I came to the UK as a student over a decade ago. It was supposed to be a mid-career break and a chance to go away for a year to recover from a bereavement. Twelve years later, I’m still here. Only in the last few years have I accepted that I am here to stay, that going back to the Philippines may no longer be a possibility. I had become a migrant.
About ten percent of the Philippine population resides overseas—roughly 10 million people. The exodus was initially propelled by severe economic and political turmoil during the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986), forcing many university-educated women to take jobs as domestic workers in the Middle East and healthcare professionals to fill shortages in nursing and social care in North America and in high-income Asian countries. For over three decades now, remittances from overseas Filipinos have supported the Philippine economy, accounting for nearly 10 % of the Gross Domestic Product in 2015.
For many other migrants like myself, a combination of choice and circumstance motivates us to move elsewhere: the search for growth and opportunity, love, adventure, change.
The reasons for moving may vary but the goals are constant. We aim to provide for our families, to be productive, to achieve full potential, to be valued members of harmonious communities, to belong to a society where we can live in peace and dignity. The same aspirations, I believe, drive British people and, indeed, all humans.
Throughout my stay in this country, I have met the most diverse set of people that I have ever encountered anywhere else, all going after these same dreams. I have had housemates from Aruba, Syria, China and New Zealand. I have volunteered in kitchens with Congolese, Nepali, Eritrean, Vietnamese and Iraqi cooks. In the academe and in not-for-profit organisations, I met fellow students and volunteers from Spain, Lesotho, Mexico, Germany, Iran, Romania and Sweden.
Everyday I marvel at this vast pool of talent and skill that Britain attracts and nurtures. It is under threat from unjust policies and harmful attitudes that blame migrants for social and economic problems whose causes lie elsewhere.
Imagine one day without all of us: nurses, cabbies, teachers, engineers, chefs, surgeons, bus drivers, computer programmers, builders, scholars, carers, scientists, airport staff, shopkeepers, volunteers, researchers. Migrants are in every industry, every sector, every institution that make this country work and thrive.
Migrants Organise invite you to join us in celebrating International Migrants Day on Sunday, December 18th, through the One Day Without Us Twitterstorm from 7 till 9 pm. You can tweet in solidarity and download a 20-track digital album to help raise funds for the campaign.
This is the first salvo building up to One Day Without Us, a National Day of Action on February 20th. The goal is to show that we value the contributions that each of us makes to this country; that we are united in our hopes and will not be divided by hate and fear. There are many ways to participate: from gathering at workplaces to show solidarity with migrant colleagues, to organising protests and meals together.
The Britain I have come to know and admire is full of people with a strong sense of fairness, who value hard work, who are ready to defend a society where everyone has a fair chance at living a secure and dignified life. Let us all stand together and make this happen.