There has been so much talk about immigrants recently. When my parents and I became immigrants of this country I was not allowed to say the word to anyone. It wasn’t a safe word. Mainly because we were embarrassed of the status, having left everything we had built in our home country for a better life. What were we ashamed of? Seeking refuge?
The Syrian refugee crises has sparked numerous conversations with people having very mixed views. Some people of the more privileged countries seem to believe immigrants are after their homes, jobs and education.
The truth is living as an immigrant is no easy job.
When you seek refuge outside your own country, it is highly unlikely you will be able to go back to your home country. Most countries reject their own people when they return after a several years of immigrance in a different country. It eventually feels like there’s nowhere to call home. A new US law states that people of Middle Eastern countries who visit their home countries while seeking immigrants from the US government will be rejected their request even if they have lived there for a long time. The UK government is also creating new laws to make it even harder for immigrants to seek citizenship.
It’s so much harder to find a job as an immigrant; another myth, people seem to believe in is that immigrants steal their jobs. This blames the unfortunate economy on people who have got nothing to do with government descioons on economy. A person who doesn’t fluently speak the language and doesn’t have enough experience in the country is highly unemployable. All this aside, having a non-English name makes it even harder to find a job, when an employer sees a strange name on a CV they automatically see the person as nothing but trouble.
Leaving your home country, suddenly becoming a minority is a shock. Most people who seek refuge have left a country where there’s rarely any non-natives. The view we have of the western world is a loving place where everyone is equal. But having the first hand experience , it’s totally different. It’s was a shock , receiving so much racism just because of my skin colour or facial structure was different to people around me. Personally it took me a long time to realise why I was disliked so much in the streets and at school, the people I thought were better and being constantly asked “where are you from”, is a big struggle, it denies the sense of belonging I try to create for myself.
Sometimes I don’t want to leave the house for a social situation where not many people know me. Having to constantly talk about; why I’m here, why I look different and if I’m ever going back. It’s impossible for me to imagine living a life where I don’t have to explain myself so much.
Living in a country where you don’t own the citizenship of is an exhausting lifestyle. Even buying electronics becomes a hassle. I remember once my father was denied a camera he was buying just because the shop staff were suspicious of him, because he hadn’t lived in the country long enough and well because he was “brown”.
Recently I left Barclays Bank with tears in my eyes because they denied to open an account for me as I was not British. These are only recent experiences but I know that so many other people have similar experiences.
One major fear while traveling is the Check-ins at airports, which a few people have sympathised with me on. Being asked ‘why are you here’ and ‘how long you’re staying for’ simply when you’re trying to pass the UK border and go HOME to a place you have spent most of your adult life in is extremely stressful and upsetting.
Having worked and studied here for several years , you’d think I’d at least be able to vote! Not being a British person doesn’t allow you to vote in the general elections. I really wanted to carry out my democratic duty, I was simply faced with a “NO”, and I wasn’t able to make a small change and have my voice heard in an election which the results of is so majorly effecting my life.
“Well if you dislike it here so much why don’t you just go back”, this is what one of my teachers told me when I was in year nine. I will never be able to forget the humiliation. But it’s a fair question, and the answer is; “I simply can’t!” My family have tried so hard to make a better life for me here, I can finally study a degree I actually enjoy, live my life in freedom and have a better chance at achieving my dreams. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if I lived back home. But I still ask myself everyday, is it worth it? Being an outsider forever, not being able to keep my real nationality and being denied to see my family for so long? All this for freedom? At least I’m not going through this alone…..
Pic credit: student works from CSM in collab with other unis in Prague Quadrennial based on ‘border control’