In defense of freedom of movement

My name is Melissa Chemam, I’m a freelance journalist, broadcaster and writer, working in London, Bristol, Paris and beyond.

I’ve been a journalist for 15 years, reporting from the USA, France, central Europe, the UK, East and Central Africa, North Africa, the Middle East.

Iraqi children in a displaced people’s camp near Erbi, in Iraqi Kurdistan, 2016

My first book, about the band Massive Attack and Bristol’s recent art and music scene, including the Pop Group and Banksy, was published this month:

It retells the story of outstandingly aware artists and musicians, who always linked their work with he reality of our world, addressing issues like racism, war-going government, commercial control in the arts, inequalities, refugee rights, multiculturalism…
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I’m writing here today as I witness the appalling situation ofEuropean citizens living in the UK, after three years of horrible Brexit discussions and only a few weeks now ahead of important European elections.

So I want to share here a few ideas… That the press didn’t want to publish. Not now. Because for both the British and French press, there are more institutional priories. I understand.

Today, the EU Parliament voted to grant UK citizens visa-free access after Brexit, especially in case of no deal.

Without even waiting for the UK to assure that EU citizens could visit the UK without any visa requirement.

“MEPs voted 502 votes to 81 in favour of the concession — provided EU nationals enjoy the same conditions when travelling to the UK.”

That’s quite generous considering the fact that the EU included 27 countries…

“The new law warns that were the UK to introduce a visa requirement for nationals of any one member state, visa requirements for UK nationals could be reintroduced.”

“From the moment of leaving the European Union, British travellers will become ‘third country nationals’. But in common with more than 60 other nationalities, including Australian, Japanese and US visitors, they will be allowed to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.”

London, March calling for a People’s Vote, October 20, 2019

I personally believe such measures should now be granted to some other countries outside Europe. What about African citizens?? We used to have very strong ties…

I could develop on this issues much more lengthily. My colleagues from Nigeria and Kenya have been living here on very expensive visas for years if not decades. For some, this cost up to hundreds of pounds a year. Their countries used to be part of the British Empire for decades however, way before the creation of the first European Community, after World War II.

It’s just double standards.

Here my own situation, to dig a bit more into these issues:

-I moved to the UK 10 years ago to join the BBC World Service, but was soon posted abroad in East Africa. I spent these past ten years splitting my time between England and other countries, as a foreign news correspondent, covering mainly European/African relations, elections, and post-colonial issues.

-Now, because of my professional situation, I’m not eligible to the settled status, I haven’t been here continuously for the past 5 years.

-But I’ve written a book on a part of British culture and am still working mainly from here, though I need freedom of movement to keep on reporting and writing.

-As a reporter posted in East and Central Africa, in Haiti, in the Middle East, I know that democracy demands information and action, and I believe too many Europeans take this for granted.

-Because of Brexit, ‪I have to travel to France to vote in the European elections in May. I’m not even sure if the UK would be in the EU or not when I get back! It’s in less than two months…

I have also talked to and interviewed a lot of other European citizens living here and I feel our stories are underrepresented.

Most of them are nurses, musicians, researchers, translators, waiters, broadcasters, etc. Jobs they have because of their skills, and often languages skills that British people don’t have.

How much longer can we ignore people’s rights? Will the British Parliament and government ever address people’s rights and notable freedom of movement? It’s a necessary discussion that must not be delayed.

If you agree, feel free to share this paper.

Thanks for your attention.

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Freelance journalist/writer, I’ve reported in 30 countries for the BBC, CBC, DW, magazines, on African-European relations, social change, arts, music & politics

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Melissa Chemam

Melissa Chemam

Freelance journalist/writer, I’ve reported in 30 countries for the BBC, CBC, DW, magazines, on African-European relations, social change, arts, music & politics

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