I have been a Spanish inmigrant in the UK since 2009. I respect and even admire British people for standing up to a “fear campaign” and an European Union that I don’t think is working how it should be. As much as I would like the idea of Spain leaving the EU, the outcome of the referendum makes me feel very uneasy. During the campaign I did say to close friends that I thought Brexit would win, my English friends told me I was exaggerating and I shouldn’t worry, it was a crazy idea put forward for a minority… Cuts everywhere, people struggling losing jobs due to changes in the economy and always referring to Europe as the continent emphasising how different they are from the rest of the countries, politicians referring to the European Union as the enemy for decades and a party that blames everyone’s problems on inmigrants. With that soil and a very poor case for remain based on fear angry people followed their gut and pride and decided to leave because they feel Europe and Europeans have caused their economic problems and wanted to send the establishment the message that they wouldn’t be intimidated and they should be heard.
I know many inmigrants that feel all short of bad things these days and unfortunately many are directing them towards Brexit voters. Some remainers are accusing leavers of all short of things, from selfish and poorly educated to close minded, which doesn’t help the mood of the country that we all share, for the moment. Everyone has a right to their opinions and shouldn’t be insulted or patronised because of them. I choose to direct my negative feelings to every European that has allowed the European Union to be ruled by corporations and banks diminishing workers and citizens rights and implementing austerity cuts hurting every middle and lower class person across the union, diminishing the value and benefits of the whole entity. People in favour of remaining in the EU for not making a proper campaign explaining better the positive side of the current arrangement and how the origin of their concerns relates more to an out of control neoliberalism running Brussels than simply inmigrants coming to the island, but well there aren’t many parties in the planet that don’t apply neoliberalism in their economic programme so that would have never happened… And a share also goes to UK governments since Margaret Thatcher for starting the privatisation path, not providing enough jobs, services and support so all communities (UK and non UK) would be able to integrate and have a decent living together.
Instead of talking about the many millions of infrastructure funds, jobs, exports etc. Europe brought as well the possibility of enjoying restaurants and different cultural exchanges the campaign became mostly about immigration and how inmigrants are stealing jobs, houses, doctor appointments and places at schools. EU doesn’t work for us and we don’t want so many inmigrants getting our things. So much so that people that voted remain are apologising to us saying that not everyone thinks I should leave, and I appreciate those that did it. And people that voted leave keep saying that the country is not racist, but when someone is saying that I am stealing their things is hard not to look like that, even if they had other good reasons to question European membership. The reality is that even in London 4 out of 10 people voted to leave, many commuting areas did so in big numbers and that makes me feel I have to defend myself for having being born in another country and decided to come here to work and I don’t feel at peace at what I felt was my home.
I can understand people being concerned for having to wait too long for an hospital appointment, or having problems to get the school they want for their kids or not having enough jobs but doesn’t that happen due to a lack of resources in general and poor economic plan regardless of whom is using the existing resources? Even in a country without any inmigrants if you don’t have enough health centres, schools and a diverse economic structure with several productivity sources you will face the same problems. Blaming it on inmigrants is like saying just because you were born in another country and decided to leave family, network and contribute here you shouldn’t have the same living style and services. I’ve already lost access to health care in Spain because I live in the UK, am I going to loose health care in the UK just because I wasn’t born here despite paying for it every month? In a country with a charity shop in every corner makes me feel sad so many people are seeing immigration from such a dark angle and I can’t help thinking that more should have been done to share a different light on it.
As an inmigrant you have an isolation feeling with you since the moment you leave your country. You leave behind friends, family and culture including language, food, habits even sense of humour. I did this by choice, most people do it “by force”, because they don’t see any other way to have a decent future. But even though I did it willingly seeking an adventure I always feel an outsider, I still find myself trying to adapt my behaviour to the UK culture on a daily basis. From how many times a day I say thanks or sorry to the lack of directness and emotion ( I probably should say incredibly high politeness) they apply to every situation.
I used my savings to pay for my masters. I looked for a job to be able to stay and I have been contributing and paying my taxes and national insurance since 2011. I contribute to the economy with the money I spend everyday and my labour. I got a high performance bonus for two years in a row, something that is not lightly awarded in my company and contradicts the repetitive joke that Spanish people only take naps and don’t work hard enough. I must admit I am quite tired of hearing that and everyone that has worked with me ends up telling me sooner or later that I should relax a bit and don’t work that hard. Yes there are lazy people in Spain but so there are in the UK, France, etc it is human nature. Most inmigrants work very hard because we know we are in the spot so we feel we have to deliver more than we would do in our countries on a daily basis to avoid any problems.
Being able to access to high profile jobs due to my education and language skills is not what all inmigrants experience, many start with jobs in the services sector with the minimum wage. Many others in the black market being hired by wealthy people to take care of the kids, cleaners etc and not being able to pay taxes or contribute to social security purely because they don’t get a contract so the employer can spend less money on them. I don’t know anyone that would go to a job interview and ask for their salary to be low. If someone tells me inmigration lowers salaries I told them to direct the anger to the businesses taking advantage of desperate people that would work hard for a miserable amount of money without any rights, not the person that is just trying to make a living, often doing very unpleasant jobs. Not that many people have a dream of becoming toilet cleaner, working night shifts re-stocking supermarkets or smelling like grease from fast food shifts and yet a big part of the inmigrant working force is stuck at those jobs which are actually essential for a society to work. If all inmigrants left tomorrow how would people get their Starbucks coffee or their McDonald’s meal? And what about inmigrants working as surgeons, nurses, researchers? The UK would most certainly struggle at least for a few good months to replace all of us.
Europe was created for peace and growth of its citizens, not the elite 1% so they could accumulate more wealth while the middle and low class struggle and pick up the bill. We were supposed to help each other cause together we could be stronger. The United Kingdom has decided to divorce and even though only 24 hours later some people that voted leave are wondering if they did the right thing, what is done is done. I hope Brexit helps all the European countries realise that the austerity direction and politics behind closed doors approach Europe has is very wrong. If that happens the denigration European inmigrants are enduring in the UK and attacks maybe linked to the vote would have generated something positive.