Romea.cz survey: Roma from abroad living in Britain fear for their future after Brexit
Romani people from abroad who are living in Great Britain are not enthusisastic about the results of the referendum on leaving the European Union. British voters have decided to leave the EU and all immigrants there suddenly do not know what exactly lies in store for them.
The predominant concern is about the fates of those Romani people from abroad who have been living in Britain for less than five years, because they are unable to request permanent residency yet. According to the prevailing opinion, those Romani foreign nationals who have been out of work for some time will now have to return to their home countries.
News server Romea.cz has asked Romani foreign nationals living in Britain or those who spend time there frequently for their opinions on the campaign and referendum. We asked them the following questions:
What do you say to the result of the referendum?
What, in your view, will this mean for Romani people who do not yet have British citizenship or who have been living in Britain for less than five years?
Was the campaign hateful in any way against Czechs, Lithuanians, Poles, Roma and other immigrants?
Michael Daduč, Romani activist and community worker with Roma Community Care, who lives in the town of Derby, answered as follows: "I am very sad about the referendum results. I hoped this would not happen, but the propaganda campaign by those opposed to the European Union was so strong that it was really rough. For example, UKIP chair Nigel [Farage] used billboards with images of migrants heading to Britain. What impact will this have on Roma [foreign nationals] living in Britain? Roma [foreign nationals] who want to continue to live here should request British citizenship, but most Romani [foreign nationals] don't speak English yet, so for some of them it will be difficult to request a British passport. Those who have been here for more than five years can request permanent residency. I do not anticipate a big exodus of Roma [foreign nationals] from the UK if they have stable work. If they do not have work, that's a different story. Some, if they do not find work, will be forced to return to the EU Member States from whence they came, because they will not be entitled to unemployment support. Romani activists, myself included, should ask the British Government to accelerate the integration process of Romani people who came here from the EU Member States. Naturally these big changes to the legislation will not happen immediately, right now, but they will come in time."
Ladislav Baláž is a Romani activist who has felt the need to leave the Czech Republic and move to the UK twice because he and his family received death threats from various extremists due to his human rights work. In Britain he established the Europe Roma organization, which advocates for the human rights of Romani people and does its best to prevent their deportations from Britain and their detention.
In 2013 that organization became the Europe Roma Network (ERN) and began, in addition to its usual work, to monitor the lives of Romani people throughout Britain. One week ago members of the ERN established a political party called Roma Labour Group.
"We will fight so Romani people can remain in Britain. We are preparing a meeting with the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. We want to consult with him about what will happen next with respect to the immigrants who have jobs here, who are raising their children properly, and who study. The time has come to mobilize and fight for our rights," Baláž told news server Romea.cz.
In response to our question, he answered as follows: "We are all very disappointed that common sense did not prevail, but that propaganda against the European Union and immigrants won. Many Romani people will certainly return to their home countries, not just because of the changed conditions here, but also because of the sharp change in the atmosphere of this society and in the approach to people who are not UK citizens. The campaign was not conducted against individual groups of immigrants, but against immigrants as a whole. From that perspective, racism won. It is, of course, necessary to add that racism is a plague that is spreading across the entire European Union, not just here. That is another reason I am not giving up, but continuing the fight. On the other hand, it is evident that British citizens have enough of their politicians lying to them. They were promised a better position inside the EU, and they don't believe they got it. The citizens simply want to go their own way, they didn't even take into consideration the bad economic impact that this will have on Britain, without a doubt."
Josef and Marcela Balogh live in the Czech town of Kadaň but frequently travel to Wakefield in the UK to visit family and friends. "The results of the referendum are bad, in our opinion," Marcela told news server Romea.cz.
"The Britons should not leave the EU. If they do, the EU should not give them any concessions. In Wakefield there was no hate speech against any immigrants - not Lithuanians, not Poles, not Roma. However, this will still certainly be bad for Roma [foreign nationals] there, they will have to go home with the exception of those who have been working there long-term."
Božena Cinová Sidorka lives in the British town of Doncaster and responded to our questions as follows: "The fact that Britain has left the EU does not seem like the correct choice to me. I am not pleased about it, on the contrary, I am disappointed. The times today are really bad. I was satisfied to see my grandchildren being so beautifully educated [in Britain] and now I don't know what will happen next. My children live in Newcastle, they work 12-hour shifts. Their children are studying properly. The other respectable Romani people living here, who come from every corner of the world, are very disappointed. I am afraid that Britain now will aim its policies against immigrants to a great extent, and soon we will all have to leave this advanced, beautiful country. The campaign here was hateful, some Britons stopped considering us their equals because of the tone of the campaign. I did not experience direct racism against us Roma - the biggest hatred was probably aimed at the Poles who are taking jobs away from British citizens here, even though they are primarily doing the work the English don't want to do. Slave labor for very low pay is performed most frequently here by immigrants in particular, including Roma. The Britons get enough money when they're enrolled with the Job Centre, which is like the Labour Office and the Social Welfare Department in our country. As far as welfare goes, English people and others naturally all draw welfare, not just Roma. There are also Romani people here who don't want to work - if I were to judge this by my own surroundings, most of them are Romani people from Slovakia. However, most of us wanted to work when we came here and still do, but unfortunately there is not always the opportunity to find work. Many people have already returned to their home countries as a result."
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