The time must have come for a migrant strike in these islands. 

Only then will the wider population realise just how much vital work is done by migrants. 

The populist narrative, so favoured by the right-wing media, is that migrants are a drain on the economy. They come, claim benefits and put a strain on the public services.

The reality is somewhat different. Migrants provide a net gain to the economy. Most work or study. Many don't stay but work, pay their taxes and receive very little in return by way of public services, before going home.

Indeed, many public services such as the NHS, would grind to a halt without migrant labour. 
Refugees seeking asylum are a different category. Migrants coming in by the infamous boats across the channel are a tiny percentage of net migration.

And if we want to stop those, then this country needs to stop fuelling the causes. So stop selling arms into theatres of war. Also, address climate change seriously.

Cllr Paul Donovan suggests a migrant strike would show how important they are to the countryCllr Paul Donovan suggests a migrant strike would show how important they are to the country

The media panders to the anti-migrant agenda. In reality, more people coming to work and study should be welcomed as a sign of a buoyant economy. Migrants of course should not be allowed to undercut pay and terms and conditions of indigenous workers. 

The unfortunate thing is that anti-migrant sentiments sell newspapers. 

So, many of the myths about migration have built up over the years. There always needs to be a scapegoat.

The dominant media narrative is that migration is bad. So reducing migration is good. It has become a numbers game. 

Political parties are measured against their ability to cut migration. The idea that migration is good and the UK needs more of it is an anathema in this debate.

There is a rapidly ageing population in the UK. When this is added to the damage that leaving the EU has done to the economy, migration is needed now more than ever. 

Migrants play a huge role in keeping the NHS and care sectors going. They work in education, transport, construction and hospitality to name but a few sectors. Without migrants, these and other parts of the economy would not function.

A migrant strike would show just how vital migration is to these islands.

Anti-migrant sentiment is not a uniquely British phenomenon. The rise of far-right parties on the back of anti-migrant sentiments was evidenced in the results of the recent European Parliament elections. 

The narrative needs to change, especially relating to those coming to work and study. 
On refugees, the asylum system does need reforming with clearing the claims backlogs and ensuring safe routes being the way forward. Also, putting more resources into peace rather than war-making and tackling climate change would stem the causes.

So let's turn the page on immigration - start looking to the positives, and turn the negative narrative around. 

Recognise the fantastic gift of culture and diversity brought to these shores by migrants.

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (