July 2, 2016 stefivos

Brexit and Grexit: the tragicomedy of being Greek in the UK

I chose the word “tragicomedy” because it outlines pretty clearly the emotional, yet entertaining (in a perverted way), landslide for the 50,000 Greece-born professionals and workers residing in the UK.

This number is actually drawn from the 2011 Census. The real number must be even higher now, since Greeks have been emigrating by the tens of thousands in the last five years.

Just a year ago, the Greek nationals across Europe were waking up every day to the possibility of a Grexit. Although the term referred to the scenario of Greece leaving the Eurozone and not the EU, many thought that there was no way to have the one without the other.

In that unfortunate case, our right to live and work in the EU would be jeopardised. I do realise how egocentric this may sound amid a financial crisis that has devastated Greece’s economy and plunged many people into poverty, but there is a parameter here often overlooked: thousands of Greek expats do contribute financially to their family’s budget back home.

A Grexit was finally avoided (or just delayed, who knows), but then Brexit took over and here we are again, living in uncertainty.

Our deputy CEO sent us an e-mail yesterday, trying to reassure the EU nationals who work in my organisation that they are valued. They account for the 10% of our staff; in absolute numbers, circa 900 people.  She asked us to address any concerns with our line managers. It was a thoughtful gesture, but rather purposeless, given that absolutely no one in the UK has a clear idea of how everything will pan out.

Only a few days ago, Cameron refused to pass emergency legislation that would secure the right of 3 million EU nationals to stay in the UK. 78% of them are in work, “stealing British jobs” in Brexiters’ words; a rather ironic statement in a country whose unemployment is at a 10-year low.

At the same time, a few days ago, the Greek government submitted a new electoral law, which once again fails to enable Greek expats to vote from their country of residence. In practice, this means that tens of thousands of us, still EU citizens, cannot vote neither in the UK nor in Greece (unless, of course, they can afford to travel back for each election).

I don’t know if I express a common feeling among these 50,000 Greeks living in the United Kingdom, but sometimes I get the impression I live on a no man’s land, which makes me wonder: does any of these two countries really care about us?

 

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