2017-07-29 In Limbo P Cook E RemigibeCause Associate Peter Cook comments on and interviews Elena Remigi, author of In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citzens in the UK, with 144 unique stories. Amazon excerpt “Imagine you left your native country because you wanted to explore your neighbouring world and embrace the European dream. Imagine you truly believed that the European Union was your home and that, as well as being a citizen of the country you were born in, you were also a citizen of Europe. Imagine you fell deeply in love with your new country. Imagine you built a life there, married, had children, a career, started a business… You felt happy and totally integrated. You were at home.

“Then one day, your new country decides to vote to leave the European Union, which means that all the rules you have built your life on are going to change. One morning, after years and even decades, you suddenly feel unwelcome, unwanted, betrayed. Your certainties, your life and your security are gone. Your sense of identity too. Through no fault of your own, you are stuck in a painful limbo. This is what has happened since the Brexit Referendum in June 2016 to EU citizens who made their life in the UK.  These testimonies are their voices, their stories from Limbo, haunted by the poignant question: where is home?”

Peter Cook: Their stories have been compiled into a wonderful book by Elena Remigi, with the help of Véronique Martin and Tim Sykes, In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK.   This is the world we inhabit in our so-called Great Britain at the moment. I was touched personally by the stories of EU citizens who face continued uncertainty over their future if we decide to leave the European Union. It tells the human tales of the ground floor impact of our heartless strategies to use our EU citizens as human shields.

Heartbreaking insights from people who have been so badly let down by our so-called Government that works for all. I feel ashamed to be called British in the knowledge that our European friends are being used as in this way just to prop up an internal political party squabble. This trend is not just one happening in Europe. Trump’s America seems also to be copying the design, with disastrous consequences.

A new wave of autocratic leadership is sweeping the world. Populism, Brexit, Trump are all characterised by single issues and the kind of didactic leadership that was more popular around 100 years ago.  The “losers” in this battle of ideologies seem to be diversity, tolerance, respect and the view that we are all stakeholders on planet earth.

I have been fighting against the effects of the UK’s decision to retreat from the rest of the world through our Brexit referendum. Brexit was informed by racism and xenophobia and the politics of hate. It has unleashed a wave of intolerance in our once United Kingdom, which I experienced first hand by being punched by someone who refused to talk about our differences.

But I simply cannot allow our “race to the bottom” after so many years of progress in our attempts to build an inclusive world that can sustain itself. However, my story turns to a group of people who have been more damaged by our Brexit referendum and the coalition of chaos that has ensued …  I interviewed Elena to find out more about her book and the stories behind it.

What is your own experience of being In Limbo?

My personal experience of being in limbo has been both a bureaucratic as well as psychological one. In the first case, my husband and I had to fill in the then-much-dreaded 85-page form to obtain Permanent Residency as a family, and fortunately my husband was able to sponsor me. Had I been married to a UK national, this would not have been possible as the UK immigration law is much more restrictive towards spouses who do not have five years of consecutive full-time employment. The amount of documents requested was phenomenal but after 4 months we received our Permanent Residency card, which is a pre-requisite to obtain citizenship.

I went through all the exams needed to obtain naturalisation, an expensive process, which cost around £1500 per person. Despite having done all that was required, I was turned down by the National Checking Service when I brought all my documents as, being a dependant spouse, I had to prove that I lived here. Owning a house, a car, paying my utility bills, having listed 5 years of flights in and out of this country, was deemed insufficient. I was therefore asked to prove “my existence” here through visits to the doctor, optician, dentist, having to send five years of bank statements (another 5 kg of evidence) to be allowed to naturalise – a Kafkaesque experience.

Aside from this, I have also undergone another kind of limbo: a psychological one, which I found worse than the first. Before the Referendum campaign, I felt completely settled and integrated. Months of hostility towards EU citizens and the deliberate attempt to paint us as people who were exploiting the system, rather than contributing to it, have deeply saddened and worried me for my future, making me doubt my role in this country. No matter how many documents one can obtain, what really matters is to know that you are welcomed and valued in a place.

What prompted you to develop the idea for the book?  

After the Referendum, as soon as time was going by, I realised that many EU citizens were posting in various groups about their distress, and that not many people, politicians included, knew much about it. The level of misinformation was astounding. I thought that these testimonies would become a stronger voice if put together, and could become a book to be distributed to politicians, both here and at a European level, as well as amongst ordinary people, to let them know how we truly felt. I opened a Facebook group, and with the help of Véronique Martin, a French academic married to a Brit, as well as a brilliant team of moderators, the group grew very quickly and we collected the testimonies that people shared there. “In Limbo” gathers the stories of 144 EU citizens in the UK, with some Brits included. Thanks to a crowdfunding, thus far we have sent around 500 copies to several UK MPs, MEPs, EU ambassadors, heads of state, academics, journalists, and influencers.

What’s the most heart-breaking story you have heard from EU Citizens caught In Limbo?

