We’re not welcome, we’re necessary

Sonia Hadj Said



I woke up to calls and text messages. The first few seconds were ignorantly blissful, forgetful. Then I remembered it was the day.

“Don’t worry”, everyone said, even laughed. “This is not happening.”

My mum called. She was terrified, panicked. What was I going to do? I was an immigrant after all, and this move was against all of us. She thought I would be the first one to be kicked out. Because I didn’t have a real career, I had no house.

I’m not a political person, but Brexit is not about politics for me. It’s more about the fact that the place I chose to be my home, stopped being one overnight. My bed didn’t feel that comfortable in the morning. I went out to the shop and looked at people wondering. Why would you want me out? What have I done? I thought we were a family.

They day progresses and people keep telling me not to worry. They don’t realise I’m not worried. None of my friends are. We’re just disappointed. We feel slightly betrayed. I cried because I felt like a fool. Because my parents are delighted even though they would never admit it. Their words keep ringing in my ears all day long.
“You can’t be surprised. They want the country back. Now, focus. Get your life in order before it’s too late.”
There it is. The real reason I’m so saddened by the news. Now we will have to start thinking about life seriously. Do you think I’m exaggerating? The posts on Facebook show that 90% of my university colleagues are thinking about moving already. We’re not just immigrants. We’re educated. We left our homes at the age of 19 or earlier. We’ve been on the move ever since. Different cities, different people, different jobs, it didn’t matter to us. We can adapt. But we chose you and you betrayed us.

I chose London for more reasons than a potential career. I chose the lifestyle, the freedom, the artistic life that has been accepted here more than anywhere else in the world. The possibility of being myself without the need to explain it to anyone. Not being called an immigrant, but an artist, a young girl enjoying her own choices.
Now the choice has been made for me. I’m not ready to take a big leap and fight for a job that will allow me to stay here, to get a visa. And what jobs will you offer me if all the businesses move somewhere else? What future awaits if young people and immigrants don’t have a voice in a country┬áthat depends on them?

“I want to send a particular message to the almost one million Europeans living in London, who make a huge contribution to our city – working hard, paying taxes and contributing to our civic and cultural life. You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum.”

Sadiq Khan, we are not welcome here. We are necessary. And now we are the ones with a big choice to make.


Banner image: Katrin Koenning

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