EU workers have revealed the heartache and uncertainty that has plagued their lives in the wake of leaked government documents suggesting that some may be kicked out of the UK just two years after Britain leaves the European Union.
In the same Home Office papers, it was revealed that the rules around bringing family to the UK could also be tightened, with the definition of “family member” made much narrower under new rules.
The outpouring of emotion was triggered by JK Rowling who pleaded with Brits to remember the human cost of Brexit.
Rowling told her 12.3 million Twitter followers on Wednesday that the “pain and anxiety” of those “who make a massive contribution to this country” must be heard.
The Harry Potter author shared an anger-ridden thread by French football journalist Phillipe Auclair, who said the “faceless” three million EU workers in Britain are “worried sick”.
“We don’t matter,” he continued. “We don’t have the right to vote in GE. We are of all creeds, ethnic backgrounds, social classes: in short: unrecognisable.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the lines are now clearly drawn,” Auclair added.
“We’ve been far too nice, far too polite with the people who wish to harm us.”
Other EU citizens also opened up about their experiences of living in Britain during Brexit negotiations, with some saying they have “never felt so marginalised”.
Polish-born Michal Siewniak, who has lived in the UK for 12 years, said yesterday’s revelation made him feel like “a second class citizen for the first time”.
Siewniak, a charity worker and former district councillor, told HuffPost UK that he and other EU citizens are “constantly portrayed as a problem”, adding “people aren’t recognising my contribution”.
“Despite paying taxes, speaking good English, being part of the political process, being elected, whatever I do is never enough.
“If I work, I take a job away from a British person,” he said. “If I go on benefits, it is wrong. You never win.”
Others took to social media to share their worries over their future in Britain:
A Spanish woman named Judith said she and her child are moving to her husband’s native Canada in a few months because they simply “can’t take it any more”, saying she has “no idea what’s going to happen”.
“Sad to leave, but no choice,” she wrote. “We are afraid they won’t renew his EU family permit after Brexit.”
Another European woman - who asked not to be named - told HuffPost UK that she hasn’t had a relationship since Brexit because she is so worried about having to leave Britain.
“I want to settle, I want to live without stress, find someone to share my life with,” the 40-year-old said. “I can’t do that.”
She continued: “Every day, friends tell me to hold tight. Every week, the government is proving to me how I’m not welcomed and shouldn’t assume I can settle here for the rest of my days.
“I’m heartbroken because I am a Londoner at heart. I was planning to live here my whole life,” she added.
In a second message on Twitter, Rowling suggested Brexiteers had “lied, denied, manipulated and misinformed” the public.
Sharing a post by Tory MP Daniel Hannan, she wrote: “The country’s polarised and the xenophobes are joyful.
“Britain, we’ve been Trumped.”