Having to leave your homeland because of foreign interference can be bitter, but having to suffer poverty and prejudice in the West is something you don’t expect

This summer, the issue of migrants travelling to England has frequently caught the media’s attention. Amongst the numerous news reports, an interview with an Algerian migrant stands out due to the significance of the message expressed.

At the very beginning, the Algerian man mentions the British and American forces with their controversial roles in Iraq and the complete destruction of an entire civilisation, its history, wealth, knowledge and everything it had to offer, to the rest of the world. He also reminds us that Iraq is a country no longer inhabitable as a result of intrusive meddling by foreign forces. As an Algerian, he mentions the French and their extensive role as occupiers in Algeria and the result of such occupations. These he argues severely halt the social, economic, political and technological development of the occupied people. Occupations cause damage by destroying the social fabric and the societal frameworks that exist to offer support. These frameworks are necessary in order for a society to progress, so when the framework and structure is no longer there, society remains at a standstill.

Given this situation, it becomes obvious why the citizens of an occupied nation would seek a better standard of living and a more hopeful future elsewhere. This also highlights the importance of acknowledging that most social and political situations usually do not exist independently of their historical context and unique circumstances.

Furthermore, the interviewee reveals the harsh reality of living in England with all its domestic problems. An image of the country is formed that is far removed from the ideal of an England seen as the land of hope, success and fantasy – something that many migrants assume it to be. He mentions British citizens having to queue up for housing and those who don’t even have as much as milk in their fridge – another reality of England that often gets unnoticed but one that is very prevalent. For example, research carried out by Oxfam indicates that amongst the UK’s population, one in five live below the poverty line and the distribution of food banks has increased over the years as result of this poverty.

Pointing to the importance of humanity, the Algerian man reminds us that he is human and ‘from this planet’ and talks of the necessity of treating non-Europeans the same way we treat each other as Europeans. He also distinguishes himself from those who are terrorists, specifically members of Da’esh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda who create a negative perception of migrants which is then exploited by the media. The outcome is that those who migrate to the west get portrayed as harmful to western society. They end up being received in their respective nations as ‘foreigners’, strengthening the narrative of ‘us and them’.

The message of this Algerian highlights the role of several factors and their contribution to the issue of migration within the UK and ultimately Europe. The factor that most stands out here is the role of western foreign policy over the years in the home countries of these migrants.