There are many stories that I found heart-breaking. I think, for instance, of a young French mother of two who suffers from a serious chronic disease and who cannot afford to lose the French NHS she relies very much upon after Brexit. She therefore has made the decision to sell the house, bring the children to France and leave the husband here to work. I also think of stories of mothers of disabled children or widows who have really moved me to tears, but each story has touched me in a different way. What fate awaits the more vulnerable categories, it is still hard to know. 

Watch this touching video.

What have you to say about the morals of holding people to ransom to our Prime Minister?

People are not commodities to be traded; they are not pawns to be used in order to get “a better deal” in a cynical and opportunistic political game. We are human beings whose lives have been turned upside down all of a sudden. Our rights should have been guaranteed from the start, but we were instead deemed “good bargaining capital”. We are now being presented with an offer that is neither serious nor fair because it strips us of various rights, such as that to vote, and it requires that we register whilst the rest of the population is not required to have an ID document. 

How has life altered for you personally since June 24, 2016?

I have difficulty remembering how it was like before! I have become very active on Facebook, Twitter and social media in general not only because of this project, but because apathy is no longer an option. I cannot sit idly and wait for things to happen. I was not allowed to vote in this Referendum. Being active has allowed me to have a voice.

What are your hopes for the future of the UK?

I hope that the country rediscovers its tolerant and liberal values, the values that made it a truly great, multicultural and dynamic country, which is at high risk of losing everything for a parochial view of the world. The effects of such a vision could damage it irreparably. My hope is that through these very uncertain times the UK can reflect better on what it means to be part of the European family of nations. I hope it takes heed of what Winston Churchill said in a famous speech in Amsterdam on May 1948:

“We hope to reach again a Europe united but purged of the slavery of ancient, classical times, a Europe in which men will be proud to say, “I am a European”.  We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European Continent, they will truly feel “Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.”

In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK is available on Amazon worldwide. For myself I continue the fight to restore some decent ethical standards to our country. In the words of Donald Tusk and John Lennon “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one …”

2017-07-29 Brexit P Cook E Remigi

{ 40 comments… add one }

  • Peter Cook July 31, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Elena is a truly amazing woman. Thanks for posting this Nadine.

    Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack July 31, 2017, 1:03 pm

      Peter – It’s my pleasure to post great content. Introduced to her work via you, I was extremely moved by her book & video. – Nadine

      Reply
      • Elena Remigi July 31, 2017, 9:38 pm

        Many thanks, Nadine, for your kind words. We hope that this book will touch the hearts and minds of many readers.

        Reply
    • Elena Remigi July 31, 2017, 9:41 pm

      Many thanks indeed, Nadine.

      Reply
      • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 6:07 am

        And many thanks Peter, for this interview. The rights of EU citizens have been put on hold for a year. We need to keep up the fight to ensure that everybody is allowed to stay.

        Reply
  • David Hain July 31, 2017, 1:14 pm

    Very evocative Peter, thanks for sharing and for putting your principles before your personal needs. As for lyrics, hopefully Yanis Variufakis Hotel California quote comes true and sense prevails :- “you can check in any time you want, but you can never leave…”

    Reply
    • Peter Cook July 31, 2017, 1:30 pm

      I’m sure Yanis did not get this from me, but just to say I spotted the association more than a year ago re Hotel California and published it somewhere on a blog David !! :-)

      Reply
      • Nadine B. Hack July 31, 2017, 1:44 pm

        David – great “Hotel California” quote! And, Peter, of course, you’ve used it before!

        Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 6:08 am

      Thank you David, for taking the time to read this interview and reply

      Reply
  • Cosima Dörfel Hill July 31, 2017, 10:08 pm

    Being a part of this project has helped me feel more empowered and I feel privileged to have this opportunity to tell our stories, to show just how deeply political decisions can affect people on a personal level and turn lives upside down!

    Reply
    • Peter Cook July 31, 2017, 11:24 pm

      Thank you for commenting on here Cosima – you are most welcome and I feel we will resolve our current Brexit madness

      Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 5:41 am

      It has been wonderful, Cosima, to be part of this collective work and meeting so many special people like you.

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 9:22 am

      Cosima – I have been touched not only by the amazing stories gathered by Elena Remigi, with the help of Véronique Martin and Tim Sykes, but also by the responses of those whose stories have been “given voice.”

      Reply
  • Veronique July 31, 2017, 10:27 pm

    Thank you so much, dear Nadine and Peter, for talking about our book and allowing our voices to be heard. It means so much to all of us. Merci! #InLimbo

    Reply
    • Peter Cook July 31, 2017, 11:22 pm

      You are most welcome Veronique. The tide is turning. We need more bridges than walls in this world.

      Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 5:49 am

      I am grateful too for this opportunity. Thank you Véronique, for all your amazing work and dedication to this project.

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 9:34 am

      Véronique – thank you for your dedication in bringing the “In Limbo” project to life. Eli Wiesel said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” You have taken a strong stance against those who have hurt many and I hope your work brings a greater understanding among more people of their plight.

