Dr Alfa Saadu, Dr Habib Zaidi, Dr Adil El Tayar and Dr Amged El-Hawrani. These are the first NHS doctors to die from Covid-19 — we can but hope they will be the last. Like most NHS staff, the four doctors selflessly put themselves at risk to save the sick. Unfortunately, they have paid with their lives.
All four were of a minority race. There’s been some media coverage of their deaths, which is only right, but there is little mention of their migrant backgrounds. I don’t have a problem with that: people’s backgrounds, race or colour shouldn’t factor into the coverage. All people are equal. What troubles me, though, is that ethnicity and immigration status always take centre stage when a migrant commits a crime or does something wrong. ‘Man is hacked to death by his Syrian migrant ex-flatmate’, or ‘Afghan migrant stabbed ex-girlfriend to death’ — such headlines are common. This is often the same case as well with Muslims, and the four medics who died were Muslim, yet there has been little mention of that either.
I came to the UK in 2005 from Malawi, with huge respect for this country, and I studied law in Newcastle. Unfortunately, after my family became involved in a prolonged battle with the Home Office over settlement matters, all my respect dissipated. We moved from Sunderland to Bolton and eventually Glasgow, where we got a bit of relief, at least for now.
My family’s extremely painful experience opened to me a whole world of the unappreciated, oppressed and marginalised migrant people in the UK. It was a world I never knew at all for all the ten years I lived here — until our ordeal. It is a world of poverty, anguish and uncertainty, unknown to most people. I must hasten to add that the horrible treatment we have had at the hands of the state is hugely contrasted with the sweetest fellowship we have enjoyed with individual British people.
More generally, my experience has taught me that we’re never allowed to see migrants as heroes,...