After 905 days or 2 years and 175 days of being #InLimbo please listen to this heartfelt and brilliant speech by In Limbo Project Admin and Advocate Cosi Doerfel Hill
Speech by Cosi Doerfel Hill in Liverpool, on Sunday 16 December 2018
Good afternoon, Liverpool!
Thank you for coming out to give a proper scouse welcome to the Bollocks to Brexit team!
As always in Liverpool the welcome is warmhearted, even if there is a nip in the air!
Many thanks to the organisers at Liverpool for Europe for giving me the chance to tell you about the In Limbo Project. We are a distinct and separate group, but of course work very closely with the 3 million and British in Europe as well as many other groups and we all mutually support each other. We are a not-for-profit project, entirely funded by donations and to date presented over 1000 books to politicians and journalists throughout Europe.
The In Limbo books are also great Christmas presents!
I am not here alone. I have brought with me 300 friends who have contributed to our two books and we represent but a small sample of the 5 million citizens in the UK and the EU27 countries, who are In Limbo and have lived in uncertainty for 905 days, that’s nearly 30 months – 2 and a half years of not being able to plan for the future, as we do not know what our rights will be next April. Add to that our approximately 15 million family members who are British citizens and you will find that almost a third of the British population has been silenced. In order to find each other and amplify our voices, we started the Facebook group “Our Brexit Testimonies” just 20 months ago and published the first book called “In Limbo” on the first anniversary of the referendum.
In 2018 we worked with the group Brexpats Hear Our Voice to publish our second book on the second anniversary of the referendum. The “In Limbo Too” testimonies speak of the anger of the British citizens resident in Europe, who feel not only betrayed as we all do, but also ashamed and cast adrift. They are incensed that we are being used as bargaining chips – allegedly to secure their rights, but really this serves no other purpose but to divide and rule! Instead they stand with us in solidarity. We are twins. We are mirror images of each other and flipsides of the same coin. Actually, we at the In Limbo Project have shown them more care and consideration than their own government and some of their families “back home” here in the UK! We focus on the human side and aim to touch hearts and open minds by giving a voice to a few of the individuals who have been portrayed as a depersonalised mass of migrants, which is actually and factually incorrect: We are citizens, British people included, and we are all equal and benefiting from the same rights.
Why should we stay and pay tax on our income if we are not truly welcome? Many of our group members have embarked on their brexodus. This is Luciano’s farewell note to Britain, which resonates with us all: “I came here as a citizen of Europe within Europe, but things have changed. I have experienced how the media have stopped referring to me as an EU citizen and started calling me an EU migrant. This was done to dehumanise me and xenophobia is being normailsed in order to get rid of people like me. Today I am voting with my feet. Today I am leaving the country for good. I am doing it out of principle. It is my love declaration for the European project: a union of countries in which its citizens can feel at home wherever they are. Good bye UK. You were good to me. And then you weren’t.”
Those were Luciano’s words.
Personally, I am exhausted. I have been working so hard – unpaid – and missing my children’s childhoods into the bargain to make British people aware of how all our rights are being undermined. These are all our rights – YOUR rights!
I do this because – to quote Edmund Burke – “for evil to prevail, all that is necessary is for good people to do nothing!”
In years to come, I will know what I did to stop evil. So will all the campaigners here today. Will you?
How do you think I felt having to tell my daughter that when she starts secondary school next year, I might no longer have the right to live here anymore? I have a simple question for you: where is home? Is home where your heart is? That can be many places! Or is it just the place where you live? Well, I have lived in Great Britain for 30 years, 27 of them feeling at home in Merseyside, and I had acquired the right to apply for citizenship back in the 90s, but this government stripped that right from me in 2011 without informing me. This hurts and I am bitter.
I proudly call myself an adopted scouser. Even though I wasn’t born here, I had the good fortune and the privilege to fall in love with Liverpool as a student and after more than 20 years I am still in touch with a group of friends from Uni where only one was originally from Liverpool and yet we all met as equals and got on, welcoming each other.
The locals taught us incomers to be just as open and welcoming as all of Liverpool. It is not just about Brexit, but also about the hostile environment and how our human rights are violated. 25 years ago I campaigned with the NUS against cuts to student grants. I didn’t have to do this: I did not receive a grant, but had an allowance from my dad and worked in Germany during the holidays earning three times what I could earn here to supplement my income and my fees were paid for by the German government. But I did campaign in solidarity with my classmates.
And now I am asking for your solidarity in challenging the Brexit this government is delivering and the way in which everyone’s human rights are violated. Wherever and whenever you see racism and xenophobia, please call it out and protect the victims. Please reflect and ask the EU citizens in your life, your work, your neighbourhood how they are.
Please talk about politics: what the European Union means and what Brexit inflicts.
Times have changed around us and “where do you come from?” is no longer the innocent question simply expressing interest and curiosity. I hope we can claim it back in the spirit of celebrating our diverse origins and backgrounds. Elsewhere in the UK they welcome the foreign foods, but not the people who make it and now Liverpool appears to be an isolated bastion of friendship in a sea of indifference and xenophobia.
Please let us remain united in diversity. Brexit is not a done deal! But time is ticking! We have 104 days until Brexit day! 104 days to turn this around! Please write to your MPs – even if they have already expressed support for the people’s vote – ask them to support a referendum on Theresa May’s deal versus the option to remain. Give them evidence and proof in the form of letters and emails that this is what you, their constituents, really want. And please ask for a final say for all, for the 5 million and young people aged 16-18 to be enfranchised.
Thank you for listening!