Friday, 16 August 2013

An Open Letter to UKIP

This is an open letter to Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, partly in response to this article and more broadly to his generally thoughtless and hurtful use of untrue stereotypes around Romanians and Bulgarians to ultimately leverage the UK out of the European Union.

16 August 2013
Dear Nigel

I understand where you're coming from. You're a politician, desperate for any leverage which will assist you in swinging the public opinion towards supporting you. For better or worse you want to get the UK out of Europe, and you've decided that stoking fears about Romanians and Bulgarians will help you get there.

Personally, I cannot forgive you for that. It's a cheap and de-humanising tactic. I'm not afraid of Romanians, and do you know why? I'm married to a beautiful example of the country, a woman who would certainly change your close-minded perceptions of the country single-handedly, and I count many others as friends and professional colleagues. The same goes for the Bulgarians I've met.

Am I being unfair towards you? I don't think so at all. Look at your latest comments in the article I refer to above. You talk about how you're 'saddened', refer to 'unlimited numbers' (of what, exactly??? individuals?) and describe all Romanians and Bulgarians as 'unskilled migrant workers'.

The funny thing here is that my wife lived in the UK for eight years, contributing to the economy and its people in a range of positions - certainly not as the unskilled (and lost to boot) taxi driver or manual labourer you've referred to previously. She was there perfectly legally with an Indefinite Leave to Remain.

When we met and got engaged - I'm South African, by the way - it posed the obvious question: so what now? Long story short, the great UK was happy to take hundreds of pounds from me with no refund when I applied for a residence visa, and rejected my application outright within a week without so much as contacting me personally. 

I knew where I wasn't wanted, so instead of running back to the UK and begging for them to reverse their decision, I took it on the chin (a good British attitude you'll appreciate no doubt). South Africa was willing to see the value in my wife (a Romanian) that the great UK didn't in me, and allowed her to join me here.

For reasons I can't go into detail about now, the time has come for us to move on. South Africa ultimately doesn't want us either, or me - as a citizen of the country. This saddens me, but I'm not looking for your sympathy. Racial politics is something which transcends even xenophobia.

My wife was in favour of us re-applying for entry to the UK, and I am personally against that. Not only do you damage the UK's global reputation with your thoughtless views towards Romanians and Bulgarians, but I'm sure that in a heartbeat you'd express the same sentiments towards me personally as a South African.

The UK doesn't deserve my wife or myself. It doesn't deserve our education, our skills, or our years' experience. It doesn't deserve our talents, our creativity, our hopes and dreams. This is something we were both at various times contributing directly to your country, or willing to bring to it. First the UK's Border Agency and now you have shown us the error in our ways.

I'm happy to take my wife back to Romania, and accompany her there. I'm under no illusions: life will be challenging and economics will be dire. However it always is, isn't it? Even in the great UK, the welfare state. Even in the US, with its first world status a facade built on shaky debt.

The plus is that Romania is a country with people who reject the cliches you and your ilk throw at them. It's a developing country, whereas the UK is a stagnating country which people like you are pushing over the brink by denying those eager and willing to work an opportunity to. It's easier for UK citizens to cripple the system with their laziness and welfare payouts - you're only too quick to ignore that damage.

My wife is the easier target for you, and so am I. Don't get me wrong, however. Despite everything I've said here, I don't hate you. I'm the one who's sorry for you and the tired old drum you feel that you have to keep on beating. It's ultimately going to doom the UK, and at the very least it has cost you everything my wife and I could and would have brought to the country and its people.

When you're next in South Africa, come for tea to discuss this further (yes, how British I know). Tell my wife to her face that she's an unskilled migrant that the UK should protect itself from as a top priority. There's a good chance we'll be in Bucharest by the time you get around to doing that, so we'll introduce some other real life Romanians. They're not all called Vlad, just in case that was another one of your fears.

Yours truly,

Leon Schnell

PS: I'm going to e-mail this to the only address I could find for the UKIP (there are only contact forms on your website). Maybe it gets through to you, maybe it doesn't. I tried.

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