She is not an EU citizen. But the tale is worth telling to those who wonder where Brexit is taking us. What she has to say relates closely to the immigration debate as appropriated by the Rees-Mogg fan club. For them she’s an economic migrant. But such de-humanising and generalising about non-British citizens misses the main point: how many of these non-British have been brilliant for Britain and what Britain has given them.
For 20 years she has been a carer in West London social services. She’s one of those who, with competence and grace, keep the NHS and social services going. Yet people like her, whether EU or non-EU, will find it much harder to enter Britain post Brexit. And maybe the way things are going many will not want to come anyway – see the disastrous nurse recruitment figures.
Since the moment she could ‘speak English’ she has worked mostly with the old and fragile. Today she has a few moments to talk. Her 30 minute slot for the patient is complete. She mentions the old couple she helps as a good neighbour on her days off, her pride in her 13 year old ‘who is top in everything at school’ and why she’ll go back to Peru the moment she retires and the boys will be off her hands.
‘It’s terrible to be old in England, shut in your home because of the dark and the rain. Back in Peru I’ll be sitting in the sun in the village street where everyone knows everyone and stops to chat. And I’ve planned everything’. At present that is matter of after-tax remittances and medical supplies sent home to her ailing mother because ‘people in Peru are poor yet everything in health care costs so much’. But the longer term is taken care of too. The family have saved for and built their retirement home.
‘I have planned it all’ picking up on her professional experience in geriatrics. That include the ramp already been put in between the house and garden.
We should note that UK taxpayer won’t pay for her old age – which is one in the eye for the anti-immigrant brigade. And more important surely, she’ll take back something we should ourselves be proud of: the knowledge, skills and authority she has acquired for having made the leap to leave her country and plunge into another culture, elements of which she’ll eventually take back to Peru.
And we could say the same for almost every EU citizen – or ‘migrant’ as they will be if Brexit goes through. Another reason for us all to do our bit to #Stop Brexit.