This Is Why We Need Commonwealth Free Movement

Rola Kamaleddine
November 2018: Leaving my London family after two years was the hardest goodbye of my life.

Imagine waking up on a Friday morning to the sound of birds chirping outside your little London home. You take a morning walk through the city you love and make your way to a job that gives you a sense of purpose and belonging— every adult’s dream. The clock strikes five and the city comes alive before your eyes, heightened by the overwhelming love you feel for the friends surrounding you. They are family away from family— and this is home.

Now imagine it all being ripped away because a date has expired on a little pink card, telling you that you have no choice but to go.

You wake up in a bed once familiar to you, but somehow it doesn’t feel right anymore. You stare up at the ceiling and think to yourself, “is it really all gone? That’s it?” It’s a strange feeling, allowing a life you love so deeply to abruptly stop, without the ability to do anything at all to change it.

I’m not the only one that has had her heart broken by a little plastic card.

While most people enjoy the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (Working Holiday) as a means to support travel in England and Europe, many others share similar tales of heartbreak after finding a home within their travels but being unable to stay after their visa expires. Building a home in a place you were never meant to stay is risky business.

But then I ask myself—is it really so wrong to lead a life in a country that isn’t your own?

This question lead me to CANZUK International- a leading non-profit organization which promotes closer ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. CANZUK believes in free movement and free trade between the four commonwealth countries, an initiative that will open up doors beyond anything we thought possible.

Suddenly, our lives will expand before our eyes, the possibilities of what we can build endless.

Life is dynamic and unpredictable—life is fleeting. So why are we expected to lead our lives based solely on the country in which we were born? Every single person is so complex and unique. Now imagine what we could achieve if we grew up knowing that a world full of opportunities was waiting for us; it completely changes the playing field.

We should be having smarter conversations about visa restrictions. Outside of the obvious exceptions like marriage, ancestry and refugee status, governments only consider the guaranteed economic benefit that someone brings into their country. When a company sponsors a foreign worker, they have to prove that they are the only person in the whole country who can fulfil the role, making that person a guaranteed addition to the economy. There is no consideration for things like personality or cultural fit within an organization, or potential progression. Restrictions like this say that any qualified employee is as good as another—while in reality, this isn’t the case. There is an undeniable difference between someone passionate, working in his or her ‘dream job’ than someone who is just qualified on paper to fulfil the role. This does injustice to not just employers, but also to each of us as human beings, fighting to keep afloat until we find something that ignites our deeper purpose in life.

There’s more to it than just economic benefits. We’re humans—we fall in love, we build significant friendships, we become involved in social activities and we long for a sense of belonging. Expecting every single person to find all of these things in the country they were born in is unrealistic. We aren’t robots; we shouldn’t be programmed to simply make do with who and what we have when there are so many different formulas to a good life. It’s too black and white to not consider these things in immigration matters.

All of these reasons are why CANZUK matters. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom share many characteristics that make this initiative realistic and feasible— it really is something within reach for our generation and onwards.

I don’t have words to explain what it felt like for me to leave London when I wasn’t ready. Saying goodbye to the people I love so deeply and to a city that embodies everything I work towards when I open my eyes is just as painful four months later as the day I left.

What life would you choose if you had the opportunity to decide?

You can learn more about the CANZUK movement at www.canzukinternational.com and sign the CANZUK Freedom of Movement petition here