'I felt betrayed': EU nationals on working in social care after the Brexit vote

Sue Learner
Theresa May has refused to guarantee the rights of approximately 3.3 million EU nationals living in the UK. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP

Article 50 has been triggered, beginning the countdown to the UK’s exit from the European Union. Yet none of the 92,000 EU nationals working in the care sector here are any the wiser as to how it will affect them.

So far, Theresa May has refused to guarantee the rights of approximately 3.3 million EU nationals currently living in the UK, with campaign groups claiming they are being used as “bargaining chips”. These people are living in limbo.

It is “very, very stressful, especially not knowing what is going to happen in the future”, says Egle Viskantaite, a homecare worker from Lithuania, “I love my job.”

She adds: “When they announced the result of the EU referendum I was extremely upset. It was horrible. Some of my clients cried because they knew the impact it could have on me. Some people from the EU are leaving, and some of my friends have already left as they don’t feel welcome here anymore. I don’t feel very safe here. If they don’t want me to stay, I won’t fight to stay. I would be very sad though.”

Beata Czapla from Poland, an assistant manager at a care home for people with learning disabilities, hopes that because she has been here for nine years, she will be allowed to remain in the UK. She thinks Brexit “will affect the care sector, as there are so many EU care workers here and there is a shortage as it is. It can be hard to find people who like working in a care home. Being a care worker is not an easy job.

I ​never applied for citizenship as I never thought I would need it

Joan Pons Laplana

“There are a lot of Polish people in the UK and I know some have suffered racism, both before and after the EU referendum. I have never experienced any racism directed towards me. Everyone is always very friendly.”

Joan Pons Laplana, a transformation nurse in Derbyshire, left Spain 17 years ago to come and live in the UK.

“There weren’t any jobs in Spain so I answered an ad looking for nurses to come to England,” he says. “I never applied for citizenship as I never thought I would need it. I have a British wife and my children were born here. Now the cost of applying has gone up, just as has the cost of living and NHS salaries have been frozen, so I don’t have that kind of money.

“My son felt very angry when they announced the result to leave the EU last year. When I heard the result I felt in shock and betrayed. I sat on the sofa and I couldn’t move.

It is easy to blame immigrants for your standard of living, unemployment or lack of housing, but this rhetoric has led to open racism. Racism existed before but it was underground. Now people feel it is acceptable to be racist.”

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