I am fortunate enough to hold a red passport, but I am, by most standards, an immigrant. I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and have witnessed first hand the catastrophic effects of terrorism, gang wars and political upheaval. Gay friends of mine have been murdered for merely mentioning (to their closest friends) the possibility of them not being straight. The women I grew up with have gone through the travesties of an extremely patriarchal society, and I am no stranger to losing loved ones to horrific terrorist attacks.
I ran away to Britain with my mother and sisters when I was 15.
The UK saved me from a childhood of watching them tormented by the pressures that came with living in one of the world's most dangerous cities. The pressures of class, patriarchy, political and religious intolerance and underlying abuse within the confines of our own home.
The UK saved my family.
It gave us security and the warmth of opportunity.
Over the past few years I have graduated, started my own clothing line, worked in a variety of industries, in an even greater variety of roles. I have been busy trying to reign in my confused graduate mind toward focusing on alleviating the perils that come with adulthood. However, news of the EU referendum last year gave way to an interest in politics that I have never felt before. An opportunity to Brexit was a matter that finally catered to my ideologies of a more open, democratic and global Britain.
Here was an opportunity for Britain to finally turn its tired, wavering eyes up from its toes and toward the horizon. I saw in the EU referendum an opportunity for Britain to stop treating anything (or anyone) that was not European as garbage, and finally start building ties with people, cultures and economies that weren't of one geographical area.
The European Union is fundamentally bureaucratic. The men that guide the direction this country takes (economically, politically and socially) are unelected and unaccountable. If I disagree with a decision, law or regulation made by these men, there is no way for me to make any real, tangible difference. The European Union itself is an institution that puts incredible burdens on developing countries all over the world with unnecessary, protectionist policies and turns away anyone that does not have European blood or citizenship. It is discriminatory, it is un-democratic and it is selfish.
In October, over 50 of my friends are being deported because they made the absurd decision to not be born in Europe. They are Indian, they are Pakistani and they are Nigerian. They are Canadian, they are Bangladeshi and they are Australian. Family members of British citizens that are earning over £40,000 a year have been denied visas to work here because they are not European.
A very close Indian friend of mine, Sara, graduates this year and has to find a job within three months post-graduation or she's deported. Luckily enough, she can vote as a Commonwealth citizen, and she's voting to Leave because she understands that while European citizens have no obstacles in their path to finding work here, she faces immense emotional, financial and social pressure to do so in a very short amount of time. She is being discriminated against, and she knows the only way to fix an unfair, backward immigration system is to leave the Union that forces it upon Britain. She understands that leaving does not entail open borders, but at least it means an equal system...a just system. Where she is not seen as a second-class human just because of her heritage. She, like me, believes in a Britain that is truly multicultural - a country that does not fall victim to the euro-supremacist ideologies of the EU that are resulting in double digit unemployment levels (50% in Greece, 40% in Spain) and forcing the UK government to turn a blind eye to high-skilled labour (with whom we have strong cultural ties) from countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Canada.
We can not 'be open to the world' while being part of the EU. True sovereignty means we can be more open to migrants from all over the world. Within the EU, we have no control over our own borders or the direction in which this country is headed.
The Remain campaign has released press claiming that they have 'successfully stopped non-EU families from coming here'. They have actively painted half of the electorate as little englanders, inward-looking for voting to leave without realising that many of those doing so are tired of an inward-looking, euro-supremacist ideology. They make huge assumptions that the black and asian communities (who I am working with) are somehow inclined to vote to remain if they (Cameron et al.) keep talking about Nigel Farage (who has little to do with the official Leave campaign). While most economists agree that the pros and cons of Leave/Remain balance out; while most humanitarians agree that Britain will not abandon the European Convention of Human Rights (of which 47 countries are members of - half of which are not in the EU) and that matters such as maternity leave, gay rights will not in anyway be affected by leaving...we still have our own government misconstruing facts and figures about economic and humanitarian crises - while being funded by taxpayer money (and big corporate banks such as Goldman Sachs).
Leaving the EU does not mean an isolated Britain. It means a country that is accountable to the public for every single decision it makes. Every rule of law, regulation and decision that we object to can be protested against and rejected by the British people. It means an immigration system that lets people in based on merit, not on country of origin. As a Pakistani Muslim I feel more comfortable in a country where I and the seven million people like me have a voice. As a British citizen, I feel safer and more hopeful in a country that I and the 64million people like me can democratically guide.
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