At WCIA, we understand that global issues impact people differently in Wales and around the world. During COVID, we collected global perspectives, in people’s own words, about how the pandemic was affecting them. We are starting a new series of global perspectives on the topic of migration.
Throughout time, people have always migrated in and between countries. In the UK, issues like Brexit and the approach to inward migration impact migrants in Wales. In this series, we explore these issues by asking people who have migrated to share their perspectives, in their own words.
Continuing our Series read Llanten’s experience in the UK.
Llanten has been living in the UK for 6 years. Initially just coming to learn English, now she is willing to stay and build her career as a filmmaker.
Here is her story:
How has your experience been so far in this country?
I came to the UK because I wanted to study for a master’s degree in film. Because in Spain there are limited opportunities… Well, initially, I just came to study English and then I planned to move to the US because I wanted to do a specific master there. But then, after a year, I thought that here [in the UK] there were also very good opportunities, I could have access to loans… So I stayed, and now, I’ve been living here already for 6 years.
I first came when all the referendum on Brexit and everything happened. Back then I thought “gosh, now I have to stay at least 5 years to live as I want and as I wished for”, it seemed a lot of time! But now, I am very happy and glad for these past years. I was granted the settled status and I can live more comfortable than other people around me. Actually, I believe that somehow, I’m even luckier than Brits! Now I can leave the country, for a maximum of 5 years, go to Europe with all commodities, and still not lose my status.
Why come to the UK? And why Wales?
Well, I lived in London for 5 years, in Essex almost for 1 and look, I moved here [to Cardiff] last year. I came to Cardiff because the opportunities for filmmakers are much better, it is apparently a growing industry in Wales, so, I thought it would be even better than Bristol. After all, Cardiff is cheaper and not so isolated. I think that Wales is beautiful, from the beginning I thought I would move to Swansea… I love the landscape, the hills, the waterfalls… The only thing I don’t like is the wind.
Do you see yourself staying permanently?
From the moment that I arrived and I saw that here there were more opportunities to get a fair job, or even advance my career… Overall, the situation in my sector is better than in my country, hence, I decided to stay. However, I think that if Brexit supposes any inconvenience to my career, I might give it some thought and move again to another European country. But for now, I’m very happy in the UK. I want to stay in Cardiff, but it will depend on the job opportunities. Besides, another thing that is very important for me is the value given to creativity… Here there is a space for creativity and this is respected, whereas, in Spain, I don’t feel that there is such a thing. Jobs related to the arts such as painters, filmmakers, theatre… They are not entirely respected. They are not seen as jobs but instead as hobbies. Whereas here, it is a normal job as any other.
Now that you have lived away for a while, do you see any difference between how a migrant person is portrayed here and in your country?
Immigrants are needed here. In all sectors, from the health system to hospitality… I would say that these are jobs mainly carried by migrants. While in the UK, there is a lot of demand for these specific jobs, in Spain the range of opportunities is lower. People feel threatened by migrants. Therefore, we tend to treat them badly. For instance, even if I am Spanish, when I lived in Spain, I had been racialised. People might come to me and tell me to go back to my country, that I was “stealing” their jobs. On the other hand, in the UK, I had felt that classism weighs more than whether you are a foreigner or not. Depending on how much money you earn, you get more or less respect. As I said, I feel isn’t that much about if you are a foreigner or not. After all, foreigners are needed for all sorts of jobs here! Many people think that with Brexit, they are going to lose so many talented migrants… [sic] So, the way they treat migrants, I would say, depends on the role that they are doing for society at the moment. They accept you no matter the country, depending on the class that you occupy. Also, notice the difference that the treatment is different at work, compared to how you can be treated in public places. Maybe I would say that the place where migrants, no matter the class, can be treated more unfairly in the UK is when they are not working. Like in the streets, pubs, markets… I don’t know if I’m explaining myself… Meanwhile though, in Spain, I believe that this aggressive behaviour towards foreigners is kept in all places. Even in a working environment, migrants in jobs such as hospitality, doctors, etc. They are paid less and treated as if they belong to an inferior category, or at least that is my perspective. [sic]
Notwithstanding, on the opposite say, I must say that here in the UK I missed a bit that, well, there’s not so much guidance on how to adapt to the culture… You just come, do your life and try to adapt, whereas in Spain, at least in my community, I grew up in a rather diverse environment, and I’m not saying this is the rule and applies everywhere in Spain, but at the time I lived there, there was some help or assistance for migrants to learn more about the country, our customs, help them out to transition… Facilitate integration. While since I arrived in the UK, I feel that my integration is totally up to me. [sic]
Has your stay in Wales as a migrant person altered the way you see things?
I don’t think that being an immigrant myself has opened my mind to that. I have always been conscious of the existing difficulties. Back in Spain, since little I lived in a very diverse environment, with people from different nationalities, religions, ethnicities… So, I’ve been highly aware of the position and struggles of migrants. [sic]
Do you feel that Brexit has had an impact on your life and/or changed how migration is perceived?
Yeah, I believed that because of Brexit, and because I was used to something different there’s been a negative impact… How? Well, before everything, living in the UK was easier. Now I see people having more difficulties staying in this country. These changes made me realise how lucky I am to have the settled status but seeing more people struggle to get their right to remain, just has me thinking about the future and where it will take us. [sic]
Written by Clara Morer Andrades, ESC volunteer 2021/22
If you liked this interview, read others’ stories here