As we approach the EU elections, we partnered with the Migrants Rights Network to put the voice of young people at the heart of the immigration debate. Open Generation was a hugely important panel discussion, giving progressive, positive views on immigration a chance to be heard.
The evening was hosted by columnist and author Owen Jones, who wanted to “challenge the poisonous so-called debate in this country”.
His introduction explored how the immigration debate was being used to turn neighbours on one another, while the real reasons for lower wages and jobs shortages are related to weaker unions and race-to-the-bottom globalisation.
Our vice president Rachel Wenstone spoke as part of the event, giving the student perspective on the immigration debate.
Rachel acknowledged the ongoing fight for recently deported A-Level student Yashika, saying that NUS will be continuing to help her go to university in the UK.
“I think many students would think it completely normal to look beyond their own front door”, she told the audience, speaking on the issue more broadly. “My experience has been that students are encouraged to look wider, broader and more internationally”.
“The primary characteristic of knowledge is that it has no boundaries”, she continued. “To study is to explore, to challenge and go where that pursuit takes you. Education has no nationality”.
The discussion was a vital opportunity to give the opinions of people under 30 a platform. Throughout the evening, we remembered that – in a time where the media shapes a narrative of anti-immigration and anti-EU public opinion – young people often think entirely differently, and much more progressively.
Tonight's event - along with the fringe events at students' unions in Strathclyde, Sheffield and Bournemouth - was a clear demonstration of this.
In the upcoming EU elections and the General Election of 2015, students have the chance to shape the political agenda around immigration, to provide more balance to the debate, and to celebrate the value which freedom of movement brings to societies – and education – around the world.
If you're inspired to take action on your campus, we're pleased to announce that we have £5000 to give students' unions to promote this work across the UK, ahead of the elections on May 22.