I’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter posts and the like from EU nationals who have been struggling with the horrors of navigating the UK immigration system, trying to obtain their permanent residence permits after decades of enjoying (largely) restriction-free stay in this country.

I am sympathetic to their stress and the torment of waiting for months without a passport for a response that may or may not bring relief. But there is another, less magnanimous, part of me that is thinking, “Welcome to the world the rest of us immigrants have been experiencing for years.” The stack of paper I submitted to the UK Border Agency from 2004 to 2013 probably fills an entire filing cabinet drawer, not to mention the ~£6000 they received from me for the pleasure of applying for visas, visa renewals, permanent residency, and naturalisation. Yes, those latter two are separate and have gigantic fees attached. Did you know you have to wait a year after submitting your permanent residency application before you can again have the pleasure of submitting your naturalisation application, which isn’t any shorter and is also even more expensive? Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I suggest*, therefore, the UKBA replace all of this absurd bureaucracy with some simple, realistic questions and a thirty-minute interview with a border agent. And so I give you:

Immigration Tests, The Microlit Version

Refugee/asylum seeker: "Have you suffered enough for us to let you in?"
Entrepreneur/investor: “Are you rich enough for us to let you in?”
Highly-skilled worker: "Has someone else paid for your education so that we can reap the benefits?"
Low-skilled worker: “Sorry, no.”
Spouse: "Can you and/or your partner afford to pay for your love to exist?"
Aged family member of immigrant: “Can you or your children afford to support you? Actually, even if you/they can, the answer’s still no.

* with a heavy dose of sarcasm
nanila: me (Default)
( Nov. 17th, 2016 12:53 pm)
It occurs to me that, while I’ve been very slow to begin to read long-form writing (e.g. novels & non-fiction longer than magazine articles) again, I’ve actually been watching quite a bit more new stuff than I have since before Humuhumu was born. Mostly since I no longer have to go to bed before 10 PM every night because I'm so tired. There are some spoilers here for "Planet Earth II", "Frozen" and "Paddington". The other reviews are of documentaries or are spoiler-free.

~~~Television~~~
Planet Earth II: Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, of course. I have to admit, I giggled all the way through the snow leopard sequences because I couldn’t stop thinking of that sketch from “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme”, which features a cameraman and a biologist with absolutely nothing in common, stuck up a mountain together for six months. Eventually they find common ground in mocking Sir David for continuing to narrate all these grand BBC nature programmes after retiring from field work. “We should just get an ordinary leopard and Tipp-Ex it!” “Or get an albino serval and do potato prints on him!” Er, anyway, the scope and cinematography of the programme are excellent, as one would expect, and it is fantastic at the end of the day to soar with the eagles, face-plant into the snow with a bobcat, or cheer on a baby iguana as it navigates a treacherous run through a perilous, snake-strewn obstacle course.

The Missing: This is one of those crime drama programmes that felt like it was going to be a two-or-three parter and then wrap up neatly. The BBC does that sort of thing brilliantly. The first two episodes were wonderfully suspenseful and quite scary.

Now that we’re six episodes in, it’s all gone a bit silly. I’m still on the fence with whether I’m on board with that, given how unlikeable most of the protagonists are.

Masterchef: The Professionals: Let’s be real now, I mostly watch this because of Monica Galetti, who pulls the best faces and is also, despite the lack of Michelin stars, a better chef than Mr Beardface aka Marcus Wareing. He thinks he’s the best judge on the show when he’s clearly entirely limited his tastes to fine French cuisine. Monica not only has that expertise, she also has palate that is capable of appreciating more diverse flavours. And she has the best hair.

My investment in this programme is a pale shadow of my love of Bake Off [RIP]. It peaked during the “normal” Masterchef in 2013, the year that Natalie Coleman won.

~~~Film~~~
Frozen: Aaargh. I’ve seen it a few times now. I don’t love it. Too many dreadful sappy songs, not enough ridiculous snowman and reindeer dialogue. Humuhumu likes it, though she thinks the ice monster is too scary, which is why a parent has to watch it with her. Presently I’m being heavily questioned about why Hans wants to steal Elsa and Anna’s kingdom. Gosh it’s fun explaining to a four-year-old what powerful motivators greed and a lust for power can be.

