How do I feel ? Tired, very tired. Tired of  worrying, tired of living in limbo, tired of hearing ,albeit well meaning, Brits telling me ‘ You will be fine. Don’t worry ! Nothing will change for you. You may have to apply for a visa , but that’s it ! And you have a half British daughter and a British partner too..nothing will happen to you !’ . I wish it was that simple ! The future of EU citizens in the UK is still very much uncertain. There are various speculations about what may and may not happen, but let’s be clear about the facts here…there are no facts, there are no reassurances.

Prior to the referendum , we all thought that after 5 years of living in the UK, we’d all be automatically eligible for Permanent Residence, because that is what we were told. Little did we know that when seeking confirmation of our Permanent Residence, that many of us, a whole 30% of us in fact, would be refused Permanent Residence. There was this little know issue of CSI , something that all students and stay-at-home mothers must have in order to be exercising their treaty rights.  I read just today that an 18 year old man born and raised in Britain to Italian parents was refused Permanent Residence as he is a student and does not have CSI ! For crying out loud…No one was informed about this !  Others were turned down for other reasons, reasons that really does not make any sense at all. I contacted the Home Office under the Freedom Of Information act in order to get a breakdown of the reasons of why my native Swedes for example, have the highest refusal rate of all EU applications applying for Permanent Residence. But this information could not be provided.

How do you think it feels to be refused Permanent Residence ?  It is beyond devastating . Many people turned down has lived in the UK for decades , they have British children and British spouses. ‘ But they are safe !’ I hear you say. No, they are not ! Being the parent of a British child, or being married to a Brit makes no difference whatsoever in the eyes of the law. The stress, worry and anxiety that these people are feeling about theirs and their family’s future has such a detrimental effect on their health and their lives, and that of their family’s too. Children are asking their mum or dad if Mummy or Daddy will have to leave the country. Couples are having to re-think their whole lives and their futures, just in case they will be forced to leave. I recollect a German lady visiting Germany with her family, enquiring what help may be available to her and her British husband and children, should they have to re-locate to Germany, and I was so touched by the response they received. They were told that there was a whole support network set up to help Germans returning to Germany, including free Skype German lessons to her British husband as well as any support that they could possibly need, should they decide to make that move. But for those who do not have the option to move for very valid reasons, they have to live with that stress of knowing that they do not have an option. They don’t see why they should have to uproot their family and move to their native country that they left perhaps decades ago ,especially not if their partner and children are British and cannot speak another language. I belong in that latter category myself. I have a half British teen born and raised in the UK who is choosing her GCSE’s, she’s excelling at school, all her friends are here, her father is here, and she can’t speak any Swedish.  My partner is half British/Half Italian, and his business, just as mine, is here in the UK. Our lives are here ! But now the cloud that is hanging over us is ‘ Will my Permanent Residence application be successful ? What will we do if it’s not ?’ . I am trying to put this worry to the back of my mind as the outcome of the application is not something that I can control. But sometimes that is easier said than done. Especially when I hear of people who applied for Permanent Residence after me are getting their applications approved in record time !

Then there is the xenophobia that has become all the more evident since the referendum. The closet racists have all come out of their closets, thinking they are entitled to air their inflammatory views in public  ,as after all, all the headlines in ‘The Daily Mail’, ‘The Sun’ and ‘ The Express’ has made it perfectly acceptable to do so , in their eyes. It’s not just EU citizens being affected, not at all, but immigrants from every corner of the globe. If you are not born and bred British, then you don’t belong here, is the message that is given out. I am well aware that only a small minority share those hateful views, but that minority is loud. A Danish man had the rear windscreen of his car smashed in, he had his garden wall smashed in, litter and dog poo thrown into his garden and rotten cheese on his door handle by a xenophobic neighbour. A Spanish woman suffered a barrage of racial abuse from another customer when popping into the chemist to collect her prescription, being told that she is a burden on the NHS and should go home to her own country. EU workers are being told by their colleagues to ‘ Go home !’.

Then we have  certain employers, landlords, letting agents etc asking for proof of Permanent Residence.  Britain are still in the E.U ,and for the next 2 years at least, everything remains unchanged ! But people act as if though that fact is irrelevant.

This is the life in the UK for EU citizens today. We contribute 2.7 billion annually to the British economy. We are just like you, but we are not treated like you.

