This is the speech given by Debbie Williams at the European Parliament on Wednesday 10th October 2018 in Brussels.
Reference: In Limbo Project presentations at European Parliament on 10th October 2018
Thank you dear Elena, thank you dear Véronique.
My name is Debbie Williams. I am the founder of Brexpats Hear Our Voice. I am co-editor of In Limbo too and I am also on the steering committee of British in Europe. I am very proud of these three things.
I am self-employed and I have recently moved to Spain from the Netherlands. Before that, I lived here in Brussels in Tervuren. Before that I lived in Germany and I have also lived in the Netherlands since 2012.
So, I have used freedom of movement quite extensively.
What happens to my family, my livelihood and my home next year? Many other European citizens ask the same question.
Do people actually know that freedom of movement is so much more than the freedom to travel? It is not an immigration system. It is a right conferred on all Europeans by way of treaty. This is now under threat and, referring to my own testimony in In Limbo too, I am no longer angry I am furious. That is as true today as it was in 2016.
We must change the perception of what it is to be an immigrant. There is no “us and them” there is only “us” because we are all human beings we are all equal citizens.
We, the 5 million Europeans living In Limbo, will not be divided. We are a unified voice. We only need to look at this project and the British in Europe and the 3 million.
We are a unified voice and we, together, also I believe say: “No!” to racism “No!” to xenophobia and “No!” to hatred. Not having it.
One of the issues facing all immigrants and which is particularly pertinent to the British in Europe is one of stereo-typing. We come from all sorts of backgrounds. 80% of us are working age or younger.
We have got 20% retired of course but we must break these stereo-types.
In the UK over the last 40 or so years, there has been a media frenzy in some outlets of negativity towards the European Union. Confusing messages about EU refugees, economic migration, and negative stereo-typing. All this enabled by the hostile environment which is and has been UK Home Office policy. Policy not just a phrase, a sound bite, it is policy for a number of years now.
These topics that I have just mentioned also feature in the books.
And, a little break from that, what are books? According to Virginia Wolf from “Between the acts”, “Books are mirrors to the soul.”.
We were so honoured at Brexpats Hear Our Voice to be asked to collaborate with the In Limbo team on this truly truly wonderful project. From the moment we started work on In Limbo too, our personal admiration and respect has developed into lasting friendships. This is what the European Union is all about. This project encapsulates the values of the European Union showcasing pan European co-operation at its best.
We, the European citizens caught up in this unprecedented situation, living with the threatened loss of our rights against our will, needed a voice.
The In Limbo Project has given us a powerful voice and the written word recorded for posterity cannot be ignored.
The advocacy work done by the team is a key driver of this important project.
Who thought of it? The Europeans living in the UK.
Who thought of us for the sister book? The Europeans living in the UK.
I personally think this is an incredibly thoughtful, generous and moving gesture and we are eternally grateful for this opportunity.
[Turns to Elena Remigi] You too.
So we implore those with the power to resolve the In Limbo status of the 5 million Europeans caught up in this fiasco, for that is what it is, to do so with immediate effect.
The voices in the book are just a sample. They are representative of many many more with stories to tell. They must not be ignored or go on unheard any longer for this is cruel. It is cruelty and what we need now is to make kindness fashionable again.
So, I believe in the power of the collective voice. I am hopeful that justice and fair play will prevail and on a positive note, I would like to quote Kirby Jean-Raymond who said: “I think that when you rally powerful voices around powerful issues, what you get are positive results.”.
Thank you, merci beaucoup, danke viel, danke schön.