General Election 2015: How do immigrants from Britain’s smallest minorities feel about one of the hottest issues affecting the polls?

The immigration debate has fixated on hotspots such as Eastern Europe. So how do new arrivals from Tibet, Tristan da Cunha and other countries feel when they land on these shores?

Simon Hemelryk

tsering

Tsering Passang, Tibetan Charity sponsorship co-ordinator, 39. Now in Bexley, Passang has lived in Britain since 1996

Tsering Passang: ‘It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities’ (David Vintiner)

‘Though I am Tibetan, I was born and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. My father, a nomad, had fled the Chinese regime.

“The Tibet Relief Fund was organising scholarships for young Tibetans to come and study at Weston College in Somerset, and I was lucky enough to get one. I did a BTEC diploma in computer studies.

“I think meeting me was a bit of a culture shock for some people in Weston-super-Mare. I had to explain to them that Tibet was the place with the Himalayas and the Dalai Lama. But that didn’t worry me. After all, as a Buddhist, I was ignorant about Christianity when I arrived here.

“I’ve read about racism in Britain in the papers, but I’ve not encountered it myself. I have easy access to lots of Buddhist centres and temples here to practise my beliefs, and I’ve never sensed any religious tension. Sometimes you might have teenagers throwing something at a bus you’re on. But when you’re a teenager, you’re just playing; you don’t mean anything by it.

“It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities. Nigel Farage and Romanians, for instance. If we focus on the positive stories and people in these communities, it will give their members more role models – and that will benefit everyone.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in and contribute to this country. I now work for the Tibet Relief Fund and I’m chairman of the Tibetan Community UK association. There are only about 700 Tibetans living here, but we are trying to share our Buddhist teachings, language and performing art and, as a peace-loving nation, I think we’ll help build a stronger society. I’m a proud British Tibetan!”

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