 

 

 

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Please note , the following words are taken from a post by this constituent. I have not included their name in order to protect their anonymity.

 

Right …. Quick summary of my 15 minutes with the PM last Friday. (though long post warning)

First impressions – she’s very cold and for someone who relies on votes to keep her job – could do with going to charm school.

I opened with my concerns of racism at the top of Government – she refuted this robustly – however I made reference to her own “British jobs for British workers” and “British Doctors would be better for the NHS” and of course the Home Secretary’s “foreigner list”. She went on about wanting to make sure UK companies were investing in UK workers etc etc. I did say if I advertised for a “British employee”, I would be very rightly on the sharp end of the Equality Act – she had to agree with that.

I presented her with a copy of the ballot paper and asked where on there did it say that we were voting to reduce the number of EU citizens in the UK? She said “well it doesn’t but the Government has reports that the level of immigration is a concern – I asked for reference which she couldn’t provide.

I then produced an infograph illustrating that EU workers add more to the economy than they cost – she didn’t appear impressed. She then started getting very emphatic that “the British people had voted for Brexit and the Government was committed to making it happen”. At this point she got a bit cross and started pointing in my face – I asked her to please not point in my face as I considered it rude! She replied that “People point at me all the time – “indeed” I said “it’s rude so please refrain!”.

I then presented the “pie chart” showing voting numbers and pointed out that only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit which was not the “British people” – she didn’t really answer that one. I also said that the “British people” phrase from herself and her colleagues got me shouting at the tele and I would much prefer to hear 37% of the electorate. She asked me if I accepted the result – certainly not!

We then spoke about my own issue – in addition to my day job as an HR Manager with a large social care organisation, my husband and I own a small bistro – with an EU citizen chef. She would not guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain post Brexit. I outlined my wine supplier had increased prices (few British options for wine) food supplies have increased – I buy local where we can but we are always shopping to a price. Fuel costs have also risen due to the plunging pound. She started on about exports to which I replied I was not in a position to export my steak & frites that my diners order! I asked what assurances she could give me – “we will ensure a strong economy” was all she could do.

There was more “we’re going to get the best deal”. I told her that was a “hope not an action”. I gave the analogy that the Brexit “best deal” rhetoric would be like me saying I want the “best holiday” without knowing where I was going, how much it would cost, how I would get there, where I’d stay, what currency do I need, what shots I might need etc etc. All very meaningless without substance. She said the Government would not give details of their negotiation. I said that Donald Tusk had said on Thursday that there is either “Hard Brexit or no Brexit” and I was inclined to agree – she said “I am sure I have more experience in negotiating in Europe than you do!”. I said arrogance was not helpful.

I then showed her a screen shot of Boris Johnson’s speech the day after the 23rd (the part where he says we can still live, work, study etc in the EU) and asked could she clarify her Foreign Secretary’s comments as clearly this was not going to be true. She blustered and said “he wasn’t the Foreign Secretary then” (not sure what difference that makes…..)

By this point I knew we probably would never be friends so I asked her that given Maidenhead had voted overwhelmingly Remain would she vote against Brexit should she lose the Supreme Court case? She then said she was a representative not a “delegate” and was not obliged to be the voice of her constituents…………….. I said I thought the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election. She said anyone who didn’t understand this, doesn’t understand the role of an MP. I said I thought there would many who didn’t understand this.

Time was up – I finished by telling there was a huge groundswell of opposition to Brexit planning tactical voting and protest.

I don’t think she’s listening – she’s arrogant and extremely defensive. She also looked very very tired. In my years of people watching as an HR Manager – I would say she is very much out of her depth.

I will certainly post the “representative” not a “delegate” comments onto a Maidenhead Facebook page of over 8000 people – they should know their local member feels no obligation to take their views to Parliament. Maidenhead is overwhelmingly Tory but she also stood on an anti Heathrow platform and with Brexit added in – she may be challenged for her seat. (The LibDems do reasonably well on the local Council).

I don’t think I’m on her Christmas card list!

I would recommend that as many of us as possible request an appointment at Constituent Surgeries. The “representative not delegate” could be a good argument to Remain MPs in Leave areas. (obligation to put country first)

Don’t ask me how many weeks that has passed since that fateful morning when I woke up to find that Britain had made the biggest mistake in history, effectively pushing the self destruct button ,stepping into a time machine that doesn’t do fast forward, but rewind only, and at an alarming pace too.

