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Brexit: Punjabi-origin leaders, expats in UK fear tighter immigration norms

As Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU), Punjabi expatriates are in a shock and are worried because they feel it will affect trade, employment, business and the immigration policies. Even if all goes well, it’s being apprehended that there would be initial hiccups in dealing with the immigration issues.

Britain EU Referendum Updated: Jun 24, 2016 21:09 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times
Brexit,EU,immigration
Sensex dropped by more than 1,000 points following the Brexit.(PTI Photo)

As Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU), Punjabi expatriates are in a shock and are worried because they feel it will affect trade, employment, business and the immigration policies. Even if all goes well, it’s being apprehended that there would be initial hiccups in dealing with the immigration issues.

“It’s a phase of uncertainty for those seeking permanent citizenship in the country. It’s not in favour of immigrants,” said Varinder Sharma, 68, MP from Southall, a Punjabi-dominated area. (Photo: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Terming the move unfortunate, Varinder (also spelt Virendra) Sharma, 68, MP from Southall, a Punjabi-dominated area, said: “Earlier, there was no quota for immigrants coming from Asia or India, but now it is being said that our country will follow Australia. Also, there will be restrictions on free entry into Britain from 28 countries of the European Union. It’s a phase of uncertainty for those seeking permanent citizenship in the country. It’s not in favour of immigrants. Let’s see what happens now as the criterion for immigrants has to be worked out afresh,” he added.

Also read I Brexit vote leaves Punjabi NRIs disappointed

It’s unfortunate, according to a former mayor of Ealing, Gurcharan Singh. (Photo: His website)

“It’s like breaking a 40-year marriage. The future is unpredictable. The EU saved us from wars, financial instability and we became influential being its part. It helped the UK in having a strong economy, but now everything has to be worked out again,” Sharma said, adding “it’s like going back to the 18th century and moving away from the global approach to individualistic approach”.

Former mayor of Ealing, a suburban district of west London, Gurcharan Singh also termed the exit unfortunate. “We are sailing into unchartered waters as immigrating to the UK is likely to be more difficult now,” he told HT over phone.

CHALLENGING TIMES

“We campaigned to remain with Europe, but we must accept the democratic decision,” said London assembly member Onkar Sahota. (Photo: london.gov.uk)

Onkar Sahota, 55, a member of the London assembly, said: “The move is like taking new challenges. We campaigned to remain with Europe, but we must accept the democratic decision. Now, the challenge is how to build a stronger country, especially when Scotland has decided to stay with the EU,” added Sahota.

Expatriates apprehend that the UK will stand alienated. “In such a situation, we will not like the country to be divided. Nevertheless, we must try to regain political and economic power,” added Sahota.

“Though immigration politics was never on Britain’s agenda before the referendum, all those planning to immigrate to the UK are worried. It’s turning out to be a big issue now as the fate of immigrants, who are not given all rights, seems uncertain,” he said.

PUNJABIS ARE DIVIDED

The first-generation Punjabi-origin UK citizens opposed Britain’s exit from the EU but those of the second and third generations supported it as they feel breaking ties with the EU would help check immigration. The first generation Punjabi expatriates who still have contacts back home want their relatives and friends to settle in Britain. “Punjabis are divided. Old settlers don’t want more people to come from Punjab,” Sahota said.

INDIA MAY BENEFIT

“Things may become difficult for Punjabis who plan to immigrate to the UK, but India may benefit as after parting ways with the EU, the UK will look up to India, Australia and Canada for better trade ties,” said Sharma.

First Published: Jun 24, 2016 21:08 IST