Apologies, English is my second language
Disclaimer: long, but hilarious post about the joys of being an International Students’ Officer in post-Brexit Britain. It’s basically just a rant about a meeting, but it’s relevant on deeper levels.
Throughout my year as an Officer, I had many moments when I didn’t quite get my message across, maybe because English is my second language, maybe because the other party didn’t speak Internationalisation. But today was a jewel moment. I had a surreal meeting with an official whose identity I have no interest into revealing because they represent a wider group of people that have the same mentality so I think their remarks are relevant on a deeper level.
I had a meeting about national ID cards and Biometric Residence Permits as valid proof of age documents. I’ve prepared loads of documents and I felt quite confident about what I was defending. But then, this person enters the room convinced I’m Jon Snow and I know nothing. It has been a hilarious experience. Please bear with me whilst I relive the past hours and share with you the highlights of my conversation.
- First thing they said to me was: “If we don’t have proof of discrimination, we do not talk about discrimination”.
That doesn’t mean the Fight Club does not exist, may I add.
Useless were my attempts to explain that perceptions of discrimination are still important to me, especially since I am a representative, so I had to leave aside my printed Article 20 about Non-discrimination from an EU directive and move to the Licensing Act.
2. They followed with: “I have googled that international ID you were talking about and it’s just a discount card, so we cannot use a discount card as proof of identity”.
I was in awe. I think it took me a good ten seconds to realise what they meant. And then it occurred to me that maybe they were referring to this:
I kept my calm and I apologised (NB: I apologised) for the fact English is my second language so I might have expressed myself wrongly, but actually I meant national ID cards (like the ones released by national states).
3. They go on to say: “ok, but if I’m travelling anywhere, I need to take my passport with me. I don’t have an ID card”
To which I politely reply: Yes, because the UK scrapped national identity cards in 2010, and now you need to have a passport to travel. But most EU countries still have national cards and we can enter the UK without being required to have a passport. And I show them my national ID card at the sight of which they said: “it could be easily falsified and it’s hard to train all bouncers to identify all types of national ID cards. It’s better if we’re consistent”.
To which I’m like: Yes, but that’s exactly what we’re lacking — consistency. Some venues will accept national ID, some won’t, some will accept in some nights, some bouncers will refuse your entry the other night. Also we shouldn’t start from the premise that International students are falsifying their documents. And training is not that hard: if it has a picture, a holographic mark and a date of birth, it’s good to go.
My first victory of the meeting came as they responded: “Yes, maybe it is a question about education”.
“But first…” (Oh, no) “…we need to check if they are treated as passports.”
Fair enough, let’s do all the checking.
4. I try to give an example of a precedent in this matter and I quote a Scottish Governmental consultation. I am abruptly interrupted with: “Scotland is entirely different from England. They have their own laws. Your argument is invalid”.
That awkward moment when you have to apologise again for being foreign and for not understanding when Scotland is a good example as being part of Britain and when it isn’t. In any case, it was just a BCP (Best Case Practice), but anyway.
5. The meeting is drawing to a close. I am being given grounds for my request. Further investigations are promised. The final bomb question then drops: “So if you’re the International Officer, and International students complain to you, do you have like a British Officer for British students to complain to?”
We have a total of 8 Officers, we represent BOTH Home and International students. Rest assured, Home students have many channels to complain (especially in their own country). But the problem here is that we do not acknowledge international IDs.
I guess I could quote other small remarks but I will stop here as what I want to highlight in this blog is that in my work as an International Students’ Officer I have met many wonderful, open-minded people. But I have also met ignorant people, those whose privilege blinds them, those who think they are oppressed in their own country, those who raise their shoulders at change when that change does not impact them directly.
It’s frustrating and exhausting. Because I know lashing out won’t do any good. I know that my diplomatic chance of actually achieving something is to bite my tongue, tell Inner Me to shut up, and hear myself say: Apologies, English is my second language (even if I said nothing wrong and your assumptions were incorrect). Apologies and please bear with me whilst I explain my position (even if I have to repeat it 100 times because your empathy levels are below zero). Apologies whilst I take out my folder with 1000 reasons why International students should be treated like human beings and bring arguments, case studies, charts and pictures to support the above statement.
But you know what? It’s worth it. Because at the end of the day, we might actually achieve change.
I shall keep you updated with the results of all the investigations.
Follow this link.
PS: It would be great if you took a look at each party’s immigration policies before making your decision of whom to support.