“I would not be here if it weren’t for the MIGRANT doctor who saved my life and that of my daughter.”
One day without them? No thanks.
It might have been a cold and frosty day, but there was very little cold and frosty about the reception we received manning the St Albans for Europe (StAfE)/One Day Without Us (1DWU) stall on St Albans market last Saturday (17 February).
Battling at dawn with the longest international flag bunting, a world map, three EU Instagram photo frames aka 'toilet seats’, a large whiteboard on legs and Mitzi, fast becoming our canine mascot, was all worth it, as we joined thousands of other grassroots pro-EU supporters, including a team of volunteers out on Harpenden High Street, on the 1DWU campaign’s National Action Day. The Action Day, supported by European Movement UK, aimed to celebrate the contribution of migrants to our society.
We know that anti-immigrant sentiment was one of the factors that drove the Leave vote and that Nigel Farage exploited the Middle East refugee crisis by "cleverly" conflating EU migration with fears of Europe being overwhelmed with migrants boarding boats from Libya. In the febrile political and social atmosphere of the current UK, and Brexit or no Brexit, I think it’s more important than ever to counter the negativity surrounding migration and immigration with positive stories.
Talking to passers-by about the migrants who make a difference to their lives, especially within the NHS, it was clear that the lives of every one of us is impacted positively by a migrant. The emotions of some who stopped at the stall were palpable, as they told us about their parents and grandparents and sons and daughters in law, their teachers, sports coaches and au pairs, and yes, their doctors, nurses and care workers. These are people who have come all over the world to make a life here in the UK, to contribute to society, the economy and the community, and enrich our lives.
In more than one case we heard on Saturday, to save them.
StAfE had also created a series of videos, released on social media and featuring migrants from countries as diverse as Pakistan, Serbia, France, South Africa and Italy, and including the Mayor of St Albans, Iqbal Zia, to highlight the people in our communities who call St Albans home even though they used to have a ‘home’ elsewhere.
In addition to Iqbal and his wife Farhat, these short films tell the stories of Wendy from South Africa, who has run several PTAs in local schools and helped raise thousands of pounds for improved facilities and resources for our children; Danica, from Serbia, who works in research for charities and the government; Teri, a business entrepreneur from the US; Max, whose Italian olive oil is famed on the farmer’s market, and Liz, who hails from Ireland and runs a busy and successful accounting business.
On Action Day itself, we released our films from Lesley, half-British and half-German and brought up in Belgium, living in the UK for 23 years and a speech and language therapist for the NHS, and from Veronique, who arrived with her backpack from France in 1984 and never left, qualifying and working as a nurse in the NHS, hospices and currently in palliative care ever since.
Overall, 12.5% of NHS staff say that their nationality is not British, that’s one in eight. In England, the NHS has 62,000 NHS staff who are EU nationals - 5.6% of all staff. Of every 1,000 NHS staff members in England, 875 are British, 56 are from other EU countries, 42 are Asian, 19 are African and eight are from somewhere else. In London, 11.4% of NHS staff are from the EU. After British, Indian, and Philippines, the most common nationalities of NHS staff in the NHS in England are Irish, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, and 10% of doctors are EU nationals. *
The NHS is already short of 100,000 staff; what would one day without migrants be like?
by Helen Campbell
St Albans for Europe would like to thank all the contributors to the videos we made for One day without us, Liz Needham for video editing and Helen Campbell for coordinating it all.