Channel 4’s new documentary series, Keeping Up With the Khans, explores issues raised by foreign immigration in Page Hall, a Sheffield suburb. With the huge refugee crisis bringing thousands of migrants to British shores, the topic of immigration is certainly a hot one that has caused considerable debate, many dubbing it ‘the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time’.
Keeping Up With the Khans allows us to see how these controversies are manifested in the day to day lives of Page Hall’s residents. This week’s episode centres on Roma immigrants, the majority of whom have come to the UK from Slovakia, where their living conditions are squalid due to the high level of poverty. The population of Page Hall is mainly white working-class and Asian; many Pakistani people joined the community from the 1970s onwards. However, now, it’s the Roma people who are the outsiders. This influx of Roma people has caused tension between Page Hall’s new and existing residents, and the programme shows the racial and cultural disputes between the established white and Asian communities, and the new Roma settlers.
Page Hall residents complain about the high levels of litter and noise caused by the Roma people, as well as expressing concerns, and fear, about loitering. Bert, a lifelong Page Hall resident, states that “it’s a case of them [the Roma people] and us [the English and Asian community]”, and it’s clear he’s not the only resident who feels resentful of the Slovakian immigrants coming to the UK to exploit the “free” services on offer. However, Wahlid, the son of Pakistani immigrant parents, takes a more empathetic view. He shares his own experiences of racism that he faced as a new-comer in the community, and says that “Roma people are here legally, they need to be given a chance”. Wahlid puts his words into action by employing Roma people in his supermarket, even going out of his way to help one man, Erik, pursue his dream of becoming a singer.
Despite these differing attitudes from Page Hall residents, the one thing that brings them together, ironically, is their desire for community integration. Bert says that there wouldn’t be a problem if Roma people adapted to the English way of life, and it’s acknowledged that this is going to require effort on both sides. Wahlid is hopeful that this cultural clash can be overcome by education and integration, rather than the current segregation stemming from prejudice and anxiety about loss of community identity.
Image courtesy of rts.org.uk.