Coming off the back of UKIP’s historic success in the European Parliamentary Elections, never has Immigration been such a polarising topic. With Britain becoming evermore multicultural with every passing day, divisions are created and those against the boom in diversity are beginning to find their voice.
Channel 4’s one off documentary, Make Leicester British, placed 8 people, all of which come from differing backgrounds, in a big brother style social experiment in which they were encouraged to give their brutal assessments of modern day immigration. The vast range of cultures lead to heated arguments ranging from the morality of denying asylum seekers entrance to Britain to whether religion has its part to play in the dying sense of community in the heart of Leicester.
Sagal, a Somalian single mother of four who arrived after fleeing her war town country, became the focal point of these fiery discussions, and her conflict with Suki, a first wave Indian Immigrant from the 1960’s, raised a national talking point…benefits. Suki’s anger at Sagal’s lack of tax paying and ‘sponging’ embodied the feelings of many Brits who feel rightly or wrongly that the Government’s ‘soft’ approach to immigration is alienating the British tax payer.
I for one saw Suki’s claim that the honest British tax payer is being overburdened whilst non-tax payers are being mollycoddled as powerful, after all almost every tabloid, or newspaper for that matter, screams inequality. The hyperbolic nature of modern day news barrages consumers with the denunciation of people receiving benefits and in turn begins to alienate those who really do need the state’s help.
However, later on in the program Sagal reveals how she is a single mum, leading Suki, and myself to rethink our reasoning for castigating someone who really does need as much help from the taxpayer she can get. Despite its dubious exploitation of 2014’s hot topic, Make Leicester British, compelled me to reassess my pre-conceptions I hold about benefits ‘Scroungers’.
Representing Britain’s Eastern European contingent was Eduardas, a Lithuanian who has built his own business empire despite having arrived in Britain with nothing. Within the first 5 minutes, we witness the immediate hostility between he and John, a patriotic 72 year old Leicester born and bred Morris dancer, when Eduardas decides to erect a Lithuanian flag in the Garden. ‘Why don’t you put a British flag up?’ asks John, and at this point I am asking myself the same question. Eduardas’ disinterest in expressing his love for the country that gave him everything is confusing, however soon after this confrontation we learn the incredible insignificance of a matter so trivial.
Eduardas’ retelling of his deeply distressing youth, consisting of heart-breaking accounts of Domestic Violence and Alcoholism is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. At this point, Make Leicester British takes on the role of forcing you to amend your assumptions of immigration, and forces you to forget your prejudices and try to understand each individual’s situations which have led to them residing in Britain. I for one felt truly awful that I’d even dared judge Eduardas before hearing his distressing backstory.
Make Leicester British on early viewing comes across as the typical politically, racially charged controversy urging program we all see too often nowadays, however it holds a powerful undertone. Make Leicester British rightfully urges viewers to change their revise their judgements of immigration and attempts encourage viewers to understand each immigrant’s reasons on a human level. I for one feel more obliged to sympathise and appreciate each person’s reason’s for being here. If more was done to eradicate common misconceptions about immigration, Leicester, and Britain, just maybe that long lost sense of community will begin to return.