EU citizens in the UK have experienced the past year as a period of loss and pain. New Europeans' surveys showed us that the vast majority of EU citizens no longer feel either heard or at home in the UK. This is hardly surprising as EU citizens were not given a voice in the very referendum that changed their futures in such a catastrophic manner.
Whilst some EU citizens have already left and others are planning to do so in the near future, others do not have the same freedom of decision, as they may have created such deep roots in the UK that leaving is not an option. When your own children are British and you own a house in the UK, or your spouse is located here, it is not so easy to leave it all behind and start again.
Amongst those who are definitively located in the UK, there are many who do not currently qualify for permanent residency, either because they have been here as a spouse or a carer, or because they did not take out Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, because they rightly assumed that the NHS was available to them. In this article that appeared in the Independent, written by our Vice Chair Prof Emmy van Deurzen, it is obvious that many EU citizens are suffering greatly from the chaos that has been created.
She wrote the article for the launch of a special Emotional Support Service for Europeans, that is a joint initiative of the Existential Academy and New Europeans. You can find out more information about this here.
Martha has lived in London for 26 years, was married to a Brit for twelve of those, and is now divorced and lives with her three children in a small flat. She runs a childminding service for the local community. Martha is from Germany and originally came to the UK to protest at Greenham Common. She has a criminal record from being at a protest, and so cannot obtain permanent residence or UK citizenship. She has now been told by the Home Office to make plans to go “home”.
In Germany, Martha has no family, no job and no home.
It is inconceivable that we are allowing our government to treat people in this way, people whose contribution has been welcome for decades. When people say: “we have to look after our own citizens first”, we are forgetting that the EU citizens who put their roots down here in good faith, are now as much our citizens as anyone else. We cannot undo history and un-weave our connections to the continent. But there is a real risk that Brexit will be used as an excuse to change all the rules without care or thoughtfulness. That risk is generating daily distress for families – including mixed families like Martha’s, where British children are now being threatened with the expatriation of their mother.
Martha has been depressed since the referendum, like many other EU nationals I speak to. She has found people around her starting to treat her as if she is an undesirable, and often she feels like hiding. There are a few kind friends who are fighting for her rights with her, but others have turned their backs on her. Martha feels that the world has become unreliable and hostile. She feels troubled and constantly worries about the future of her children. She has even been told that she can no longer use the NHS, when this was always an acquired right that she took for granted. She is now apparently supposed to have comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) because some years ago the government started interpreting European regulations in a different way. They now expect private health insurance from EU citizens who are not in full time employment. Martha cannot afford this and had never been told about it.
The demand for CSI is now being contested by MEPs, but it is not the only issue. Even if EU citizens are offered their “rights”, many will be left out and forgotten in these arrangements. Groups such as New Europeans, Migrant Voice, Migrants Rights Network and the3million are providing representation and campaigning skills to EU nationals fighting to retain the rights they were granted. But people like Martha need more than that; they need someone to talk to about the personal distress this upheaval is causing, and remind them that it is not a reflection on themThe risk of Brexit is generating daily distress for families – including mixed families, where British children are now being threatened with the expatriation of their mother or father.
Read the full article in the Independent here.