dolorosa_12: (Default)
Earlier this year, due to a law change, I was able to apply for British citizenship by descent through my father — something that had previously been impossible for me due to various quirks of British citizenship law. I put in my application, which was approved in May, and had my citizenship ceremony shortly thereafter. This was the last in a run of extraordinary good fortune for me and Matthias. He had received permanent residency in the UK (the optional equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain for EU residents in the UK, and a prerequisite for applications for British citizenship by naturalisation). We had got engaged and set a wedding date. He had successfully applied for a new job, which represented a significant promotion. My job had been made permanent. In other words, we had been putting down deep roots, taking steps towards the future we were choosing to build in the UK.

On Thursday, that future became a lot more shaky and uncertain.

By a bitter twist of fate, my new British passport, which represented the final stage in my immigration journey, something that I had been looking forward to so much, arrived at my house in the early hours of Friday morning, at almost precisely the moment Nigel Farage was crowing on TV about 'independence day' and his 'revolution achieved without a shot being fired'. A moment that I had been dreaming of for years had become a sick joke.



 photo Image-Passport_zpsmdvxd8sr.jpg

I keep looking at that top line on the passport and feeling bitter, bitter sadness.

It's not just about me. Over the past few days, I've been hearing story after story from EU migrant friends, as well as non-EU migrants, and non-white British friends of acts of appalling racism and xenophobia, of feeling unwelcome in their own homes, of the feeling of suddenly facing uncertain futures. I've heard from countless people about various ways this referendum result is likely to affect their current or future employment, their visa status, their ability to sponsor non-EU spouses and other relatives for visas, as well as from British people furious and terrified that they have been stripped of their ability to live, love, work and study in 27 other countries. The loss of free movement is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for me, as someone who has lived visa to visa, keeping track of the implications of small changes to immigration law. A whole world — cosmopolitan, international, collaborative and outward-looking — has been rejected.

I'm particularly furious on behalf of the Scottish and Northern Irish citizens/residents of the UK, and those of Gibraltar, who are being dragged into this by Little Englanders (and the Welsh) without their consent, as well as residents of London, and the bigger cities and university towns of England and Wales, all of whom voted overwhelmingly to remain. My own second home of Cambridge voted to remain by 73 per cent, so at least I don't have to look around and wonder which of my fellow residents are frightened racists. I'm proud of my city. I'm also enraged on behalf of the millions of EU residents of the UK who were denied the ability to vote on their future and forced to watch helplessly as others decided it for them. (A post of Matthias' to this effect caused an ignorant Tory friend of his to question why he hadn't become a citizen if it mattered so much to him, which I must admit gave me a white hot fury. The reason why he hadn't become a citizen was that it would have invalidated my previous visa. He was on track to become a citizen in January next year, but that's now up in the air, as Germany only allows dual citizenship with other EU nationalities.)

I have particular contempt for David Cameron, selfishly bargaining the futures of millions of younger Britons, UK citizens' lives in the wider EU, and all immigrants here in the UK for a shot at stabilising his ailing leadership. Close behind come the Tory Leavers, opportunists stirring the pot for their own personal gain, as well as the Farages and Rupert Murdochs of this world. The Leave voters who didn't actually want to leave, but just wanted to register a protest are utterly beneath contempt. Don't make protest votes unless you actually want to live with the consequences. Otherwise register your disenchantment with spoiled ballots, or by staying home. The rest of us have to deal with your mess.

There was a lot of talk of reaching out and finding common ground, but to hell with that. I, and most people I know, are not taking this lying down. I will be writing to my MP and MEP, urging them to fight against the decision, given that it is an advisory, rather than binding referendum. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You can find your MP here and your MEP here. I would also encourage EU residents in the UK to write to the MEPs of their home countries. A friend of mine has written a good letter and is happy for it to be used as a template, so please get in touch if that's something you would like, and I can pass his template on to you.

If you're based in Cambridge, there is a rally on Tuesday, starting at 5pm at the Guildhall. Details are on this Facebook event, which also includes links to equivalent rallies in Bristol, London, Exeter, Liverpool and so on (although be aware that you'll have to wade through a lot of awful comments from gloating Leavers). I'm almost certainly going to be attending, although I will be late coming in from work, and I encourage anyone who feels up to it to do the same (or at equivalent rallies in their own cities).

There are also various petitions floating around, which I encourage people to sign and share. Most importantly: demand for a second referendum, and guarantee the status of EU citizens currently resident in the UK. If you have any other relevant petitions, feel free to share them in the comments.

I also want to say that I have extensive experience dealing with UKVI, deciphering their incomprehensible forms, gathering the extensive documents required for visa applications, and understanding the byzantine requirements for various visas, including the EEA (Permanent Residence) cards that are a prerequisite for British citizenship. If you or any EU resident friends and relatives want help making such an application (although I can understand if you don't feel welcome and want to get out as soon as possible), get in touch and I will help in any way I can. Please stay and help me vote this pack of fascists out!

