Northern Ireland

Brexit: Day of mixed emotions for EU nationals in Northern Ireland

Dominic Jansen, Natalie Trinh, Dr Judyta Szacillo and Fotis Papailias
Image caption Dominic Janssen, Natalie Trinh, Dr Judyta Szacillo and Fotis Papailias

It was a day of mixed emotions for EU nationals living in Northern Ireland.

However, the overriding sentiment seemed to be that of disappointment at a decision to leave the union which has guaranteed their right to travel, work and settle within the UK for four decades.

Polish national Dr Judyta Szacillo, who has been living and working in Belfast for almost 11 years, expressed sadness at the outcome.

"I know some in the Polish community were in favour of Brexit, but for me and my friends, it feels, in a way, like losing a part of our identity," she said.

"Yes, we have our home country, but we have made Northern Ireland our home too, and it's devastating to think our two countries will no longer be united within the European Union.

"This is not just about economics - on an emotional level it's very symbolic for us.

"It feels like half of the UK are basically telling us they don't want us here.

"Thankfully, my good friends in Northern Ireland and my colleagues don't make me feel like that, but it hurts that others do."

Dr Szacillo now plans to apply for UK citizenship.

"It's been in my mind for years as something I want to do, but it never felt urgent. Now things have changed and as soon as I get the £1,000 I need to apply for it, I'll do it."

Image caption The Northern Ireland leave campaign celebrates

Dominic Janssen, a German project manager in the the pharmaceutical industry, who is married to a Northern Ireland woman and settled in Belfast, described the result as "a step back in time to a more separate, darker Europe".

"Europe has been working together for unity for decades after the 1940s," said Mr Janssen.

"Growing together and working together felt like building a better, more prosperous, and peaceful world in Europe.

"The UK was a strong partner for Europe. It felt very personal to me because if this had happened seven years ago, I may never have been able to move here.

"In the pharmaceutical company I work for, a significant number are not from the UK and we trade a lot with European clients.

"Foreign nationals make a valuable contribution to the company I work for and I hope the result from today will have no impact on this."

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Image caption Sinn Féin reacts to the Brexit announcement

Greek national Fotis Papailias has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for four years and has been a resident of the UK for nine.

A lecturer in finance at Queen's University Management School, Dr Papailias was philosophical about the outcome of the referendum.

"I believe those EU nationals who have been paying their taxes in the UK for three years or more have nothing to fear," he said.

Image copyright Queen's University
Image caption Dr Fotis Papailias said those EU nationals who have been paying their taxes in the UK for three years or more have nothing to fear

"In Greece today, many of the headlines are expressing fear about the Greek tourist industry and how Brexit will damage it.

"Of course, uncertainty brings turmoil to financial markets, but I believe that, with the right people making responsible decisions from here on in, things will settle down.

"Things may not change as radically as many believe.

"If there are no further referendums - in Scotland for example, or a border poll in Northern Ireland - things should stabilise in the long-term."

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Image caption Customs outside Newry, County Down, in the 1980s

French marketing account executive Natalie Trinh said she would consider moving to the Republic of Ireland in the wake of the result.

"It's such a shame," she said. "We just don't know what to expect now, my friends are worried as everything is up in the air.

"I would consider moving to the south for my career if I had no choice but I'm happy here - this is where I feel settled.

"I can apply for UK citizenship next year as I've been here four years, but for those who can't, it's difficult."

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Voters went to the polls on Thursday

Spanish dentist Jokin Egana, who lives and works in Belfast, said the result was a huge disappointment, but not a surprise.

"Unfortunately, I felt an element of xenophobia confused the campaign - to me, it seemed to appeal to racist sentiments by implying that foreigners are all on benefits.

"The foreign nationals I have met in Northern Ireland are extremely hard workers who contribute to the economy and pay their taxes.

"I felt very offended when the Leave campaign tried to suggest that we were a drain on the economy."

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