For weeks after the referendum,I was in a mess along with ,dare I say, everyone else, in my position. I started a Facebook group for EU citizens living in the UK and for Brits residing in other EU countries, and we are still growing in numbers by the day. We come from all over Europe, and we have one thing in common, we are worried and incredibly anxious about what will happen to us post- Brexit. The general advice seems to be to apply for Permanent Residence. If you are a Brit living in the UK and you don’t have any plans of leaving this (sinking?) island, but you want to try and understand what us EU citizens in the UK are going through ? Then take a look at the application for Permanent Residence for EEA citizens. If you are a lifelong insomniac, I can guarantee that reading only the first few pages will be enough to put you to sleep. As a self employed EU citizen, the form immediately becomes even more complicated to fill in. The amount of proof that one needs to submit is beyond ludicrous. And if you are a fellow EU citizen about to fill in this tedious form, read the guidelines with a magnifying glass, preferably after you have had a few strong espressos, just in case you miss out on any minor details that will ensure that your application gets declined. I had spent one cartridge printing out bank statements and other various documents before reading the small print…only ORIGINALS and NO print out’s allowed. If you do print out your bank statements, then you must get each paged stamped at your bank. I am not quite sure how that stressed out woman at my local branch will deal with me cheerfully handing her a pile with hundreds of pages first thing on Monday morning ,-  “Would you mind stamping each one ? Just in case you have nothing more important to do “. Then there are the doctor’s letters, the copy of my rental contract, proof of paying my council tax, national insurance, clients references and contracts, a sheet detailing every single date that I have been out of the country, etc etc etc. One member of the group that I run had to send of 3 kilos of documentation with their application…poor sod at the Home Office who will have to read through all that !

Am I angry about the situation that I am in ? I feel resentful, yes. But I no longer let it consume me, I treasure my sanity far too much. Do I let my worries keep me up at night ? No more. I don’t function without my 7 hours a night. All I can do is to apply for Permanent Residence and hope for the best. The rational and sensible voice inside my head tells me that surely they cannot kick out a mother of a child who is half British, who is born and raised here and who cannot speak  word of Swedish. But then again, how rational is this current government ?

At the end of the day, this country is my Home. I have lived here for over half my life, I have paid my taxes here, I have fully  integrated into the British society, and I think that I and my fellow EU citizens who are settled in the UK  have as much right as anyone else to be here. But whether May and her croonies thinks the same, that remains to be seen…

On June the 23rd I went to sleep as normal. I have since forgotten what normal feels like.

I fell in love with London on my very first visit as a young teen. I came here with my family ,and I had never felt as home anywhere as I did here. Right there and then I made the decision that one day, this city would be my home. And years later,in 1993, I arrived in London with my suitcase, I had a place lined up at an English course at the International House (not because I needed to learn English,but because my parents wouldn’t have let me go otherwise ) ,and a shared room reserved in a student house on Priory Road in West Hampstead.

I had the time of my life exploring this wonderful,bustling multicultural city. I did the usual Scandi thing of working as an Au Pair, I went clubbing at The Astoria,The Wag and The Hellfire Club. I saw new bands play at The Marquee whenever I had the chance to. And I met the father of my child who is now in her teens. We split up,but there was never one moment where I thought that I should head back to Sweden, because although I was always fiercely proud of my roots, London was now my home.

I set up my own business, met the love of my life, my teen thrives at school and has a great life here. All was very rosy.  Then suddenly there was this referendum…and on June 24th I woke up in the middle of a nightmare,just like the other 3 million EU citizens living in the UK,just like the Brits living abroad in other EU countries,just like the 48% who had voted Remain.

My life here had never been under threat. But now there were suddenly no guarantees that I or the millions of other EU citizens living in the UK  could remain here. Suddenly we found ourselves being referred to as bargaining chips , negotiation tools. Suddenly our futures in this country were uncertain, completely out of our hands,and in the hands of people who seemingly just don’t want us here.

Groups like “Worrying Signs” formed, with people reporting daily acts of hatred against EU immigrants by people who thinks that we are vermin who should “Go Home”…but this IS our home. Tabloid rags such as The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express have been inciting hatred against immigrants for months and months leading up to the EU Referendum. The far right organisations joined the coat tails of the Leave campaign, and saw the win as a green card to tell us all ” Leave ! ” .

