The BBC Africa will conduct a debate in the United Kingdom on 28th November, the first on its kind, to examine British immigration policy and its impact on African communities living here. So, How welcome is the UK to Africans?
Immigration is currently a hot topic in the country. Many voters express concern over pressure on services such as health and education, while some workers complain their wages are being driven down by the influx of foreign employees. There has been anti-immigration rhetoric in the press, and the anti-immigration UK Independence Party made huge gains in recent local elections.
The coalition government in the UK has responded to the popular mood, pledging to decrease net migration to the country dramatically by the next election. This commitment has brought with it some hostile messages. They introduced lorries onto the streets of London carrying the billboard message - "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest". There was also talk of introducing a scheme whereby people from ‘high risk’ countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, would have to pay a £3000 ‘security bond’ just to get a visa to come to the UK. Both schemes have since been dropped; Home Secretary Theresa May conceded that the use of mobile billboards in particular was "too blunt an instrument".
None of this appears to have deterred migrants, determined to come to the UK by any means. Indeed, hundreds of migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa have drowned in recent weeks. But what is life like for them if and when they make it? Under new measures, it could be increasingly hard.
The UK parliament is currently debating an immigration bill that would: force landlords to check the status of tenants or face fines; see bankers making checks before offering accounts; make temporary migrants pay £200 a year towards the cost of the NHS; and urge registrars to inform the Home Office of planned weddings between UK citizens and those from outside Europe, in an attempt to cut down on ‘sham marriages’.
If it is passed, what impact could this have on the UK economy and business if tourists and investors are put off? Some business groups say the changes could appear hostile to outsiders and might deter investment in the UK. Nigerians, for example, are the 6th highest spending tourists in the UK. At a time where economies in Africa are growing at a much faster rate than those in Europe, does it make business sense to put up these barriers?
While at the same time, the government is trying to foster business relations through multiple trade delegations to the continent. So, why the mixed messages? Is the UK shooting itself in the foot with its immigration policy?
There is a lot of misconception across Africa about what these new policies will mean for those wanting to travel to the UK. This programme aims to unpick and explain the policies. It will give Africans in the UK the opportunity to ask questions, air their opinions, share experiences and challenges they face concerning Immigration issues.
The debate will involve four BBC language Services –BBC Afrique (French), BBC Focus on Africa (English), BBC Swahili (Swahili) and Somali Service.
As one of Swahili speakers’ community we invite you to participate in the debate to be held in Slough (You are allowed to attend other languages’ debate too).
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Sough, UK
Date: Thursday 28th November 2013.
Time: 0900-1100 BBC Afrique (French)
1200 – 1400 Somali
1400 – 1500 Break
1500 – 1700 English debate
1730 – 1930 Swahili
Thank you in advance for your time and cooperation,
BBC World Service
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