EU referendum: the fight for migrants’ rights goes on

By Carolina Gottardo, Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and former PICUM board member. This blog was originally published by Migrant Right’s Network on 26 June 2016.

Britain has been for me and many other migrants, a land of liberal values, openness, progressiveness, where human rights can be upheld and where people from everywhere around the world live in relative harmony. Is this the same Britain after 24 June 2016?

First thing on the morning the referendum result was announced, my 8-year old boy burst into tears when I explained that we were out. He had voted in a mock referendum at school on Thursday where all his classmates voted to stay “en masse” (after considering stay and leave arguments from year-6 children).  He said: “mummy, do we have to pack our bags and move to Colombia next week?” I clarified that he is a British citizen, that has always lived in this country and that we don’t have to go anywhere. I headed for school and found other children equally anxious and some parents in tears at drop off time.

Reassurance

Things at work didn’t get better. As the Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS) – Latin Americans are among of the fastest growing ethnic minorities in the UK – most colleagues and the women that we work with were feeling anxious about the fate of the country and their own lives.  Many also hold Spanish nationality and we spent most of the day reassuring them that things will take time and that there will be negotiations about EU migrants in the UK. It was difficult to understand how this could have gone so wrong, and it is still difficult to know how the future of this nation will unfold. The debate we have been witnessing has really been about “Project Fear” and “Project Lies” and migrants have been the scapegoats. The way the Leave argument was conducted has been full of misleading arguments and inflammatory images that are likely to continue haunting community relations and threatening migrant’s rights.

Fracture

There has been a fracture between the young, the old, between London and the rest of England alongside a fear-filled, scaremongering debate. Migration was centre-stage, and in people’s minds it turned out to be more important than the economy. Throughout the referendum, politicians, the media and some voters gambled on the future of the country. Is there something we can rescue from the ashes? Regardless of the fact that, as migrants, we feel unwanted in our own home, the most important thing is that we continue fighting for our rights and to use our voices for benefit of the country and our future.

Fight for rights

Secondly, to all the dear ‘born and bred’ British people for whom this day has been as devastating, as it has been for us as migrants, feeling rejected in our own house: together we will continue investing in a peaceful, liberal and prosperous nation. Now, more than ever it’s time to fight for our rights. It’s the time to be united for the values that we believe in. Not just for ourselves but more importantly for the future generations whose lives will be deeply affected by this decision.  Rest assured: the voices of migrants and refugees will not be silenced.

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