I started a support group on Facebook for EU Citizens in the UK and Brits living abroad, and we have grown in numbers since . We share the same worries and fears…will we be able to remain in our adopted home countries ? Will we be deported ? If we get to stay, under what conditions will it be ?

We never had a reason to apply for permanent residence, but now we are all sharing the same headache over filling our the most intrusive forms which we hope will enable us to stay in this country…in our homes. But not everyone will get their applications for permanent residence approved. Women married to Brits and who has stayed at home raising their children, they don’t qualify. Students don’t always qualify. If you have received housing or council tax benefit, you may not qualify. But the majority of people have lived here for years, we have been paying our taxes and national insurance, we contribut financially to the British society..why should we be punished for having the same rights as everyone else ? And if your application for Permanent Residence gets declined, then you cannot apply for naturalisation. And where does people in that situations stand once Britain officially leaves the EU ?

We cannot reassure our worried children that their mothers and fathers can remain here. We cannot guarantee them that everything will carry on as before, and that they can remain here in the country where most of them were born and raised. We cannot guarantee them that they will be able to remain in their schools with their friends. And we as their parents have always been able to guarantee them up until now that everything will be ok. How do you think They feel ? This is not their fault !

And how do you think We feel ? Many of us no longer feel wanted in the country that we made our Home. Many of us feel afraid to speak in our native tongue in public, just on case someone will tell us to “Go Home !”. We try to switch of from our worries, but we cannot, how could we ? How can we sleep peacefully at night when we don’t know what the future has in store for us. Sure, no one knows what’s around the corner. But the UK is our home. This is were we have put down our roots. This is where are families, our jobs, our friends and lives are. And to be told that we are safe “for now” but that no one knows what will happen once Article 50 has been triggered and those 2 years of negotiations are up ? That is mental abuse, is it not ?  We are Human Beings. We are not bargaining chips. We are not numbers. We are part of the British society, and without us here, without our contributions, where would this country be ?

We deserve to be reassured, not in the near future,not in the  distant future, not years ahead, but NOW !

 

 

 

I moved to London back in 1993 as a 19 year old. I had saved up enough money to last me for a year,but I found work, I found love and ended up staying. The relationship failed 9 years ago ,but before then we had a daughter who is born and raised in London. When she was born the law was different,so even though she has a British father,she had to assume my Swedish nationality as we were not married. So on paper she is Swedish,although she has only visited Sweden once a year and cannot speak the language. Thankfully since last year,a change in the law that I just only found out about when calling immigration last week to enquire about our rights to remain in the UK in the event that Great Britain will leave the EU, will enable her to simply register as a British citizen without me having to pay an extortionate amount for her to go through the whole application process of becoming a British citizen through naturalisation.

But for me, it’s a whole different ballgame. I could apply for naturalisation and for dual citizenship,but apart from it being a very lengthy process,it is also a very costly one. Instead I will opt for applying for a UK residence card, which will help me prove my right to remain in this country as I have indefinite leave to remain after having lived here for over 5 years. But this UK residence card would  be a must for me in the event that the British voters vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. Especially when travelling as otherwise it may not be a piece of cake for me to go through the passport controls when returning to the UK, as it is at the moment.

But I cannot apply for the UK residence card until September, After the referendum has been held,and that does make me worried. Why can’t I apply before then ? I am in a longdistance relationship ,and we are travelling back and forwards between our countries until my half British other half is moving to the UK in the autumn. The application for the UK residence card takes up to 6 months,and I will have to surrender my passport for at least 6 weeks,not an option at the moment.

But more than anything, it worries me that there are so many Brits who blindly believe what they read in the Anti- EU tabloids,such as The Sun, The Mail and The Express, instead of doing their Own research into what option is actually the best for their country,and for themselves and their children. Standing alone has never been strong..Standing Together is the only option. I am  very concerned that just like when people voted in the current government, who has done a very good job in destroying the country,practically dismantling the NHS,the mental health services,leaving the disabled without any money and support,bringing in the bedroom tax and so on…the Brexit voters will not realise the great error of their misinformed votes until it is too late. If the outcome of the referendum is for  the UK to leave the EU, there really is no turning back. And that would be one very sad day for this country…

I just read an article in “The New Day” on the findings of a new study carried out by the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology,  that reveals that the number of UK children prescribed anti-depressants increased by 54% between 2005 and 2012,and rises of 60% in Denmark,49% in Germany,26% in the US and 17% in the Netherlands.