Paddington: Happily, Humuhumu loves this film almost as much as Frozen, though she thinks the naughty lady (Nicole Kidman’s character) is scary. I don’t mind rewatching it with her, as it's a pretty blatant parable about the positive effects of immigration. She asks a lot of questions every time it’s on, trying to understand the moral implications of what’s happening. The last time we watched it, I had to tell her no less than ten times that no, Uncle Pastuzo wasn’t coming back, because a tree fell on him during the earthquake and he died before he could get to the shelter.

The Take: The timing of the cinema release of the film (Bastille Day 2016, the day a freshly radicalised Tunisian man drove a lorry through a crowd in Nice, France) was awful, especially given the premise - terrorism by white people is subsequently erroneously blamed on Muslims. I enjoyed this. It was action-packed, well-paced and featured a lot of Idris Elba. What’s not to like? It was also entirely forgettable; the week after we watched it, I had difficulty remembering the title. If anyone was looking for further proof that Idris Elba should be James Bond, this adds to the already enormous stack of evidence.

The Man Who Knew Infinity: The bloke and I are both great fans of G. H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology, which lays out the working and personal relationships between S. Ramanujan and Hardy from Hardy’s perspective. This biopic attempts to show the same from Ramanujan’s. There are some great character portrayals of Bertrand Russell and John Littlewood. The film makes an effort to illustrate how the combined impact of Ramanujan’s isolation from sympathetic peers, loneliness at the long separation from his wife, poor physical condition, and Hardy’s drive to make him rigorously prove his theories, drive him to an early grave. It gives flavour for some of the barriers he faced in the form of obvious institutional and societal racism and the more subtle, unintentional racism of his allies, as exemplified by the little scene where Hardy asks Ramanujan if he enjoyed the college dinner (mutton, which Ramanujan didn’t eat because he was vegetarian). But it falls short, somehow.

Hypernormalisation: The bloke and I watched this three-hour documentary in the run-up to the US election. It’s pretty epic in scope as well as length, as it attempts to draw together historical decisions to explain how we’ve arrived at the present stage of “post-truth” politics. Its narrative begins with the ostracisation of the Syrian government by western powers and heavily leans on the use of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi as a pawn in a game of global distraction as well as the normalisation of the use of suicide bombers in modern warfare. There are a lot of diversions, including Jane Fonda and artificial intelligence research, which feed into the narrative with varying degrees of comprehensibility. The soundtrack is great (lots of Nine Inch Nails), although it feels like there are a few too many lingering shots of dismembered bodies. That said, I’d recommend it if you have the stomach, because it provides a compelling argument for the way ill-conceived political maneuvering has brought us to the stage where Donald Trump proved a viable candidate for the US presidency. It doesn’t offer any solutions, so it’s a pretty bleak viewing experience, although you may derive a certain hopeless satisfaction in contemplating becoming a devotee of nihilism afterward. Watch it for free on iPlayer here. Viewing requires a UK-based IP address.
nanila: (tachikoma: broken)
( Jun. 16th, 2016 08:46 pm)
A little over a year ago, I wrote this, about what I wanted from the UK government. After the general election, I did something I’d consciously rejected all my adult life: I joined a political party. Slowly, verry slowly, I’ve been getting involved in my local party’s activities. I attended a meeting for the first time about a month ago, about campaigning for the Remain side on the EU referendum.

Now, in my constituency, joining any party other than the Conservatives could be seen as a bit of a jolly. Put it this way: Sajid Javid (Business Secretary) is my MP. He toes the party line so hard it’s a wonder he’s not permanently wearing sandals. But still, for me, a naturally cautious person, it was a big step. Even working myself up to entertaining the idea of campaigning for a political cause took me far outside my comfort zone.

