Posted on February 01st 2013
In May 2010, a couple of internet savvy people initiated what was to become one of the most consistently refreshing facebook groups around, I Love Immigrants. Since then there have been around 800 Immigrants of the Day, each one chosen to spotlight further the positive role played by immigrants in the UK. The Immigrant of the Day is always someone in the public eye, avoiding the need to produce copy each day, providing a link to either the lucky person’s Wikipedia page or some other official website.
We asked the founders to explain their plan.
“In our view immigration to the UK has been a largely positive experience for Britain, our culture, economy and international stature have all benefited hugely. It is also a reflection of our history; we went 'over there'. By wishing immigrants away or seeking to 'ban' immigration we turn away from our own history. That isn't healthy on any level.
“Immigration brings fresh perspectives. The large and growing economies of Asia, Africa and South America demonstrate the breadth and scope of innovation and new approaches to age-old problems. These new approaches didn't come from established ways of doing things, they were developed 'over there' by fast thinking and fast acting people reacting to change. Well, we need some of those solutions and intelligent ways of looking at problems afresh. We're not saying Britain isn't already doing that; we are saying immigration gives us all the spur to get up and get doing.
“You've only to look at the economic dominance of the USA, a nation built upon immigration to see it’s positive effect. As far as Britain goes, some of our best known companies were created by immigrants: Marks & Spencer; Mothercare; EasyJet; Wagamama; Coffee Republic; Pathaks; Domino's Pizza; Selfridges; Saatchi & Saatchi; Jimmy Choo . . . the list goes on.”
The Immigrants of the Day are selected from every walk of life. During the Olympics, there were a number of Team GB athletes on the page. Business leaders, opera singers, politicians and political activists, entertainers, surgeons, philosophers, artists, chefs, architects, designers, academics, authors, just about any person with a high profile have all featured.
The originators continued:
“Our recent success at the Olympics was in no small part down to immigrants. More than 60 British athletes were born abroad, as was the head of the British Athletic Team. The Aquatic Centre was designed by Iraqi immigrant Zaha Hadid, the Orbit was designed by Indian-immigrant Anish Kapoor and the Paralympics were invented by German immigrant Ludwig Guttman.
“Foreign-born sporting heroes like John Barnes, Linford Christie, Tessa Sanderson and of course Mo Farah have given us reason to cheer for years. Talking of heroes, who wouldn’t be proud of Mary Seacole, Noor Inayat Khan, Johnson Beharry, Doreen & Neville Lawrence, Peter Tatchell, Magdi Habib Yacoub or Plamen Petkov? All true British heroes.
“Our music (Freddie Mercury, Sade, Joan Armatrading, Tinchy Stryder), food (from Michelin starred Atul Kochhar to Antonio Carluccio and many others too numerous to mention) and literature (VS Naipaul, Marina Lewycka, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Conrad, Kazuo Ishiguro, Bill Bryson) have all been hugely enhanced by immigration.
“A Greek immigrant designed the mini, a Japanese immigrant designed London Underground's iconic typeface, the nation's favourite food is a close thing between curry and fish & chips, both introduced by immigrants.
“Then there is the NHS, tea, gardening, rooting for the underdog, watching soaps . . . all of which unite us and which have been influenced, introduced, or supported by immigration. Immigration makes us more 'us' than we might otherwise be.”
It’s a serious project, the people who set the page up and keep it running have paid to promote it, and this level of commitment shows when you consider the fact it has well in excess of 10,000 ‘likes’ (that’s people who have chosen to identify with the page). Its not purely a case of Immigrant of the Day either, links to news coverage of immigration stories (although not too many) are provided, there’s communal delighting at the travails of people from the English Defence League, campaigning posts, and a healthy dose of myth-busting on immigration.
In all, a fantastic use of facebook. You really should check it out, often. Go on – click the ‘like’ on it!