People who've made the UK their home need and deserve certainty

The Brexit referendum decision is now the cause of considerable fear and uncertainty among the many European citizens and their families living in the United Kingdom.

The reported rise in hate crimes compounds the uncertainty on which it feeds.

Over many years, European citizens have come to the UK and many have made this country their home. Some have set up business, others pursue work and careers here. Many have moved with their families, entered their children into school – making friends, starting families and settling in communities.

All of this has happened under European free movement rules, which are now – at least for the UK – under threat.

Of course, many British citizens are similarly uncertain about their own futures. Those who have moved to Europe to work, study or retire are, like their European counterparts, unsure how long their right to do so will remain.

And there are British citizens in the UK who are uncertain too. This is particularly the case for those whose partners and families are European citizens; but also for those who are distressed or anxious about the future of their friends, their employees or their employers.

General assurances have been offered by the Prime Minister – who campaigned for Remain – and by various of those who campaigned for Leave that nothing has immediately changed.

It is, of course, true that the UK remains in the EU and European citizens continue to have the same rights they had before the vote.

But for how long will this continue? People’s investment in their futures, their children’s futures, their participation in their community, their work and much else besides depends on knowing what happens next. Not just tomorrow, but when tomorrow’s tomorrow comes round too.

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the period immediately following the announcement of the result was the near absence of political leadership on this critical issue.

Hate crime, xenophobia and racism are not new in this country, or elsewhere. But the referendum, its result and the ensuing uncertain position of many EU citizens and their families appear to have contributed to giving hate, racism and xenophobia fresh impetus.

And the frightening and demoralising effect of acts of hate are compounded by the uncertainty as to their future now felt by so many people living in the UK.

We have launched a campaign and will be undertaking some research into the rise in hate crime, xenophobia and racism that is being reported. Calls have gone out to local councillors to take a unified, public and official stand #againsthate in their communities.

This needs to be supported by all MPs and political parties.

But they also need to urgently address the linked issue of uncertainty about the future of EU citizens in the UK. Last week, MPs passed a motion in the House of Commons by 245 votes to 2 calling on the Government to do so.

The Government abstained. Theresa May, who is set to be the next Prime Minister, has said the future of these people will be a matter for negotiation over the UK’s exit from the EU

Before the referendum, campaigners from across the political spectrum and on both sides of the argument called for guarantees about the future of EU citizens and their families already in the UK.

The official Leave campaign gave such an assurance.

More recently, politicians, campaigners and organisations on different sides during the campaign have again joined together to demand these guarantees

Think tank @IPPR calls for emergency laws to give all EU citizens legally resident in UK to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain.

— Danny Shaw (@DannyShawBBC) June 29, 2016

My letter to Home Sec urging her to make unequivocally clear that EU nationals legally in UK will be able to remain https://t.co/g5JjiexKBc

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) June 30, 2016

Friends, neighbours and colleagues have suddenly met with uncertainty about their futures. That uncertainty should be urgently removed, and their future security in the UK beyond Brexit guaranteed. The implication that people be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations over Brexit is deplorable. It also risks increasing both fuel for hate crime and the impact of that crime upon those affected by these uncertainties.

 

Take action: Ask your local council to stand against hate

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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