As part of my day job, people often tell me how terrible immigration is. When I speak to politicians, activists, or supporters of anti-immigration parties, they argue that mass immigration disrupts local cultures, increases crime and joblessness, and facilitates terrorism. I am told that Europe is going to the dogs because of immigration. If we don’t curtail the movement of peoples, then our way of life will apparently change.
I think our way of life has always changed. I also think that immigration can be a positive force. More than that, in a globalised world it is an inevitable force. So, I do not consider myself a supporter of the “anti-immigration” movement. Yet I am receptive to the idea that immigration can be managed either well or poorly, and that it is important for migrants to make an effort to integrate into their local communities.
I’ve been living in the Netherlands for some time now. Yet, shockingly, my knowledge of the Dutch language is virtually non-existent. So, for 2016, I’ve decided to have a stab at learning Dutch. I also want to try harder to integrate into Dutch culture; making more Dutch friends, getting to know my neighbours, taking part in community activities, and following local and national current events. In short, I want to be a better migrant.
P.S. I realise that “immigration” and “freedom of movement” are often considered distinct, particularly by lawyers and pro-Europeans. For most people on the ground, however, the distinction is not so clear. If my elderly neighbour can’t understand me, then it doesn’t really matter if I’m speaking English or Arabic. Being a “European citizen” doesn’t excuse me from making an effort to integrate and learn the language.