A post by Konstantin Binder. Mirrored from London Leben.
Ten years ago I wrote about Britain. I called it “This Country” but really truly it was about my country. My home. I wrote about why I love this country, what makes it unique and great and wonderful.
But this country has changed. And not in a good way.
Fifteen years ago I moved to London. I love this city and like so many others here I say it is the greatest city on earth. I call myself a Londoner and I take pride in that. I moved here because I was allowed to do that. I exercised my right to live here and to work here and I still have this right. Because I am a EU citizen and Great Britain is part of the European Union.
But for how long?
On Thursday the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will decide whether they still want be part of the European Union. This will not only greatly affect me but also everybody else here. But I don’t have a right to vote. I don’t have a right to decide what I want for my future. All I can do is sit tight and wait.
And that’s not fair.
Immigration has enriched this country for centuries like so many other countries around the globe. Immigration has been part of this country and has formed it. I am an immigrant, I work here, I live here, I pay my taxes and I’ve haven been doing so for the last fifteen years and I don’t want this to stop.
The country is divided. Half of the people think we should remain, the other half think we should leave. If the arguments on both sides were brought forward in a respectful and honourable way, fine by me. But the mood is ugly and the campaigns are hateful, scaremongering dominates the discussions, fear.
And an MP has been murdered by an extremist who allegedly shouted “Britain first” while killing her.
Is that what Britain is all about? Is that what’s left of Britain?
The Brexit camp under Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Nigel Farage claims it’s all about the fact that Britain is no longer an independent country. We are apparently ruled and governed by the EU. And it’s about the immigrants. They are blamed for everything. How convenient. Too many of them are entering this country. Like I did, fifteen years ago. Because of my rights as a European Citizen. But enough is enough, they are screaming, and the right wing tabloids owned by right wing millionaires are creating scary headlines and lies. People feel that the immigrants are at the centre of every bloody problem that Britain has ever seen.
We want our country back.
In fifteen years in this country I have never heard any remarks about my German ancestry. Never, ever. Not one foul comment. I have felt welcome and I have been part of this country. But now for the first time ever, I am “the Other”. I am a foreigner. But don’t worry, it’s not about you, you’re settled, you speak English, you work, you’ll be fine.
It is about me. Because it is about everyone here.
So what do you want to do with me then, Britain? Because I am an immigrant, you know. Kick me out? Three months notice, pack your things and get the hell out of this country? Is that what you want, Britain?
But there is a price to pay, you know. No such thing as a free lunch. You will be governed by selfish politicians who think hate and lies is the way forward. Communities will be divided and you will lose thousands of people who suddenly wake up in the morning and decide, enough is enough, I can’t take this anymore, I don’t want my kids to grow up in this atmosphere of hate. Britain will not be the same anymore.
So if that’s what you want, vote leave.
And when in a few years time some random guy approaches me and my wife and says, “we voted leave, mate, what are you still doing here?”, we will pack our things and we will take our EU passports and we will move to one of the then still 27 EU countries and start again. Because we can. And we have a right to do that.
And you don’t.
But if you want this country to be wonderful and welcoming and open and tolerant, the way it should be without this horrible campaign bringing out the worst in people, without fear and hate, without racism, if you still want to be part of this great Europe where immigrants are part of everyday life, think before you vote.
Because there is no way back, no second chance. You leave, that’s it. Once you’re out, you’re out. End of.
I still want to be able to say what I have said ten years ago:
This is the country where I live, where I work, where I pay my tax. This is the country where I love and where I am loved. This country is so far from perfect. But this country is, as far as I am concerned, the best place in the world. I’ve said it before and I am more than happy to say it again: this is my country. And I love it.
I am an immigrant.
I want my country back.