Some of that caution has been trained into me. Many scientists discourage their proteges from being actively political. The message that’s tacitly (and sometimes overtly) drilled into us is that politics is for people who are willing to make bold, brash statements and even change laws based on very little evidence or popular sentiment. This idea is anathema to scientists, who are taught to prize the acquisition of repeatable results and well-considered, demonstrable precepts above all things. It takes months or even years to even think of putting possible conclusions based on those results before your peers.Politicians simply don’t have that kind of time to make decisions.

Anyway, my point is that for the first time in my life, I was actually willing to, however remotely, entertain the notion of running for a political office.

And then, today, Jo Cox MP, who has been outspokenly supportive of refugees and campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, was killed in the street by a man who allegedly shouted “Britain First”* as he committed the crime.

Jo Cox is, apparently, the first MP to be murdered since Ian Gow, who was killed by a car bomb planted by the IRA. In 1990.

Jo Cox is a woman only a couple of years older than I am. Jo Cox is survived by her husband and two small children, aged three and five.

So if you’re asking, is this heinous crime going to put women off of the idea of becoming active in politics? I can assure you that the answer is yes.

* an ultra-right political group
And now, my friends, the 15-year LJ-versary celebrations continue, with the flip side: The Five Best Things About Being an Immigrant.

5. You get to act as sole representative of your entire country

If you’re thinking, oh hang on though, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a pattern for the entire list.

I have discovered, after many years of developing thick enough skin to see this as an opportunity to get a little of my own back, how to turn people’s perceptions to my own advantage. For instance, if I tell an English person I’m from Hawai’i, there is a 35% chance they don’t realise that Hawai’i is part of the United States. I’m not kidding. Americans have a reputation for being bad at geography, and deservedly so. But even though the current US President is from Hawai’i, there are a lot of people who think, “fabulous foreign holiday destination!” and don’t connect it to the USA. So they get to tell me, “I thought you looked exotic/Polynesian/etc” and then squee to me about beaches and honeymoons, and I sit there smiling and imagining what I could get away with telling them now that they have literally no idea that I’m American. I don’t do it, but it is fun to think about.

Assuming, however, that they do recognise I’m American, I can get into conversations about their perceptions of the USA. 90% of the time, if they’ve been there, it’s to New York or Florida. Their memories of those holidays are almost overwhelmingly positive. If the conversation is long enough, I sometimes have the opportunity to point out gently that prejudices about Americans don’t correlate well with their actual experiences of the people or the country. Or, more subtly, by sharing my love of England and travels in Europe, I can in a small way help to combat the assumption that all Americans are nationalistic xenophobes who believe blindly in the superiority of their way of life.

4. Your relationships with natives are hard-earned and incredibly precious

As you no longer have local friends with whom you’ve grown up, gone to school, worked, played sport with or otherwise spent leisure time with, you are starting from the beginning with everyone you meet. You have to build on the shared experiences you generate from the moment of your arrival. You also have to be conscious that the cues you’ve used in the past to pass judgement on, for instance, how welcome you are in a gathering or how worthy a person is of your confidence and affection, might need re-calibration for your new culture. And of course, the usual general social rules surrounding not being too clingy or emotionally demanding of your nascent circle of acquaintances still apply, at a time when you’re probably feeling intensely lonely. So you tiptoe cautiously around, hopefully reaching out to people, sometimes being rebuffed or ignored and trying not to take it to heart. Eventually your weekends are booked up and you have people you can ask to the pub or the theatre or the cinema without hesitation. Or who might even desire your company enough to invite you along. Perhaps you won’t recognise that you’ve made friends until you start to be able to choose to be alone if you want to be, rather than having solitude be your default state.

I can still very clearly remember the first time that I realised I had actually succeeded in acquiring a group of trustworthy, kind, generous British friends whose company was richly rewarding. I’m not going to write about it in a public post, but suffice it to say that it reduced me to tears.

