A FORUM to help advise non-British European Union citizens was attended by more than 100 people in Winchester.
‘Hampshire Welcomes EU’ was a non-partisan event designed to provide clarity on EU citizens’ rights following the UK's departure from the EU.
It was held to offer an update on areas where the UK government is not acting within the law with regard to permanent residency and citizenship, and to highlight the challenges and pressures facing EU citizens at this time.
110 participants came together to hear contributions from Claire Bradley, managing director of the European Law Monitor and Marta Beltran, immigration adviser with the Citizens Advice Bureau.
There were also first hand testimonials from non-British EU citizens, as well as an extended panel including politics and international relations professor David Owen from University of Southampton.
The event was opened by the mayor, Cllr Jane Rutter, who said: “Winchester’s residents are generous and welcoming to people from other communities, cultures and countries. We value diversity in all its forms, and I believe that our lives are the richer for it.
“I’m delighted to welcome you all here, to welcome the distinguished panel of speakers and to congratulate Kerstin Reiners and all those volunteers who have helped to organise this forum.”
Winchester shop owner Abby Dank said: “Since the referendum, there's been a divisive tone. Like other EU citizens, I’ve been made to feel like a second-class citizen, and not always welcome.
“I created my own business. I employ people. But it seems our contributions to British society no longer matter. The Forum provided answers and confirmed - we do matter.”
Hampshire resident Mónika Zeliza Müller said: "It was really helpful. It was good to know about the EU laws. We aren't scared anymore about what can happen to us. If anything does happen, we know where to go for help.”
Forum organiser Kerstin Reiners said: “The biggest challenge facing the 50,000 plus non-British EU citizens residing across Hampshire right now is that people around us are unaware of the uncertainty, fear and anxiety that is dominating our lives. Our rights have not been guaranteed. We need talk about how this is affecting us, and we need to be heard. This Forum represented a first step. There is much more to be done.”