'Northampton immigrants do sometimes feel discriminated against but they just get on with it'

Immigrants in Northampton tend to accept they will be discriminated against, according to a minority community leader as it was revealed around a fifth of the town's population were born outside of the UK.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 11:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 11:20 am

Office for National Statistics figures show 20.7 per cent of people in Northampton are immigrants - similar to most towns and cities across the UK.

Meanwhile, research by The Migration Observatory claims second-generation immigrants are twice as likely to feel discriminated against compared to those born outside of the country.

Amarjit Singh Atwal, from Siri Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara in St George's Street, says some migrants do feel prejudiced when they come to the town.

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Northampton Sikh community leader Amarjit Singh Atwal

"They accept it and go on the basis of that is how it is. If you are in a new country you pretty much have to get on with it and don't make a big fuss," he said.

India was the third-most common place of birth for people in Northampton at 1.2 per cent, according to the 2011 census - England was the highest at 80.9 per cent.

Islam was the second-most common religion, at 4.2 per cent, and Polish was the biggest language behind English, at 2.7 per cent.

Around 0.5 per cent of the population were Sikh in 2011 and the St George's Street gurdwara has been supporting the community since it was established in the 1970s.

Amarjit said many of the town's immigrants came after the Second World War and are now well-established, with many owning businesses and raising families here.

However, it was not easy for them when they first arrived, and newer migrants, such as university students, are facing similar issues, which the gurdwara provides support for.

"It can be particularly difficult for the newer migrants as they are starting from scratch and don't have the language and have to rely on others for documents or applications like at the bank," Amarjit said.

"All the challenges that the original migrants faced when they came to Northampton in the 60s, those new migrants are facing now."

Amarjit said many are attracted to Northampton due to the availability of low-skilled work, which can be helpful for people who cannot speak fluent English, and the increase in housing.

However, some do feel discriminated against - for example, when they apply for jobs and are unsuccessful but are not told why.

"It's really difficult to get to a point where everything is fair as there are so many different factors, mainly from employment as that's the main thing people need," he said.

The Migration Observatory's survey data from 2018 suggests the majority of immigrants do not feel that they belong to a group that is discriminated against and most people born abroad think the UK is a welcoming place where migrants can get ahead if they work hard.

But immigrants from non-EU countries were roughly twice as likely as EU migrants to feel that they were part of a group that is discriminated against.

Researcher Mariña Fernández-Reino said: "The reasons for this will be complex. Some UK-born minorities actually have worse outcomes than migrants, such as higher unemployment.

“Research also suggests that children of migrants, who were born and raised here, have higher expectations and so are more sensitive to inequalities or unequal treatment they encounter.

"By contrast, people who migrated here may compare their experience to life in their country of origin and feel that they have benefited from moving even if they still face some disadvantages.”