In this article one pushy parent claims that our children is not under too much pressure, whereas another parent claims that they are ,and I certainly agree with the latter.

In this country ,children start school much earlier than in many other European countries. Take Finland for example, who are on the top of the leader board when it comes to education,and yet the Finnish children start school at the age of 7. They have no uniforms.No exams. No entrance fees. No league tables.No Ofsted inspections . No math success measurement. They do not divide children into sets based upon ability. Children address teachers by their first names,and no child gets more than 30 minutes of homework a night.

But there in the UK,it’s all about putting the pressure on.And not just at school. How many children in primary school do you know of who are ferried around to different after school clubs every weekday afternoon after school ? They have ballet classes,dance classes,guitar lessons,violin lessons,singing lessons,sports clubs,maths clubs,piano classes,swimming classes. I am not saying that this is wrong,you should encourage your child to pursue their interests, and that is the key here…Their interests,not Yours. I know of children who hates playing the violin,they don’t want to do ballet,they would love to pursue their own interests,but they have no say in the matter as their parents are more busy in keeping up with the Joneses rather than listening to what their children really want. Their children are so busy that they can’t even go on playdates to cultivate new friendships,or make any lasting friendships. And as for the weekends.they are full of activities too. No wonder the children are getting stressed and depressed as many of them don’t get time to unwind and just be Carefree.

And once they start secondary school the pressure becomes even greater. And for the children who are under so much pressure to be the perfect son and daughter, they often do what children under too much pressure do…they rebel. I have seen it happening and I am seeing it happening. I know of teens who self harm,boys as well as girls, I know of teens who seeks love and attention elsewhere, and end up in situations that will affect them for a long time to come. I know this because I am the mother of a teenage child who tells me about the great pressure that many of her peers are under,and what she tells me frightens me and saddens me a great deal.

As parents we must take responsibility for our children’s wellbeing. I am very fortunate to have a relationship with my child that has become even stronger as a result of me bringing her up by myself for the last 9 years. We discuss anything and everything. She feels free to confide in me. I have taught her mindfulness,how to deal with stress in the best way that suits her (in her case it’s sports and arts as she can get rid of any angst through sports,and express her emotions through her creative side as well as talk to me) . I have also taught her to respect herself and value herself , so that she is less likely to get into situations that could be harmful. I am by no means the perfect mother, but I have seen how children can become affected by parents who are too busy to take the time to listen to, and take time out for their children,whilst putting constant pressure on them to achieve. And I want my child to be Happy. And you know what ? It works ! I left the last parents evening with a kleenex in one hand as she made me so proud and I couldn’t help but well up. I have never put any pressure on her, yet she is in the top of her class in many of her subjects and her teachers couldn’t stop singing her praises. And that is not because of me telling her that she Must do well, it is because She believes in herself and in her abilities.

 

Music can evoke so many memories of one’s past,and different artists and songs helps to make a soundtrack of our lives.When I was 16,I heard an album that would change my life. That album was “Facelift” by Alice In Chains. The first time I saw the video to “Man in the box” on MTV’s Headbangers Ball,hosted by Vanessa Warwick, I immediately ran out to buy the album with my pocket money, and a love affair began that has so far lasted for 23 years.Longer than any relationship I have ever had 😉 Their music helped me through some very difficult years,those infamous angstridden teenage years ,and those early twenties when you are trying to find your way in life,and find out who you are.

I first saw Alice in Chains play back in -93,a time of my life when I was still very young and full of optimism and determination.When I saw them again, exactly 20 years later, I felt like I was 19 again,and all the memories from that time just flooded back.I left the venue not only feeling on top of the world after seeing the best gig of my life (and I have seen a few over my 39 years),but also filled with optimism and determination, just like I had felt all those years ago when as a 19 year old I saw them play at the Brixton Academy.It is just amazing how alive you can feel in these special moments,and although I do very much doubt that any of the band will read this, I’d want to thank them for giving me so many happy memories,past and present.

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