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November 18, 2019
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Pavel Botoš: Brexit will cause big problems for Romani families from abroad now living in Britain

24.6.2016 18:30
Pavel Botoš, a Romani activist originally from the Czech Republic, with the Mayor of Halifax Howard Blagbrough and his wife. Botoš received an award from the mayor for
Pavel Botoš, a Romani activist originally from the Czech Republic, with the Mayor of Halifax Howard Blagbrough and his wife. Botoš received an award from the mayor for "Contribution to Work and Training". (Source: personal archive of Pavel Botoš)

Yesterday Britain's referendum decided in favor of leaving the European Union. After counting all of the votes, 51.9 % of those cast favored leaving the EU as compared to 48.1 % who favored remaining.

Voter turnout was unusually high - 72 %, much higher than during local or parliamentary elections. In addition to impacting the European Union, its other Member States and Great Britain itself, Brexit will also impact the lives of individuals.

News server Romea.cz asked several Romani people living in Britain what their opinion is of the referendum rsults and how it will change their lives. We begin with the opinions of Pavel Botoš, who lives with his family in Halifax.

Botoš is a well-known Romani activist. During his time in Britain he has received two awards for his work, one for "Contribution to Work and Training" and one for "Park Work With People".

Currently the activist is participating in a project called "Story Man" in which the authors Sharon Marsdon and Jeff Turner are writing about his life. Part of that work involved the historically first performance by Romani people at the Squer Chapel theater in Halifax.

That production, a musical, familiarized audiences with the history of Romani people. "We toured local schools, where I taught English children Romani songs and familiarized them with our culture. The children from those schools ultimately performed with us at the theater. It was very emotional and enjoyed great success," Botoš said.

Q:  What do you say to the referendum result?

A:  I am more than disappointed in how the referendum has turned out and I am amazed that such a peace-loving people as the English can have succumbed to all of the false, negative propaganda, mainly that from the UK Independence Party [the anti-EU party notorious for its racist excesses]. However, it is not yet clear when the institutions or politicians here will begin demanding that we leave this country and what kind of bar they will set for those of us who have been here for more than five years.

Q:  What do you believe this will mean for Romani people who do not yet have British citizenship?

A:  This will have a very negative impact on Romani people from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it's possible to say that it will be catastrophic, because many sold all of their property back home and came to Britain in particular to change their lives. Naturally there will be more and more problems for their families now [in the event of their return from Britain], mainly for school-aged children who have not mastered either Czech or Slovak grammar. Many of these children speak English better than they speak the language of their native country.

Q:  Was the campaign in favor of Brexit hateful somehow towards Czechs, Lithuanians, Poles, Roma, etc.?

A:  It's not possible to say the campaign was aimed directly at a certain nationality or race - it threw all of us into the same bag, that of unwanted migrants. Here in Halifax, where we live with our family, the campaigns of both camps were rather calm, but despite that we were subconsciously aware that the end was near. Even though I believed there would be a lucky result in favor of staying, it has unfortunately turned out badly. 

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brexit, EU, Roma, UK



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