Letter to my British friends — on the day you refused me protection after Brexit
My dear British Friends
I love you.
I’ve lived with you for a long time.
I know your culture. I’ve read your books and watched your shows.
I think you are fabulous, and your culture is rich and deep and delightful.
I’ve worked in your companies, I’ve been squashed in the tube with you and I’ve walked in the British countryside with you.
We have so much in common. We are friends. We stand up for human rights and we certainly stand up for each other.
I know you can stand up for our rights. I know you can fight.
I remember your stories of protests against the poll tax.
I remember how we marched together against the Iraq war.
We didn’t win then. The British government went to war. But we continued to protest. We made the case against what we thought was immoral and a violation of human rights.
In the end, we were proved right. (Other EU countries refused to participate in that war, they were also proved right.)
You see, after the Brexit referendum, when 48% of you voted to remain, I expected a lot of protests and I of course expected a strong political opposition, both in and out of parliament.
After all, half of the population needed to be represented. After all, almost half of you knew what this meant and would therefore fight it to the last.
But nothing happened.
There were no big protests. There was no resistance in parliament. No opposition.
To someone who didn’t know what the percentages in the referendum were, it must have looked as if 95% of Britons voted to leave. If you looked at parliament.
So I was disappointed but I also couldn’t understand it.
So I talked to you, my British friends.
I’ve known you for a long long time. We share so much.
Thoughts, ideas, dreams. We don’t always agree. Of course not. But we do agree on basic human rights, on ethics, on how to treat others and how to create a fair society.
We still do have all this in common. We do.
With tears in my eyes, I say that.
But when I ask you, hand on heart, look into my eyes, with all that we have in common, and considering I came to the UK a long time ago, in good faith, considering that I worked here, and in fact I worked in the one industry that accounts for up to 70% of GDP in the UK, which most of you don’t, when I ask you: why didn’t you do anything to stop Brexit, what is your answer to me?
‘There’s nothing I can do’.
But when I dig deeper, there’s another answer: ‘It’s a pity but I don’t think it will affect me. Much.’
But, I say, first of all I believe it will affect you, quite a lot, but, I say, look at me, your friend. Whatever happens to me, Brexit without protection will hugely affect me.
I will lose my rights to live here as your equal. Rights that I still have today. Rights that will be taken away from me from one day to the next, in 2 years time.
I had no right to vote on this. I had no say in my fate.
So I need you, my British friend, to stand up for me.
And, when you don’t, when you try to change the subject, when you talk about other human rights issues and also how you can’t do anything, really. Yes you did protest in the past about other things but this is different…
I realise that what you are saying is this: ‘I am safe’.
That’s what it comes down to.
You, my British friend, feel that you are safe.
Nobody is going to disenfranchise you. Nobody is going to take your rights away from one day to the next. Well, actually, some of your rights will be taken away as well but obviously, as I find out now, you don’t care about those rights, not a lot, as I see now.
You are safe. Nobody is going to deport you.
You are safe. But I am not.
I will lose my rights. I have done nothing wrong. I came here in good faith, exercising my rights of a ‘secondary citizenship’ in all EU countries. But now, without a vote in it, without a right to appeal and, more importantly, without even an attempt at protection from you, my British friend, I will lose those rights and I may well be deported
Do you know what that means?
The police can knock my door in at dawn. I can be handcuffed and forced onto a bus or a train. And then onto a ferry.
How would you feel if that happened to you?
If that was a potential threat to you?
If you had done nothing wrong?
How would you feel if your life long friends, who did have a vote in this, knew that this would happen to you and did nothing?
How would you feel if you were about to lose everything and your British friends abandoned you?
How, my friends, even if you are willing to passively support Brexit which in my opinion will bring ruin and disaster to your country and my country as it still is today, even if you are willing to make that Brexit happen by not stopping it, how can you refuse me your protection?
Yes, I am emotional.
I have every right to be.
And not even you can take that right away from me.