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 with our series read Veysel experience in Wales.
Veysel is from the Kurdish minority born in Turkey, though he has been living in the UK for almost 4 years. He is 31 years old and currently doing a PhD in Media Studies at Cardiff University.
Here is his story:
How has your experience been so far in this country?
It has been fine, I think. My first experience abroad was in the United States, so, here it was comparably easy because of all my previous experience, etc. Plus, before coming I had also been to Poland. And in the UK, well I did not have any major problems, maybe with the housing… But in general, it was fine, I easily adapted and get used to the way of things…In my first three months, I took an English course, which made it easy to meet international people, make friends… [Have you always lived in Cardiff while in the UK?] Yeah, only for a few months I lived in one of the villages around Caerphilly. Though, I just lived there for two or three months. Basically, in the gap between my master’s and PhD.
Why come to the UK? And why Wales?
When I got the scholarship to study abroad, I could go to a few countries aside from the UK. But among all, what made me decide was that in the UK I didn’t have to learn a new language, also I wanted to improve my English… And Cardiff is a good university for media studies. […] I asked around and they recommended it. So, yeah. […] I ask around, it was cheap, green, so that was it. The second option was Brighton, but in the end, I chose Cardiff because it was recommended by a professor.
Do you see yourself staying here permanently?
Yes, I want to stay permanently actually. But I have to go back. Because of my scholarship, the government wants me that once I finish my studies, I have to go and work for them. If not they would ask me for all the money back… [and for how long would you have to stay…?] Twice as I stayed here in the UK, so, I’ll live here [referring to the UK] for 5 years, then I would have to work for them [the government] for 10 years. I’m looking for solutions not to go back but, it’s not easy to find a way.
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?
Before I came here, there wasn’t so much migration in Turkey. We had the Turkish/Kurdish minority problem, like a national problem… But after 2011 we had a massive wave of migration from Syria, and also from Afghanistan and Iraq. And now I see how they treat them. Mainly through the internet, I see how some use it [the online platforms] to express hate speech, even more than here [in the UK]. Here maybe I don’t know so much, I see people, well, sometimes trying to make certain jokes… Yeah, a few times I experienced discrimination here, but in Turkey for instance I saw on the internet, that there is actually a conflict. I haven’t experienced a real conflict here. I mean, I know that in the past, from people that used to live here, they say it was much worse. For example, I think there was a football match in Turkey, and there were some hooligans that caused trouble. After that, here [in the UK], some kebab shops were attacked. Personally, I have also experienced something in Caerphilly actually, when I was working in the village. What happened is that in the house next door, there was a fire in the garden, and so I went to see, with the other neighbours as well. There was no door, and we went inside to see if everything was ok. When we saw a lady making the fire and that everything was in control, we came out. The next day, she was only taking pictures of me, asking me questions about how I entered last night in her propriety… I hide my face and report it to my boss. He reassured me that she [the lady] was crazy, police know her already and pay no regard to her accusations. But still, I was scared, so since then, I would say that I avoid going to the countryside… [So, you would say that there’s a difference between rural and cities?] Yes, yes, when you go to a pub there or something, well you are clearly the foreigner… […] I would say that they are more conservative. Turkey though, I would say that in some way is similar to here, regarding far-right propaganda, and hate speech. I don’t know the exact numbers or source but, from what I perceived, I would say that both countries’ situation is rather similar. […]
“Sometimes it gets so tense in Turkey, that they even attack! You see people die… Some political parties use the situation for their propaganda. Who knows. Some groups re-direct everything going bad in the economy, and society, to migrants and refugees. […] [sic]
Has your stay in Wales as a migrant person altered the way you see things?
I was already empathic back in Turkey about the situation with refugees, and migrants. But, I would say that now I am even more. I understand it more.
Do you feel that Brexit has had an impact on your life and/or changed how migration is perceived?
When I came here Brexit was already in progress but since last year… Well, I don’t see that much difference in my case. Because well, I don’t know how it was before for migrants. But from what I see in some people, some of them start to regret maybe going into hard Brexit. […] Media, at least, has changed, blaming many things on Brexit… Or newspapers than before supported the exit, like the Sun and so on, now complain about somethings that require supply, like lorry drivers, etc. But yeah, that’s mainly the changes I’ve seen in that way.
Written by Clara Morer Andrades, ESC volunteer 2021/22
If you liked this interview, read others’ stories here