Children and young people are left feeling anxious and insecure, women and girls are victims of racism and sexism at work, school and on public transport, an even more negative rhetoric on immigration, disbelief, uncertainty and disappointment.
These are some of the situations that we have witnessed since the historic Brexit vote on 23rd June 2016.
Other consequences of the vote have been a divide between the young and old, between large cities and rural areas, places with high and low migration and other divisions that are affecting community cohesion.
This is the result that we have to grapple with, and our challenge now is to turn this negative situation into opportunity and hope.
What does this mean for Latin American migrant women and girls and Latin Americans in general? So far it has meant uncertainty, anxiety and also disappointment. It has also meant insecurity about acquired rights and about the future in general.
However, we can’t stay looking backwards, and instead we need to look forward to build the society that we believe in.
The women that use LAWRS’ services, have experienced increased levels of anxiety and many of our women and girls (also from other ethnic minorities) have been experiencing racism and sexism to unprecedented levels at places that they considered safe such as work, school and public transport.
According to our recently launched research, in partnership with Queen Mary University and Trust for London, Latin Americans are the second fastest growing ethnic minority in the UK mainly as a result of secondary migration from Southern Europe.
Therefore, Latin Americans feel insecure with regards to their immigration status in the UK and with their future.
As an organisation we have tried to inform our users about the vote and its consequences (as much as we can within the uncertain political climate), and have been trying to reassure them that it will take time for things to actually change and that hopefully EU migrant’s rights will be respected. We have in addition provided information about naturalisation.
We have also encouraged women and girls to report hate crime, to speak up and to unite efforts to stamp out racism and sexism.
We have joined efforts with other migrant’s and women’s organisations as well as key decision makers and have stepped up our policy and advocacy work to tackle hate crime and to protect EU migrant’s rights to ensure that women and girls can assert their rights as migrants and refugees in the UK.
However, within such a changing political context, the challenge is for all of us to make the best of the current situation and continue fighting and advocating for migrant rights and for the rights of those that are discriminated on multiple grounds.
It is essential that we all contribute to the society that we believe in and the one that we want for our girls and boys: an inclusive, diverse, tolerant and respectful society. We can’t invest in division, (even if this is sometimes tempting after the results of the Brexit vote and the very negative rhetoric on migration). We need to invest in unity and tolerance.
We need to understand those that feel isolated, marginalised and disenfranchised and that most people in the country are not racist. This only comes from a very small minority that now feel legitimised to express negative ideas and emotions. The “genie” has escaped from the lamp and we need to ensure that we put it back in.
As a migrant with more than 18 years in the UK, one of the things that I like the most about London is its multiculturalism, diversity and openness. It’s the fact that in every corner I can meet someone with a different accent, different life experience and I can learn something from all of this.
This is the London that I believe in. Let’s invest in this multicultural, diverse and open London.
Let’s speak up to stamp out racism and sexism and let’s continue advocating for our rights and the rights of those affected by intersectional discrimination. In the meantime, at LAWRS we will enhance our work on migrant women’s rights and those affected by multiple discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and migration status. (Photos: Pixabay)
*Carolina Gottardo: Director Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)