Gary Lineker presents Jewish fish of the day
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Gary Lineker presents Jewish fish of the day

Match of the Day host and former England footballer joins campaign alongside comedian Jo Brand and TV actor Yasmin Kadi, marking contribution of refugees to Britain

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Gary Lineker during the clip
Gary Lineker during the clip

Celebrities from the world of sport and comedy have told of how Britain’s iconic fish and chips came from Jews fleeing persecution in Spain and Portugal, as part of an initiative highlighting refugees’ contributions.

Former England footballer and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, comedian Jo Brand and TV actor Yasmin Kadi star in a new film exploring the origins of the nation’s favourite dish, launching – appropriately enough – on Friday.

The film is a project of the International Rescue Committee, the organisation led by former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and shows how fried fish was originally introduced by Jewish refugees in the 16th century. 

The chip was first fried in France in the 17th century, and French Protestants, or Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution around the same time, are thought to have brought their taste for fried potato with them to the UK. 

However, the idea of combining fish and chips came from another immigrant, Joseph Malin, who opened Blighty’s first fish and chip shop in London’s East End in the 1860s. The rest, as they say, is fish-tory.

“When you delve into the history books, it becomes clear that refugees have played an important role in shaping British society,” said Miliband, himself the son of Jewish immigrants.

“They are an asset, not a threat. That is why we are launching this campaign, to spread the simple message that when we welcome refugees, they strengthen our communities at every level and sometimes in
unexpected ways.” 

The contribution of refugees and asylum seekers on the frontline of the health  and social care system during the coronavirus pandemic, together with their consequent loss of life, has been widely acknowledged across the country in recent months.

Lineker, who uses his social media profile to promote humanitarian causes, said: “Providing a new start to those who have fled their homes represents the best of Britain’s values because we know refugees have always helped to keep our communities safe and make our society stronger.”   

 Brand said: “The unusual origins of fish and chips is a lesson for today. When we welcome refugees, they thrive. They make our communities stronger and more dynamic.” 

Kadi, who is a refugee, said she hoped people found the film fun “but also see the message behind it”. She added: “Fish and  chips is just one example of the contribution refugees have made, but we could have picked so many others, from healthcare to the arts, business and volunteering.” 

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