3. Your resilience and adaptability are strengthened beyond what you thought possible

It’s commonly believed that among the most stressful occurrences in adult life are moving house, changing jobs, ending relationships and having children. Immigrating lets you inflict the first two of those on yourself simultaneously whilst putting tremendous pressure on your relationships. (It doesn’t force you to have children, thank goodness.) And - assuming you’re not a refugee or victim of forced migration - you’ve volunteered for it. On the positive side, you have time to prepare as much as possible in a physical sense. If you’re moving at the behest of your employer, you likely have financial and practical relocation support. Once you’ve arrived in your new home, though, you’re largely on your own. You have to forge a way forward into the vast unfamiliarity that stretches around you on all sides. So you do it, every day. You wake up and the wave of uncertainty and panic and isolation crashes over you, but you shower and dress and you make yourself go outside into that unknown territory full of worryingly unknowable people. With the right combination of determination and luck, eventually you win yourself a measure of comfort and a sense of community.

The most difficult test of my own resilience and adaptability with respect to the decision to immigrate permanently is ongoing. Every day that passes is another day in which my children are immersed in my adopted, not native, culture. I am hopeful that the environment that my partner and I have created for them is a rich and diverse place, and that they will be able to pick and choose elements of their nationalities and associated cultures that make them kind and happy people. But only time will tell.

2. You get to redefine yourself

As you learn about your adopted culture, you can embrace the elements that you enjoy, from tiny things like putting milk in your tea and going to the pub after work (without setting off a slew of concern trolling about what must be incipient alcoholism), to big ones, like believing in the ultimate good of a socialised health care system. You can revel in the pleasure of throwing off the oppressive shackles of your native culture and past experience. You can carve out a new identity, one which integrates the desirable remnants of your old self with the traits and behaviours you admire in your new culture and are trying to emulate. While striving to understand those around you, you are becoming more accepting of yourself.

Before this descends into a morass of woo (maybe it's too late...): you also get to smoothly and relatively painlessly sever communication with those irritating acquaintances and relatives whom you could never shake off when you lived thousands of miles closer, as part of this redefinition. I’m definitely not advocating immigration as a first-choice method for selective bridge-burning, but there is a certain petty satisfaction in it being an inevitable side effect.

1. You are living your dream

I must caveat this as well: it does not apply to refugees and victims of forced migration. However, for those of us who have always wanted to live in our adopted countries, it is a hard-won accomplishment and an honour and a pleasure to be admitted into it. You have achieved a thing: immigration. It was a difficult and painful thing as well as a joyous and a valuable thing. You made a dream into your reality.
I’ve decided to kick off the 15-year LJ-versary celebration with the most negative topic from last Friday’s Unscientific Poll. That way it can only go uphill from here. Neat, huh? So, without further ado: The Five Worst Things About Being an Immigrant.

5. You get to act as sole representative of your entire country

There’s nothing quite like chilling out with a relaxing beer after work with your English friends or colleagues, and suddenly being asked to explain:
  • American gun culture
  • The Iraq war
  • Guantanamo
  • Republicans
  • Donald Trump
  • Insert incomprehensible & idiotic thing Americans have been or done that they’ve encountered most recently here


This is jarring enough, but it pales in comparison to how much worse it would be to be, say, a visibly Muslim woman and asked to explain Islamist terrorists. Or spat on. Which, by the way, I have been, by a stranger, allegedly for speaking with an American accent.

4. You get to act as sole representative of all immigrants - and none

This sounds contradictory, but stay with me.

English people can instantly recognise that I was not raised in the UK when I speak. Despite this, I have often been in close proximity of discussions about immigrants as an abstract group rather than a group of people to which I belong. This is because I (mostly) conform to Western standards as befits a woman of my age in matters of attire and verbal and visual presentation. I have a well-paid job and an English partner, and while a person I’ve only just met might not know either of these things immediately, they will naturally assume from my demeanour and confidence that I am the sort of person who will be agreeable about - to their minds - the undisputable fact that there is too much immigration into Britain because “it’s far too easy to come to this country”, a myth I am quite happy to eviscerate.