Most importantly, if you see any acts of racist abuse, please do what you can (and what you feel safe doing) to challenge them and protect their targets. This result has emboldened a lot of racist xenophobes, who suddenly feel they have a mandate to unleash their vicious, vicious hatred. We need to speak out against this behaviour when we see it, and not yield the public square to them. I'm not naive enough to think that Britain was entirely free of racism, but I have never seen it so blatant, and so publicly acceptable. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I woke up in 1933.

But I still love this, my second home, my international city, my found family of friends from all around the world. I love my job, my university students and researchers, my NHS nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers, who enrich my life every time I teach them.

As I said on Twitter on Friday, I will remain here until the lights go out.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I. A friend of mine, a (white) university lecturer from Canada who did his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the UK, was in a pub with his wife, a (white) British secondary school teacher. One of the other patrons started ranting against 'the immigrants'. My friend pointed out how expensive and difficult it was to emigrate to the UK, using his own situation as an illustration.

'Oh, I wasn't talking about you,' the ranter said. 'It should be easier for people like you to emigrate. You're not like all those others.'

II. I have been in the UK on several student visas, and the process is extremely complicated and very strict. You must prove yourself able to support yourself financially, prove that you're a genuine student, and, if English is not your native language, prove English-language competence. I am now on a one-year post-study work visa, which is similarly arduous to receive. If I were not in a relationship with a person from within the EU, I would have to leave the UK - the country in which I have lived for the past seven years - next June.

Almost all my non-EU friends in the UK who have finished their postgraduate studies are here on spouse visas. Employers don't want the expense and hassle of applying for work visas. Those friends of mine who don't have a partner from an EU country have left.

III. A friend of mine, an American woman who did her undergraduate and postgraduate study in the UK and is married to a British man, recently took the test to apply for indefinite leave to remain as the spouse of a British citizen. Every single question was a variation on the following theme:

'Are you eligible for benefits in such-and-such a situation?'
'No.'

IV. As a German citizen, my partner can waltz through passport control in seconds. He can earn as much or as little as he likes. He can stay in the UK forever. But he cannot vote in general elections.

As a non-EU citizen, I am occasionally hassled at passport control (although less than someone non-white and non-native-English-speaking), as if my student status might be suspect. I must prove that I have access to funds beyond my actual daily needs every time I apply for a visa, even though I am eligible for no state benefits. I can vote in general elections, but my time in this country is measured in visa expiry dates.

V. Were I to want to move to Germany with my partner, we would have to get married, as although the UK treats de facto relationships as equal to marriages, Germany does not recognise them. However, since same-sex marriage is illegal, same-sex de facto relationships are exempt from this restriction.

VI. I come from a country whose leader - an immigrant from the UK - locks up refugees in internment camps in various Pacific countries and denies that the situations from which they've fled are really all that bad.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric in Australia suggests that the country is being overwhelmed by floods of these refugees, but in actual fact, the number of refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat in the past decade is a fraction of the number of refugees who arrived in Italy in a single year.

VII. One of my colleagues at Original Library Job is a (white) British man. Two years ago, he got into a relationship with a Chinese woman who had entered the country on a partner visa with another British man (that relationship had since ended). My colleague and the Chinese woman got married and applied for a spouse visa.

This was denied on the basis that their relationship was not genuine, and because the UK Border Agency believed that because the woman was a political dissident, she was using my colleague to get out of China. Their case is still dragging through the courts, and apart from one brief holiday together in Thailand, they have not been able to see each other. As she was refused a UK visa, the woman is denied entry to all other EU countries as well.

VIII. I reject the dichotomy by which a wealthy, educated Westerner who emigrates for work or study opportunities is an 'ex-pat' while a poor person from a non-Western country who emigrates to escape dangerous or difficult political, social, environmental or economic circumstances is an 'immigrant'. I am an immigrant. My German partner is an immigrant. The Polish woman who cleaned my former college accommodation is an immigrant. The girl I went to school with whose father was jailed for political dissidence in Thailand was (originally) an immigrant, though she may identify as Australian now. Our relative privilege levels mean that we are not treated equally, nor should we pretend that we are all the same. But on a basic level, we should reject any language that implies that one type of immigrant is excellent (and should have an easier time of it) while another type is to be despised and mistrusted.

IX. In other words, if you are arguing against racists by saying that not all immigrants are brown and/or Muslims, I don't want you on my side.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
So, as you might've noticed, there was a tiny general election in the UK on Thursday. As a Commonwealth citizen currently living in the UK, I was able to vote (although I'd thought I was only allowed to vote in the council elections, and rather hastily had to make up my mind about who to vote for at national level, once I got into the polling station). As a voter (and a political - and more specifically, election - junkie) I think I'm as qualified as anyone to offer my 10 cents on the result, the situation that's unfolding, and electoral reform. These are just some scattered thoughts, based on my observations and conversations over the past couple of days. I'm not sure I'm qualified to offer anything more comprehensive than that.

The political ramblings of a disgrunted social democrat. You've been warned. )

That's it from me. Feel free to disagree, vociferously, in the comments.

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rushes into my heart and my skull

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