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If you are living in the UK or Europe you can't have missed the news that the UK held a referendum on whether to leave the European Union or remain a part of it. That referendum vote took place yesterday and the majority vote (51.9%) have voted to leave. So what does this mean for the UKs future?
Well, in the short term nothing will happen. Despite the British people voting to leave it will take some time before we notice any changes to our status with other countries and our day to day lives. With Prime Minister David Cameron resigning there will be a new leader and inevitably a government reshuffle. Many negotiations will also have to take place with Europe and this will of course take much time. Whatever will happen, it will have an impact on everyone, an impact I already worry about.
I could delve into the complex conversations of whether it's right or wrong to leave Europe but for me I still don't know the answer to that question. I don't know whether it is good for the long term economy or political status, etc. But there is one thing I do know, that the attitude of many who voted to leave makes me very uncomfortable and even scares me at times.
The one subject I hear of more than any other during this campaign has been immigration. It's not surprising seeing as I live in Kent and this county is the first to see any immigration into the country. The immigration argument has been hotly debated and many feel we just have too many people coming in, so it's no wonder many say we should and indeed did vote to leave Europe. Leaving Europe won't halt immigration though and it only focuses on European migrants and not others from non-EU countries. I won't go into a deep debate though on immigration, this is not the reason I write this article. No, my worry is far more personal...
Although I have lived in Britain all my life, was born here and hold British nationality, my family are mainly Eastern European. I am the daughter of immigrants and have spent my years growing up and living with no problems at all. Some of my family came from Poland before martial law was enforced there and were granted permission to stay here because of that conflict. My family are hard working people and not being able to go back to Poland during the conflict was hard, but they made a life here in Britain and I was born here and raised as a British citizen. I speak fluent English, I have a London accent and everything about my life has taught me that I should be proud to call myself British. So why do I now feel like an immigrant myself?
After many Eastern European countries were allowed to join the EU in 2004 a large amount of people from these countries migrated to Britain to find work. This put a strain on British employment, economy, etc. so it is understandable that many British people feel annoyed at those from Eastern Europe. However the attitude I seem to have encountered in more recent times is one of not only intolerance but also hatred...towards me!
I have a name that is Eastern European and it seems in the last decade or so this has caused me nothing but problems. I've begun encountering many negative attitudes towards me purely because of my name. I've had people ask me where I come from? How long have I lived here? I've even had a doctor ask me about my Polish roots and countless small remarks made about ' you immigrants'! The intolerance my family face is far worse. Many of them speak good English but with an accent, and have encountered many a nasty comment and attitude that has brought some members of my family to tears, including my own mum. I won't go into the details of what people have said or done, but the intolerance has been enough to make certain family members fear walking down the street at times.
Whether it's right of wrong to leave Europe is not a question I want to answer. I don't know the answer. But I can tell you that it's wrong to have such an intolerant attitude towards another human being, regardless of where they come from. It's wrong for people to hold my family's roots against them. It's wrong to treat others in this way. And as Britain moves to isolating itself from Europe with a slim majority 'leave' vote (51.9%), I worry about the future of my family and even myself! Will I have to change my name and hide my family's origins in order to truly feel British and be treated as a British citizen? I feel that one day I may have to, and that is a world I fear moving forward into.
Do you have any thoughts on this subject? Any comments are greatly appreciated. Please understand this is not an argument on immigration but rather a discussion on the intolerant attitude that the immigration issue has brought. Regardless of your immigration opinions this is a discussion about that intolerance, so please keep the conversation kind. Thank you.