Sunday, June 17, 2007


I've ended up staying longer here in Kosovo than I had planned, due mainly to my gracious host Camille who works at the French Office (Kosovo not being a country doesn't have embassies, instead foreign countries have 'offices' in Prishtina that are embassies in all but name). This has allowed me to catch a glimpse of the life of the elusive diplomatic expat (a group I had wanted to join when I was younger and still might) and the social goings-on of the foreign community in Prishtina. As well as, and this is no slight matter, allowing me to play my first game of ultimate frisbee in almost 3 years! It's no wonder that many Kosovars speak good English or German since the whole economy depends heavily on the foreigners (who number upwards of 25,000) as well as remittances from Kosovars living abroad, especially in Germany, having fled as political refugees or to find work during the conflicts of the 90's. And that leads me, sort of, onto a topic that I've wanted to talk about for a while.

In Britain and the rest of Europe a constant refrain one hears from the right-wing gutter press and populist politicians is that of foreign workers coming from abroad (mainly eastern Europe) to steal our jobs and take advantage of our welfare systems. Like most populist demagogy this is complete bullshit, and not only do migrants put more into the economy than they take out (as shown by this TUC report published today) but they also make a community more vibrant, tolerant and dynamic (and quite frankly, who would want to live in a Britain without Indian, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese... restaurants? I certainly wouldn't). And on the other hand such people, if they had the choice, would usually rather be living in their home countries with their families and friends, surrounded by the culture which they grew up in. And so now that things are going slightly better in Kosovo and Albania (though they're far from ideal) I have met many migrants that have returned to try and help rebuild their countries, not because they were forced to leave, often they had good jobs and all the necessary documents to stay in the West and have full access to all state benefits, but because there really is no place like home. So, for the same reason that millions of Brits don't go over to Sweden to scrounge off their better healthcare system the Poles don't come swarming over to Britain.

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