Because I spent over ten years working here on various types of permit, and during that time I could not claim benefits. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I note also that I was steadily paying into the benefits system throughout this time. I could not quit my job or be made redundant without having another job lined up, because if you do lose your job on an employer-sponsored visa, you have to find another within 28 days or leave the country. The visa rules changed every time I had to renew (every 2-3 years), so every time I had to fill in a completely revamped 75-100 page form which suddenly wanted to know if I’d had at least £800 in my various bank accounts for the past 12 months. (On the subsequent renewal, that requirement was taken away.) The waiting times for work visa renewals went from six weeks to six months between 2004 and 2012. A lot of times, a working immigrant’s work visa will run out before a renewal has been processed. As long as you still have your job, this is fine, but if you lose your job in the meantime, you’re stuffed. That’s not at all stressful, nope. Oh, and a work visa went from costing about £350 in 2004 to nearly £1000 in 2012. And then there’s permanent residency (£1000+) and naturalisation (£1000+). So immigration to Britain is not “easy”. It’s an expensive, painfully bureaucratic and difficult process.

If you speak English fluently and are white or not quite brown enough to be threatening (hi!), then you’re told “Oh, but I don’t think of you as an immigrant”. Which is 100% intended as a comforting compliment and has entirely the opposite effect on the recipient. The logistical acrobatics required to perform this act of exceptionalism allow the speaker to retain the perception of theoretical immigrants as benefit-scrounging job-thieves rather than attempting to change their views based on the actual immigrant in front of them. There you sit, having declared yourself to be a representative of immigrants to people who refuse to believe that you are one. It’s a cartload of joy, let me tell you.

3. You will never, ever fit in completely

Through careful study and behavioural modification, you can succeed in adopting enough observed traits to integrate into your new culture. You’ll probably have to, if you want to be happy during your stay. If you immigrate late enough in life, as I have done - well past childhood and even early adulthood - it’s unlikely you’ll be able to adopt perfect enough mimicry to have an undetectable accent. Even if you can, through having a very good ear and/or being a professional voice actor, you may not wish to. (I neither wish to nor am I able.) So if you decide to settle, if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford the exorbitant fees involved in repeated visa renewals, settlement fees and naturalisation, you have to accept that as soon as you open your mouth, native inhabitants of your chosen homeland will know that you were born a foreigner. You are choosing a lifetime of unease.

2. You cannot easily recover fluency with your homeland

Some immigrants, like myself, are able to accumulate sufficient sources of happiness that the aforementioned discomfort fades to a fairly mild, constant, background hum. I can also afford to make occasional visits to the land of my birth. However, as the years pass, it becomes more difficult to slide back into a set of cultural norms with which you had instinctive familiarity. When you visit your original homeland, your family and friends tell you your accent sounds British. Strangers begin to assume that you are. You forget your native vocabulary. Things that you could once do without a second thought - tip appropriately at a restaurant, greet a sales assistant in a shop, open a conversation with an innocuous comment about the price of petrol-I-mean-gas - require a conscious effort. Eventually it dawns on you that if you were to move back, you might actually not be able to recover a complete sense of belonging.

1. You have to rebuild your entire support structure

If you are lucky enough to be able to choose to immigrate as a full-grown adult - and I say “lucky” because if you’re choosing it, that means you’re not fleeing a war, you have sufficient money and skills to qualify for a dearly priced legal work visa and you’re likely fluent in the dominant language - then you are most probably signing up to living away from your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your niecephews and all of your until-now physically close friends. You must learn to navigate new tax, medical, legal and social support structures. You may even have to re-qualify to do things you’ve taken for granted for many years, like drive a car. And you have to do these things all at once, while trying to make new friends whom you’re constantly fearful of alienating because you cannot correctly read social cues, which may be blatantly obvious to natives but are often imperceptibly subtle to immigrants. I’m not exaggerating when I say that immigration is a traumatic experience, even for affluent economic migrants.

So why do we do it? Find out in the next installment: The Five Best Things About Being an Immigrant.
My friend Holly ([personal profile] hollymath) is writing a book about being an immigrant. Like me, Holly has lived in the UK for many years as an immigrant and has written poignant posts on the subject, as can be seen the foreignness tag on her DW. She has a gift for voicing thoughts for which I often struggle to find the words.

