EU nationals in Scotland voice concerns over Brexit

EU nationals living in Scotland have been speaking about their concerns in the aftermath of the UK's Brexit vote.

Alistair Allan, Minister For International Development and Europe meets Casa Amiga co-owner Patricia Da Silva. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Business owners and professionals in Edinburgh spoke of a feeling of uncertainty about the future among their family, friends and colleagues while others voiced fears hate crimes against ethnic minorities could rise following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

Portuguese national Patricia Da Silva, 36, came to the Scottish capital under her EU passport 14 years ago but says the current situation is “very stressful” on a professional and personal level.

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Ms Da Silva, who owns the Portuguese espresso bar Casa Amiga in Leith with her husband Mike, said: “We don’t know what the outcome (is going to be).

Ewelina Lukaszek, Polish Community Link Officer at Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

“Our concern is about our family, different family members who are maybe only here for a year or two that have decided to bring their kids over. Everyone’s in school now, they’ve bought homes.

“They’re concerned and we’re concerned for them, thinking how are we going to deal with this?”

Ms Da Silva employs 10 staff who come from Spain, Italy, Greece and Poland, as well as Portugal.

Ewelina Lukaszek, Polish Community Link Officer at Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

She said: “The only thing I can do is reassure them that the Scottish Government is going to try and change things and help us to stay in the EU so that we have the freedom of movement and we’re allowed to stay.”

The businesswoman and mother said she has not encountered hostility in “open-minded” Scotland - but says it has been a different story for family members living south of the border.

She added: “People’s mentality is ‘they’re coming, they’re taking our jobs’ but actually what we are trying to do is create jobs, open up businesses.

“We’re not here to come and take the benefits and jobs, we’re here to create jobs and that’s what I want to do.”

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Polish national Monika Lisicka, 40, said she does not feel insecure about the future following the referendum, but knows many people who do.

On Friday, Ms Lisicka, owner of the Yellow Bench cafe in Leith, received several phonecalls from people in the Polish community asking her for work.

She said: “People are very uncertain. I have had a few calls from people I know. They are so unsure about what will happen they asked me, ‘could you employ me for two or three hours a week?’

“They called me just to feel secure that they have some employment here, not to be removed from the island. I can feel that people are really insecure.”

She said a party pre-arranged by 15 Polish professionals at her cafe on Friday, initially aimed at celebrating the result of the referendum vote, turned into a sombre affair.

The mother-of-two also told of an incident since the vote in which one of her Polish friends said she was asked to leave the country when she went into a shop.

Ms Lisicka, who has been in Edinburgh for eight years, said she would love to stay in Scotland but will accept whatever the future has in store for her.

Ewelina Lukaszek, who came to Scotland from Poland and now works with Polish children, said she is concerned about possible increases in hate crimes and hate speech against any ethnic minorities.

The 36-year-old said she has been monitoring reports of such incidents around the UK on social media.

She said: “Polish communities are being targeted, other communities are being targeted.

“I sent my son to school today, he’s half Polish half Scottish, and I said ‘I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen in Scotland’, but just in case he had a few words about how to deal with those type of incidents.

“It’s not only Polish communities, these are every ethnic minority, you name it. It’s very, very concerning. We are here to live in peace.”