      Reply
  • Carole Convers July 31, 2017, 11:42 pm

    Thank you Peter, Elena and Nadine – my testimony is is this book. The importance of Elena’s work cannot be underestimated. The group she brought together has been a lifeline for me this past year – we have cried and despaired together, we have written and shared our stories and now we are being heard.

    Reply
    • Peter Cook August 1, 2017, 12:16 am

      Evening Carole, It has been a great pleasure to know you since we first met just months ago. Out of adversity comes great things and I’m delighted to be able to write this small tribute to your collective work. I hope I will see you at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Bon Chance ! Peter

      Reply
      • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 5:51 am

        Carole will be there with a stall to raise awareness of our book!

        Reply
        • Peter Cook August 1, 2017, 9:28 am

          I hope you will you come on stage to make an appearance at the event Elena

          Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 5:45 am

      Yes, Carole, the group which has allowed us to collect the testimonies has been a safe place for many of us where to share our deepest feelings. That is why, I think, the voices emerging from our book are so powerful.

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 9:24 am

      Carole – I’m so glad you added your voice to this compilation of stories that puts a human face on the devastating impact of EU citizens living in the UK. Let’s hope that “shining a light” on this helps make the UK an open society once again.

      Reply
  • Elly Wright August 1, 2017, 8:45 am

    A wonderful interview Peter Cook for Nadine B.Hack’s blog beCause, to make the voices of EU citizens in Britain contained in the book InLimbo heard. Who better than to tell us about it than Elena Remigi, whose brainchild it was. Thank you Peter and Nadine and above all Elena Remigi who, together with her collaborators made this moving book a reality.

    Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 9:27 am

      Elly – Eli Wiesel wrote, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elena and her colleagues have made a significant contribution to ending the silence.

      Reply
  • Peter Cook August 1, 2017, 9:30 am

    Yes Nadine “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” These people have shown that to be true and I’ll never be silenced until we have woken up the silent majority in the UK.

    Reply
  • Trish August 1, 2017, 10:01 am

    Thank you for this. Hopefully, the voice of so many people left #InLimbo will be heard.

    Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 1:00 pm

      This is our hope, Trish. Silence is not an option. The voice of those who suffer needs to be heard.

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 1:47 pm

      Trish – as Elena writes, “silence is not an option.” We all have a moral obligation to speak up on behalf of anyone who is oppressed in any way.

      Reply
  • Anne-Laure Donskoy August 1, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Will there be an end to this madness? I don’t know. There are days when I feel this tsunami of irrationality and manipulative rhetoric cannot be stopped, that all the efforts we make here and there in different forms are only preaching to the converted. I have a few friends who voted “leave” and they seem totally blind, immune even, as to what is happening, giving me the “it will be alright in the end … the bit of economic pain is necessary to regain control of our country and it will pass”. Their focus is quite narrow and I despair. Nothing I could say will change their mind. They are the ones who need “convincing”.
    Then brilliant initiatives such as In Limbo or the No10 Vigil come along and you feel that a light wind of change is rising and that gives me hope. I need hope, we need hope to continue. Being part of the InLimbo project as a behind the scenes person has helped me keep the faith, or replenish it on those dark days.
    Power to the people!

    Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 1:01 pm

      Well said, Anne-Laure! Power to the people! Power to the citizens who have been reduced to mere bargaining chips!

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 1:48 pm

      Anne-Laurie – we must always keep hope alive!

      Reply
  • Vie clerc lusandu August 1, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Thanks so much to Peter and Nadine for this interview and raising the profile of the #InLImbo book. As a french citizen who has lived 17 years in the uk and not sure I qualify for PR (still waiting on decision), I felt so low after the referendum and with the uncertainties surrounding our rights, I am so glad I got to link up with everyone from the project, share our stories,meet new people… Felt really empowered to now actively share our testimonies to the world To raise awareness. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 1:03 pm

      Thank you Vie for sharing your story and for all your work for this project and at local level. You are an example to follow!

      Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 1:49 pm

      Vie – when we connect and act in solidarity, we are all more empowered!

      Reply
  • Paul Blackburn August 1, 2017, 2:48 pm

    I am very moved and impressed by the wisdom, inspiration, humanity, and strength of character of Elena and the people who are part of the “In Limbo” project. Thank you for all you do. It makes a huge difference. You have my 100% support.

    Reply
    • Nadine B. Hack August 1, 2017, 3:07 pm

      Paul – your support is part of the continuity of all who act on behalf of justice.

      Reply
  • Elena Remigi August 1, 2017, 11:26 pm

    Thank you, Paul. Your support means a lot to us.

    Reply
  • Pascale Rigley August 17, 2017, 1:02 pm

    I am glad I have taken part in the making of the book. Thank you so much the whole team to have made it happened. We have a voice now and people can see how the referendum and Brexit have profoundly affected our lives.

    Reply
  • Elena Remigi August 17, 2017, 1:44 pm

    Thank you, Pascale, for not being afraid of adding your voice to ours!

    Reply

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