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EUROPE

‘I’m a proud European’: Pakistani-born German on identity as Brexit looms

At a crossroads due to Brexit, Pakistani-born German national Anam Hussain who lives in the UK discusses identity in uncertain times.

'I'm a proud European': Pakistani-born German on identity as Brexit looms
Anam Hussain displaying her passport, and dual identities. Photo courtesy of Anam Hussain.

As the Brexit fog thickens, it reduces the visibility of my sense of identity. I have become a disconnected decoration floating upon a mist.

SEE ALSO: 'We must learn from this': The German view on 'Brexit chaos'

Carrying with me nothing, but a folder containing three documents – a creased Pakistani Birth Certificate, a German passport with a faded cover, and an unsettled UK Permanent Residence card. I am a drop in a cascade of thousands of European citizens, all rushing towards the EU settlement scheme.

Despite having lived in the United Kingdom for 20 years, having obtained all my qualifications, employment, and holding a UK driving licence, I must now follow the same procedure as all the European newbies.

Why?

Just to digitally clarify my position in these uncertain times? To provide evidence of me being me? Now, an Android technology app will be used to verify whether I'm human? I find it ever so insulting. There's the feeling that you belong to a certain group in a country where your status should already be guaranteed.  I have lived enough years, my residence status should be well understood by all the authorities.

But, I am told that to continue living in the UK, I have two options. I must either apply for the EU Settlement Scheme or for citizenship. That phrase, 'to continue living in the UK,' or otherwise…? Is a phrase so elitist and discriminatory that it begs the question of personal identity. It applies to my survival in the future as well as my existence in the past. What am I? When did I begin?

Childhood memories of Dessau

Born in 1991, in the vibrant city of Lahore, Pakistan, I was just a few months old when my family moved to Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt. The childhood memories of my Germany are so incredibly powerful that I still hold the citizenship dear to my heart. That magical atmosphere of Weihnachten (Christmas), Spielzeug (toy train) shopping at Karstadt, delicious Döner Kebabs and those colourful cartoon pocketbooks.

SEE ALSO: On Brexit and belonging: Reflections of a Scot in Germany

I still remember my first day of school, holding a traditional Schultüte cone filled with candy and gifts. I wore a bright red dress and carried a green, square-framed Donald Duck Schulranzen backpack, which was as big as myself. It was a day full of celebrations.

Yet, looking back, I was the only brown face in the crowd. I remember this girl giving me a hard time; she would steal my lunch and poke me in the eye with a pencil. The photographs of this first day are still neatly positioned in a Spice Girls photo album – the British girl bands was the all time favourite of a 90's childhood when I moved to Birmingham as a seven-year-old.

Anam on her first day of school in Dessau. Photo courtesy of Anam Hussain.

As I continued with my educational journey, the differences in borders had gradually faded; I wasn't an alien. By the time I went to university, I was neither German nor British, I regarded myself as a proud citizen of Europe. And then there are the stories my father tells me of his time as a German businessman, the etiquette, structured and ordered, have only further inspired me to strongly hold my citizenship until this day.

The passport had become more than just a few pieces of paper bound together next to my photograph; rather it represented a map of diversity, languages and cultures. The freedom of movement, to live anywhere, without any conditions, forms a central part of my identity. It makes me who I am. The EU Settlement Scheme appears to snatch this identity from me, leaving me deeply unsettled.

The most painful truth is that I wasn't able to vote on my future in the referendum. Instead, those who are probably not even affected directly decided my future which swings between three countries and the word 'exist.' Have I just had a shelf life all that time?

A view of Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA

I'm a European

Birmingham, you are now, a stranger to me.

As I tip-toe around the city centre streets, I wonder what a no-deal Brexit future could possibly mean to me. The blurred vision seems to be never-ending, I shall take the last walk through the Bullring and past the Chamberlain Square, and as I glide along the Brindleyplace, the Town Hall, half hidden in mist, it will probably be my last glimpse of Birmingham.

Now, more than ever, as a European national, I am making future plans, because it is the only thing I can do with certainty. But, dear Germany, do you still have a place for me, or will I be claiming: Ich bin eine Ausländer? (I am a foreigner.)

SEE ALSO: Brits anxiety, residence permits and 'Freundship': Brexit experts talk to The Local

In between being European and British, I've also lived in Pakistan. But there too, I'm often described as the 'Bahirwalay' (outsiders). I'm I left with only one option that guarantees me a discrimination free-future – to take the UK citizenship? I'd be forced to spend an insane amount of money, only to prove my life in the UK and take an English language test? Even after educating in Britain? But Germany only allows dual nationality with other EU states and since the UK is leaving, am I also leaving?

The only ray of light powerful enough to pierce through this thick fog comes from within, as I write and photograph the confusing whirlwind.

I will always be a Pakistani, a German, a British, a Brummy. And, a European.

Member comments

  1. It’s the nationalistic ‘island mentality’ of the ‘Leave’ faction in the UK, that seems to be simultaneously defensive and aggressive, that is such a pity. What a shame they don’t share that feeling of ‘Europeanness’ that I and so many others, both in the UK and the rest of Europe, find so positive and constructive.
    All the best for your future Anam, wherever you find yourself living. 🙂

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BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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