Editor's comment

14th July 2006 at 01:00
The news that the contribution of Eastern European immigrants to our country is being overlooked should come as no surprise to anyone with a sense of history. For too long, unlike other countries such as the United States, we in Britain have approached the subject of immigrant communities from the point of view of tolerance of other nationalities in our midst.

This, of course, is a perfectly worthy attitude but one all too often based on a negative viewpoint which casts people in the role of mere beneficiaries of our hospitality - even when such hospitality is in short supply.

As the Learning and Skills Network report shows us (page 2), the truth is rather less flattering about us and rather more positive about migrant labourers.

The labour force arriving from the new EU states is greatly valued by employers because, however uncomfortable we might feel about saying it, they are cheaper and more hard-working than many in our home-grown workforce.

The least we can do is to honour their contribution to our economy by ensuring that they have access to courses in English as a second language.

Most of those arriving from the new EU countries are from Poland. The Polish community will perhaps not be surprised to see the latest wave of immigrants from their homeland being taken for granted.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the great London victory parade marking the end of the second world war.

The Poles played a critical role alongside the British in the victory.

Indeed, 303 squadron, made up of Polish pilots based at RAF Northolt in London, scored more hits than any other during the pivotal Battle of Britain.

Their reward? The Poles were banned from taking part in the victory parade on the explicit instructions of the then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.

Now that the Poles are once again out-performing the British, albeit in some of the less glamourous parts of the British economy, let us not make the mistake, out of national arrogance, of failing to recognise the debt we owe them for their latest, peacetime, contribution to our national well-being.

Let us give them, and other European immigrants, the chance to improve their circumstances, instead of overlooking their contribution.

Let us ensure that every Pole, Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Hungarian, Slovakian and Slovenian who arrives on these shores has proper access to the best that our colleges can offer.

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