Helen De Cruz argues that a big change in attitude, similar to the one in Ireland where people felt moved with compassion by stories about women forced to have abortions abroad, is needed in Brexit Britain.

First published in May 2018.

What swung the vote to yes in the Irish abortion referendum (#repealthe8th) was the personal stories of women who had to go abroad,  who were forced to carry to term. Meanwhile the UK establishment is  bent on going ahead with Brexit in spite of all the heart-rending  stories of the EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU27.

Never during the Stronger In campaign were we actually talked about as people — with homes, families, friends, who contribute. Axel Scheffler said in his moving speech that the Leave vote hurts and makes him angry every day, it felt like a bitter rejection.

There are two ways to dehumanize people:

1. The numbers game: Talk about people in “liquid metaphors” (‘floods of people’, ‘streams of migrants’...)

2. Link EU citizens and crime: Talk about “EU killers we failed to deport”...

The Daily Mail

Even now, we are not human beings.

We are still human shields, or ‘bargaining chips’ to get a better deal. The EU and the UK are haggling over our rights. If you are not a British citizen in the EU27 or a EU citizen in the UK it is hard to convey to you how dispiriting it is to see and hear about  this.

It is dispiriting to see the UK eager to take away our right to appeal decisions of the Home Office (noted for its incompetence) by the immigration exemption to the Data Protection Act. The implication is clear: Human rights are for British only, not for migrants.

“You are welcome to stay,” Theresa May says, and then she takes away our possible rights to appeal by that immigration exemption to the data protection act. I am not looking forward to being deported to Belgium and unable to fight my appeal due  to a Home Office error in data and me being unable to see them.

I will never forgive David Cameron for using us like means to an end in this way. I will never forgive the UK government for treating us this way. I don’t want to become British, but  if I must, I will never, ever vote Tory.

I write pieces on this issue regularly (such as this one on the profound loss of trust of EU citizens in the UK in Brexit times). Pieces I have never thought I had to write, to basically say we are human beings and are entitled to dignity, autonomy, and respect. Just like the women of Ireland.

And I get letters every day.

I would like to quote from one I just received yesterday from a French citizen who lived in the UK. This letter is just one among many I have received. Excerpt:

“I have since left Brexit Britain where I studied, got married to my British husband and gave birth to my children. I will never set foot in the UK though. Part of me has died.”

Come on British establishment, wake up? Are you seriously doing this to people?

Is immigration control worth all this human cost? Why isn’t there a big change in attitude, like in Ireland, where people felt moved with compassion by stories about women who were forced to go abroad for abortions?

Are we not your friends, neighbours, co-workers? Don’t you see the hurt this is causing us?

Just last week, a German family moved out from my village because of Brexit. And two more families with non-UK citizens are moving this summer, also because of Brexit.

I am nonplussed at this point that people fail to be moved. That people can still callously say “We don’t mean  you”, and think that it lets them morally off the hook. While people I know are terrified of this settled status application process, of being rejected.

Terrified of losing their home.

And people just don’t seem to care.

It is profoundly dispiriting.🔷

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 25 May 2018, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Unsplash/NordWood Themes.)