Barred from voting on their own future
- 19 May 2016
- From the section Magazine
About three million people living in the UK are citizens of another EU country. Many have lived here for decades and count Britain as their home, but they can't vote in the referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. So what do they make of the vote?
Carla Herbertson, from the Netherlands: I came here as an au-pair when I was 17 and then returned after university to work as a journalist. I married an Englishman and have two children who are six and three. They are both British citizens but I'm still Dutch.
I'm so against leaving Europe out of principle. I was able to come and work and establish myself in Britain. I've lived here for 18 years, I pay taxes and am an active part of society. I was even called for jury duty, so I'm really frustrated that I can't vote.
I get upset about it because I feel powerless. It's even more important than a national election. As a European citizen it really affects me.
However, I won't go for British citizenship. Even though I feel part of British society and I love living here, being Dutch is part of my identity. I shouldn't have to give that up.
Anna Rigano, from Italy: I've lived in Britain since 1996. I came here to work and study after university and ended up moving to London to live with an English boyfriend.
I instinctively think Britain should leave the EU. I think Italy lost a lot of its identity when it joined the euro and I'm against big centralised governments. I'm not too worried about my own position as I think I should have the right to remain.
I have always loved the English language and grew up singing British pop songs. I also enjoy comedy like Monty Python, Black Adder and Peter Cook. I think the British are good at laughing at themselves.
Today I work as a freelance translator and live in a village in West Sussex with my teenage daughter. We are both Italian citizens although my daughter's father is English. We are very much part of the community. I buy my food locally and am part of the local choir and film society. I think British people have more get up and go, I like that you don't take ages over lunchtime.
While I think it's good to be European in terms of exchange of culture, I think it's better to have smaller, more independent powers.
Cecile Bonnet, from France: We moved to Britain from the US six years ago for my husband's job. I work in sales and marketing, although I'm currently on maternity leave.
We bought a house when we settled here - our street in London is really diverse and we love that. I feel part of Britain. We drink a lot of tea at home and I love watching the Great British Bake Off. We also like the Queen. My daughter sent her a 90th birthday card and if we pass Windsor she will say: "That's my Queen's castle."
My husband is originally from Pakistan and last year he got permanent residence in the UK. He is now applying for British citizenship. My daughter already has British citizenship and I have applied for permanent residency. I want us all to become British citizens.
My husband will be able to vote in the referendum as he is a Commonwealth citizen but I won't be able to. If I could vote I would want to stay in. I am worried that Britain could become isolated if it breaks from Europe.
I still have lots of ties to France. My parents are over there and I'm worried that leaving could make it more difficult to travel. My parents currently just use their French ID to come and visit us, but they may now need to pay for passports.
I don't think any of the campaign groups have been clear on what will happen to Europeans living in the UK if Britain votes to leave. I'm concerned that it may make it more difficult for students to travel. When I was younger I went to study in Spain for six months and it was such a good opportunity to open my mind and experience a different culture. I would hate to see that cut off.
Gianluca Galli, from Italy: I came across to the UK in 2008 to find work. I am now a software engineer and live in a flatshare in London. I love living in the city. You meet people from so many different cultures.
London is a city that gives opportunities to everyone who looks for them. I help organise courses through a website, where up to 30 people meet and share skills and use it for networking.
I have no plans to go back to Italy and hope I can continue to work here. I have a job so it may just be a case of getting a visa. London especially needs foreign workers.
If I could vote in the referendum I would vote to stay but I don't think Europe should stay as it is. Europe needs to change but I don't think Britain leaving would be the solution.
Pia Foss, from Denmark: I travelled to Britain in 1987 after I finished school. I wanted to improve my English and ended up staying here. I work in customer services in a museum and live in London.
After a few years, a Danish friend back home said she could tell I'd been living in England because I was more courteous. I like living in Britain as people are freer to do their own thing. I find the rest of Europe is quite conformist.
My three children were born in this country but they were all officially Danish citizens because although their father is British we weren't married. My eldest daughter, who is 23, became a British citizen a while ago but my youngest two haven't.
I'm worried about what will happen if we do leave Europe. If there were problems staying in Britain I guess I would apply for naturalisation, even though I still feel Danish. However, my youngest daughter is 17 and isn't sure what to do as she needs to consider that university education is free in Denmark.
I feel that we've been forgotten about in the debate. I've lived in Britain most of my life but I can't vote in the referendum. I think it shows a British attitude of not feeling part of Europe - we're not even part of the picture. The Remain Campaign seems to be scared to be passionate about being pro-Europe, instead they are presenting it as the lesser of two evils.
Reporting by Claire Bates
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