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Applying for British citizenship to reinforce place in the UK and voicelessness of 'blended' migrants

last modified Feb 24, 2016 12:22 PM
Applying for British citizenship to reinforce place in the UK and voicelessness of 'blended' migrants

Source: Wikimedia Commons

'I stay away from politics. I don't think about it because it could make me get stressed, I could worry unnecessarily about the future. I think whichever way it goes, and if the UK comes out of the EU and there are repercussions for workers in the UK. I will find a way to be here anyway and do what I want to do.'

Jakub has been in the UK since 2000. He first arrived as a student, wanting to learn new things and develop self-reliance. He continued studying in Poland but decided to return to work in the UK to earn more money and commute back to Poland to take his exams. He found work quickly as a London restaurant manager using contacts he had made as a student and skills he had acquired through his studies. He shared a house with fellow Poles and covered his tuition fees and flights back to Poland with the money he earned.

He left the restaurant after a few years, and working in a variety of self-employed and employed roles. 'They're all part of my long term journey towards becoming a pilot', Jakub tells me. 'None of my expertise is in high demand in Poland; I would just be on an average wage there. And there are many more affordable opportunities for training and development in the UK.'

Though Jakub steers clear of politics and tries not to worry about what the UK referendum on EU membership will mean for him, he tells me that his partner is worried.

'She was worried for the last year. She applied for citizenship to kind of reinforce her position in the UK. And a few of her friends have done the same at this point. Four close friends of hers I know have done the same.'

'When she applied she got in just before they made it a little bit more difficult, some procedures have changed, and the evidence you have it provide now is more extensive. It's a long application. It cost about £1500 in total. You have to pass the exam and then the risk is that you pay nearly £1k just for submitting your paper and you can be still declined and you lose your money.'

We move on to talk about the particular perceived problem about EU migrants claiming social security benefits in the UK. 'I need more hard evidence to form a view', says Jakub.

'I know some people who claim tax credits, but they are working families. I heard on the news of some cases where migrants are registering their kids in the UK, then taking them back to Poland and claiming child benefit. That, I think, is completely wrong because it's also my money, I've been paying taxes here now for over 12 years.' 

But then Jakub reflects upon how detached this account of migrants' behaviour seems from his personal experiences and reality. 

‘Media usually focuses on migrants who work in agriculture, or in […] low skilled jobs. And always the counterarguments showing the problems with immigration come from unemployed English people that give their views, saying that they’re jobs are being taken, when they vote.'

'But people like myself don’t get a voice really. The whole debate doesn’t show us. It kind of bypasses the input or contribution of people who have a certain level of language skills and qualifications who are contributing to the economy like any other UK employee. This type of people are blended into the mainstream society.'

'We are not all working in the fields and picking cabbages. And the media don’t show this. The media won’t ask this people to take part in the debate. And I could at the same moment criticise Polish people who are working here because they don’t organise; they don’t fight for the vote or a voice.’