‘I arrived on the 21st may 1985, from Sri Lanka. I came to Gatwick airport. This is my promised land; this was my new home.” Something about the juxtaposition of “promised land” and “Gatwick airport” makes me want to laugh, but Paul Sathianesan, who is a councillor in the Newham Labour party, is not joking.
He saw things in Britain that might put you off it almost as soon as he arrived. “My neighbour was an elderly white gentleman. He used to stand at his frontstep and say ‘good morning’. I didn’t see him for a week, I asked another neighbour and they said, ‘didn’t you know that he died on Tuesday? They’ve had the funeral’. And I was thinking, what kind of country am I in, that that could happen and I wouldn’t know?”