It can’t be denied – Brexit Britain is becoming more and more challenging for the migrant population that resides within it. The status of EU citizens remains uncertain, whilst both EU and non-EU residents fall victims to ‘mistakes’ from the Home Office, whose overworked case workers make more and more simple errors on applications that mean so much to so many.
The uncertainty deepens for all the migrant population – the introduction of checks on the bank accounts of foreign citizens, where 10% of accounts were claimed to have been revoked by mistake). Without a bank account, you won’t be able to get a job, because nobody will hand your pay to you cash in hand unless you work under the table. Theresa May has claimed that this move is intended to create a hostile environment for illegal migrants only, but if they are working illegally, then having a bank account might actually not be the best way to go anyway.
People who work in the country legally cannot expect to feel safe either. It all starts with a letter, allowing you to leave ‘voluntarily’, within ‘7 days’. Your bank account is revoked. Your driving licence is revoked. These things that are already happening to some people right now, at this very minute, whilst many others are living in expectation that they will also be targeted. This is the sad reality for people from outside the EU. Britain’s Brexit negotiating team shows just about as many faces as a Hydra once its head is repeatedly cut off and two new ones grow in its place – and just as many opinions on one issue. EU citizens are first reassured that they don’t need to take any action, and yet they see – as we all do – how citizens who don’t take action or go out of their way to prove their right to be here are treated in a way that is entirely unfair. Stating that EU nationals living in the UK have nothing to be worried about is dubious at best, especially when there are so many examples of why they need to be worried. The plainest way to put it – EU nationals fear becoming subject to laws that bind non-EU individuals, they fear becoming subject to laws that will render them second-class citizens. There are already clear indications that this is happening.
There are many legal reasons why these worries are understandable. Income thresholds, points based systems, new laws on bringing your family members over – the list is long and exhaustive. Would people have come to the UK in the first place if they knew that they would have to be substantially more qualified than any British job applicant to even be considered for a position? Likely not if they knew they’d be turned down anyway, just because the company would have to pay more to support their work visa. Imagine having just days left on the permit, ticking away and you’re still being turned down for a job.
These new changes are heading towards new uncertainties that will lead more people to worry: will ticking that ‘white other’ box on the job application always be part of a confidential ‘Equality and Diversity’ survey? Or will it just be an excuse to turn people down for a job they know they would normally be accepted for? Sometimes even that doesn’t matter – some applications with foreign-sounding names won’t even go through to the interview stage regardless of the qualification level.
This is an issue that any migrant to the UK would have to face, and in some cases does face, if it was all up to people like Theresa May, whose primary goal seems to be more focused on scapegoating people who haven’t done anything wrong, instead of trying to fix the economy she and her predecessors have failed to attend to.
On the other hand it’s important to note that Brexit shouldn’t keep migrants divided – EU migrants shouldn’t defend their rights in order to be treated better than non-EU residents. Instead, we should all aim to reduce the harm already done to non-EU nationals. We should stand united and fight for the rights of all migrants to be treated as equally as the British. Any message is stronger when people unite behind it.
By Ewa Giera