I’m at home, sitting at my computer. I have so much work to do, but I can’t bring myself to do any of it right now. “I’ll just quickly check Facebook and then I’ll start”, I try to convince myself. I know there’s a good chance that won’t happen, but I still believe myself. There are a few pictures of my friends at a party, random ads that I’ve already seen a million times, a funny video that I must share and.. Oh, what’s that? A news article. “First Latvians are being sent home from the UK”. I feel my stomach turning and all of a sudden there’s a lump in my throat. Thoughts start racing in my head – I am a Latvian living in the UK. And even though I try to not think about it, every now and then I feel a little worried about what will happen next and I hate not knowing. I like it here. I don’t want to go back… Okay. Calm down, it might not even be true. But what if it is?
This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while now.
Unless you’ve been living under a pile of rocks, you know that the British government held a referendum on 23 June 2016 and 51.89% voted to leave the European Union. Since then, the media has been playing with this topic a lot and I am sure it won’t stop anytime soon.
I am a Latvian, born and raised, but a year and a half ago I moved to UK. This is a crazy story itself, but I’ll leave that for another time.
My Facebook timeline consists mostly of Latvians writing and sharing their posts and “news”. (Notice the quotation marks. But I am not going to start the discussion of fake news now. Or I’ll do my best not to.) Therefore, since UK voted for Brexit, every now and then on my timeline appear headlines like “First Latvians are being sent back home” or “Some Latvian families have received letters saying they must leave UK” etc. And, of course, for any Latvian living in UK or anyone who knows someone here, it’s an amazing headline to share. It’s shocking. But it creates chaos. People living here start to worry what’s going to happen to them. If they don’t, they will, after their friends and relatives start telling what they’ve read and asking what’s going to happen to them now.
The problem is – until recently nobody knew what would happen, and to be fair, everything could still change. The unknown is scary. And media is playing with people who are scared of not knowing what is going to happen to them. All of these “news stories” were either completely made up or were about one person. ONE person! One person who had trouble with law, had no place to live and no job. But the headline was great, I’ll give them that. It got me and thousands of other people to click it.
The thing I cannot understand is – who benefits from all the fear and chaos? Is it purely to gain more views and clicks for their pages? Is there another reason?
Another big issue regarding Brexit is people. Their opinions and attitude towards foreigners is as divided as the vote was. The amount of hate crimes recently is insane. Especially in London. Three times (correct me if I’m wrong) someone has driven their car straight on to people walking on the streets in London. The Manchester arena attack. The British man that threw acid on the two Muslim people. The list goes on… “Go back to your country” has become a “go-to” sentence for way too many people.
There’s just so much hate around us… It shouldn’t matter where we’re from. If you’re nice to me – I’ll like you. If you’re rude – I won’t. Personality is what matters, not looks, place of birth, religion or whatever else. And even if you don’t like someone – violence should never be the answer.
If you’re curious, this is the current information available on gov.uk webpage. Read more here.
The UK government’s offer for EU citizens is:
- People who have been continuously living here for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
- People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been here for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5 year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
- People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens.
- Family dependants who are living with or join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK. In these cases the cut-off date won’t apply.
The cut-off date will be agreed during the negotiations but we are clear that it shouldn’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.
There. So can we all please calm down?
In my opinion there are consequences far worse than having to fill a few forms to stay in the UK (if you wish to stay). Fear, hate, chaos, violence, lies and divided communities, to name a few, but I keep hoping that we’ll get through this and one day everything will calm down.
If you want to get in touch with me, here’s my info:
Facebook: Laima Mikelsone