The Kickstarter for her book, Duel for Citizenship, has just 12 hours left. It can be found here. Most levels of support include a copy of the book as an incentive. If you can support her project, which I see as a vital response to the clamour of toxic and xenophobic anti-immigrant/refugee rhetoric currently dominating the public narrative, I would appreciate it too.
I'm a migrant. I came to the UK in search of new opportunities, a new job and a better life. I came on an aeroplane. I had a visa. And I was lucky enough to find all of those things.

A refugee is not a migrant. A refugee is someone who is so desperate they'll pay their life savings to put their toddler on a leaky boat in the sea on the slim chance they'll find safety somewhere else. Even the thought of having to do that to my children makes me physically ill. No one does that who is not at the absolute end of hope. No one.

It makes me ill that the British government's position is that it has been doing enough to help these people. Yes. By doing such helpful things as cancelling funding for the boat rescue service that could have prevented them from drowning. Very helpful. Because you don't have to offer asylum to corpses.
nanila: (kusanagi: amused)
( Sep. 3rd, 2015 08:16 am)
So yesterday was my first day back in the London office since I went on leave. There were many pleased-yet-awkward greetings with my work colleagues, but this exchange took the cake.

Me: *goes for hug*
Him: *proffers hand*
Me: *already has left arm around one shoulder, but tries to proffer right hand anyway*
Him: *sees me going for hug, aims for kiss on cheek*
Me: *realises too late that kiss on cheek is option, kiss ends up somewhere in the air over my opposite shoulder*
Both: *give up on the attempt, step apart and carry on with embarrassed mumbly verbal greetings*

The best part: he's originally Polish and I'm originally American. Oh, Britain. This is what you do to your immigrants. We used to know how to greet people smoothly and confidently. And now we can't. THANKS A BUNCH
With a little over a week to go before the UK General Election of 2015, I find myself getting steadily more depressed about politics, as the large parties continue to frame the choices between them as a dismal game of "Who's going to do the least damage to the country in the short term?"

This is what I want out of the UK government.

I want them to ensure that the nearly one million people who had to use food banks this year can pay for their groceries every month. (In 2008-2009, a mere 25,000 people used food banks. Which is still too many, but the scale of the increase in six years is mind-boggling.)

I want them to ensure that we can point proudly to a benefit system that supports and cares for those in our society who cannot work. I do not care whether they have ever made an economic contribution. I do not care how old they are. I want them to have a roof over their heads, medicines, heating in the winter and food in their bellies. Shockingly (it seems), I even believe that they should be allowed to be a bit frivolous and say, enjoy watching television, owning a pair of fashionable shoes or wasting time on the internet.

I want them to ensure that the increasingly massive imbalance in wealth distribution is stopped. I'm sick of being told that we could all be ultra-rich if we just tried harder. (Side note: Every time I see George Osborne, apart from throwing up in my mouth a little, I think of Denholm Reynholm from The IT Crowd giving a motivational speech to his employees. "When I started [Reynholm Industries] all I had was a dream!...And six million pounds." Except less inspirational because he doesn't even have the self-awareness to make that joke.) It is simply untrue, even for those of us who were born with sufficient privilege and good health to have led a comfortable existence in the middle class. There are plenty of people who will never work a job that pays more than minimum wage. Instead of blaming them for failing to alter the large-scale machinations of the economy, perhaps we could just pay them a minimum wage that pays the bills. And perhaps we could tax the ultra-rich sufficiently so that the ultra-rich cease to exist as a socioeconomic class. This should not be impossible. I don't understand why the very idea of it seems to be anathema now.

I want them to stop propagating the myth that the country's economic problems stem from its immigration policies. There is plenty of evidence out there to suggest that all immigration ("skilled" or otherwise) has a net positive effect on the economy, so I'm not going to bang on about that now. Instead, I will just reference my personal experience. I spent 10 years as an immigrant here. I've been in multiple visa classes over that time, in the following order:
  • Domestic partner (I came over with an American partner who took a transfer from the LA to the London office of his company)
  • Employer-sponsored work permit
  • Highly Skilled Migrant (became Tier 1)
  • Tier 1 (for which I would now no longer qualify since the income threshold was raised to £150,000/annum)

