Allow me to share a heartfelt perspective on a subject close to my own journey – embracing immigrants and recognising the profound contributions they make to our beloved Britain.
As an international student who transitioned into the realm of local politics and entrepreneurship, I’ve intimately experienced the challenges newcomers face – from navigating new cultures to overcoming bureaucratic obstacles. Yet, beyond these hurdles lie stories of resilience, dreams, and a tapestry of contributions that enrich the very fabric of our diverse society.
Economically, immigrants are not just workers: they’re innovators, propelling us forward. They fill crucial skill gaps, drive industries and, contrary to misconceptions, contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits, becoming integral to our economic success.
Last year alone, international students injected a staggering £41.9 billion into the UK economy. Aberdeen North parliamentary constituency benefited from £241.2 million, and Aberdeen South parliamentary constituency benefited from £111.2 million – a great financial boost to our city, brought through international students.
Beyond the numbers, they bring fresh perspectives, diverse cultures, and a thirst for knowledge that enriches our academic institutions and communities.
Building bridges that foster unity
Culturally, immigrants are artists, weaving an immeasurable tapestry. Their fusion of traditions, languages and worldviews shapes a vibrant, modern Britain. From diverse cuisines to unique artistic expressions, immigrants infuse our communities with vitality, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Socially, immigrants are the backbone of our communities. They build bridges that foster unity among people from diverse backgrounds, creating resilient communities, thriving on inclusivity and embracing diversity.
Politically, immigrants bring invaluable perspectives to our debates, enriching our democracy. Their experiences offer nuanced insights crucial for a comprehensive understanding of issues, contributing to a political landscape that truly represents our citizens. For the first time in Britain’s history, we have sons of immigrants as British prime minister and Scottish first minister.
For many generations, immigrants have been a key element of Britain’s cultural DNA, but advances in modern technology have the ability to empower migrants and asylum seekers in the UK and Scotland. One example is the innovative Settlrz app, co-founded by migrants for migrants.
This tool serves as a lifeline, providing vital information and support for their settlement journey. It’s a bridge between communities. It eases the burden of paperwork, facilitates essential services and, most importantly, fosters a sense of belonging. Imagine arriving in a new country and having a virtual guide that not only translates languages, but also explains local customs, recommends businesses and connects communities.
I am testament to the potential within each immigrant
In the larger narrative, the immigrant story is one of resilience, determination, and an unwavering belief in the possibility of a better future. While the economic contributions are tangible, the social and cultural dividends are equally significant. Immigrants bring a variety of traditions, cuisines and stories, turning our cities into vibrant melting pots of diversity.
However, for this harmonious exchange to occur, there must be a collective acceptance of the immigrant experience. Britain, with its rich history of embracing change, has an opportunity to lead by example.
We are not just recipients of hospitality: we are contributors to the very essence of our adopted home
By recognising and celebrating the multifaceted contributions of immigrants, we pave the way for a more inclusive, innovative and interconnected society.
As an international student who became the first woman of colour elected to Aberdeen City Council, I am testament to the potential within each immigrant. We are not just recipients of hospitality: we are contributors to the very essence of our adopted home.
So, let us embrace this shared journey, appreciate the value each immigrant brings, and collectively script a narrative of unity, prosperity and understanding.
Deena Tissera is an international student from Sri Lanka turned Aberdeen local politician and entrepreneur