by HARRIS BOKHARI OBE
National board member, Prince’s Trust Mosaic Initiative
Last month’s general election not only saw the most diverse parliament ever elected but also gave the Government the mandate to reform the immigration system for the first time in decades.
Despite this New Year’s honours list seeing another drop in the number of people from ethnic minorities awarded it does include many migrants to London who have made a transformative and positive contribution to our country.
Floella Benjamin, for instance, newly made a dame, is one of the most recognised BAME faces on television. But what isn’t as well known about her, is her immense charitable work over the last 40 years, including running ten consecutive London marathons for Barnrado’s. Her damehood is also symbolic on a deeper level; after the Windrush scandal and her recent chairing of The Windrush Commemoration Committee, the importance of recognising the great contributions made by members of the Windrush generation with the highest possible national honour is significant.
The role of positive immigration to the City has also been recognised with the awarding of a CBE to Saker Nusseibeh. Born in Palestine, Saker came to London in the sixties. Since his appointment as the CEO of Hermes in 2011 he turned the investment firm round from a loss of £26m, to a profit of £29m. But the values he brought from his historic family lineage has shown other city firms that you can drive up profits in a responsible way delivering on holistic returns for savers while enabling a positive environment and societal impact. This has been in stark contrast to the industry as a whole.
The number of inspirational young people on the honours list can be summarised by the awarding of a MBE to Mete Coban aged 27. Born in Northern Cyprus he came to London with his family at the age of two. From being of one the youngest elected London councillors, to a key strategist in engaging young people in Sadiq Khan’s successful London Mayoral campaign, Mete went on to found My Life My Say, a charity which has engaged tens of thousands of young people in the political process across the whole of Europe.
These immigrant heroes have not just improved the lives of migrant communities in London but added richness to the fabric of our country, as we can only be seen as a healthy society when we lift up all of our most under-represented communities.
The honours system has more to do to represent our society as a whole. But, by highlighting the positive contribution immigration has made to our country we may be able highlight the need for a progressive immigration system in a post Brexit Britain.
Floella, Saker and Mete’s sincerity and commitment to improve society in the fields of arts, charity, economy and in our democracy, is an inspiration for us all. If you are inspired by their actions, as well as by many of our other diverse migrant communities, help make the honours system more representative and nominate someone today at www.gov.uk/honours