As a non-EEA (European Economic Area) migrant, I was never able to claim benefits, and if I ever lost my job, I had 28 days to find another one before I'd've had to leave the country. I spent the bulk of the 10 years in paid work, making regular NI contributions above the basic tax rate. Not only that, the visa system itself is a great money-spinner for Britain. With the exception of the employer-sponsored work permit, I (and my British partner, because he loves me and wants me to, you know, stay here and help raise our children) have paid out of pocket for all of my visas and renewals, for my Indefinite Leave to Remain, and most recently, for citizenship. The total cost is over £6000. So in addition to the money that my job naturally generated for the British economy, I voluntarily gave six grand to the UK Border Agency just for the right to continue to live here. I would imagine that most people could think of a lot of other stuff they'd rather do with six grand. To be honest, so can I, but I was willing to make the sacrifice in order to stay. And I am 100% certain that mine is not the only story like this.

I want them to keep the UK in the European Union. There are good political reasons for staying in the EU, but for me, one important factor, unsurprisingly, is SCIENCE. Without the UK's participation in the EU, a lot of large-scale multimillion pound research collaborations (e.g. high-profile space missions and a certain large particle physics experiment) would either fall apart or the UK would have to withdraw from them. Additionally, I'd love to hear how the parties trumpeting about an EU exit and closing borders to immigration would plan to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of British persons living abroad who would very likely be ejected in retaliation from the countries where they're presently residing.

I want them to address the housing shortage, which is increasingly looking as if it's going to screw nearly everyone's children out of ever owning a home for the next several decades. I want to see, for instance, the long-dead boarded-up shops on the high streets, which are never going to reopen because internet shopping, turned into nice flats and small parks. Bonus points if they're council flats, or rent-controlled if they're owned privately, so that private renters aren't paying more than 50% of their wage packets to their landlords to live in minimally maintained hovels.

Why does it have to be the case that believing in these things seems to mark one as a hopeless, unrealistic idealist? Is it all truly impossible to achieve? Why do we shrug our shoulders at an increasingly unequal and unfair status quo? One that, if it carries on as it's going, will mean that our children (and also many of us who are in our thirties and forties) will never be able to pay off their student loans, to own homes or to stop working when they get old, let alone believe that they'll have pensions or a health care system that will support them when they can't? It can't be too late to stop that from happening, can it?
The conversation with the taxi driver began innocuously enough. We chatted about the nice weather. He said he hoped it would continue as he was going on holiday in a couple of weeks. I replied that we were as well, to Turkey, for the first time. He said he loved Turkey because of the food and the hot weather and the people and how he’d thought about moving there but --

“They’re really strict on immigration laws.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Well, you can’t just move there and get a job. You have to prove that you’re not taking a job from a Turkish person. So if you want to open a restaurant, you can be the owner, but you have to train and employ all Turkish people. You can go around and greet customers, shake hands, be seen, but you can’t cook or wait tables or even be seen sweeping up after it shuts or they’ll close you down. I completely agree with that idea because it means the jobs created all go to the Turkish locals.”

I considered my reply carefully. “That’s how the visa system works here, too, for non-EEA* migrants.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. When I got my first job here, my employers had to prove that they couldn’t find a British candidate with my skills in order to obtain a visa**.”

“I didn’t know they bothered with that.”

“Yes, they do. It’s not easy to get a visa even if you have highly specialised skills like mine.”

“Well, I think Turkey have got it right. Everyone should have to do that no matter where they’re from. We don’t need more people doing stuff like going over to Spain to work part-time in a bar. We have enough people to do all the unskilled jobs here.”

Thankfully we arrived at my destination before the seemingly inevitable “and that’s why I’m voting UKIP”. /o\

* European Economic Area. Americans are non-EEA migrants, although most British people seem to think that "non-EEA migrant" == "asylum seeker". Oh and by the way the immigration system is just as draconian for asylum seekers as it is for other non-EEA migrants.
** Tier 2. It is now even more difficult to obtain a Tier 2 visa even through an employer like mine, a top-ranked academic research institution. More and more positions, even post-doctoral ones, are advertised with the proviso that applicants must already have the right to work in the UK.
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