Saying hello to Shadwell (plus a long rant about new immigration policies in Britain)

Shadwell Overground station sign

This has been mentioned among friends and I think on Twitter, but about a month ago I moved from Stokey to Shadwell. It entailed a lot of activities that moving, or as the British call it, “moving house,” generally involves: packing and schlepping more boxes for more things you ever realised you owned, unpacking and then realising you haven’t anywhere good to put things, filling plastic bags with items to donate to the nearest charity shop, etc.

I still have about five boxes I need to unpack, one of which is consisting entirely of unread Monocle magazines I am vainly trying to justify not throwing away. Goddamn you, Monocle, and your beautiful, heavy magazines I never get around to reading. There’s a few more things to sort out in my room when I get paid again (hopefully), as well as some more clothes to get rid of by selling so I can make some cash to buy my weekly pint intakes. Standard sort of stuff, you know?

Although my new residence in Shadwell is less than 5 miles away from my old room in Stoke Newington, there is a definite change of environment. I walk past Asian youths instead of middle-aged Turkish men on my way home. The smells wafting from the flats around me speak of curry and spices rather than the charcoal fragrances emanating from Green Lanes’ kebab shops. The walk home is longer and filled with some pretty incredible pubs. Priyo Bazaar is no Newington Green Fruit & Veg, but they do sell avocados for only a pound and I can get basmati rice bags the size of my torso if I ever wanted. I can walk to Tayyabs and eat my weight in tandoori paneer.

There’s a lot more to discover, and a few things I already miss like the aforementioned Newington Green Fruit & Veg as well as Green Lanes Larder, but it always takes a little bit of time to get used to a new area.

Not that hanging out at my new home is particularly bad.

zizzou and the record player

The cat is actually my new live-in landlord. He likes listening to tunes.

As I still work in Hackney, I continue to have an eye on what’s happening there, particularly as I can apparently now say wassup to Diane Abbott in one of the local pubs (this really happened and Diane is incredibly nice). With the election looming on the horizon, it’s a weird time to be relocating. As I am unable to vote in any election here in the UK, lacking both British and EU citizenship, I am watching the political motions intently and slightly helplessly, feeling that all I can do to sway this election is to retweet Mangal2’s commentary on the debates.

Although I can’t vote, the election affects me as someone who lives in the UK. As the self-appointed inebriated face of immigration in London (hello!), I know damn well that the results of the election will affect how long I can continue to live here. Did you know we are currently a couple weeks or so into a new policy for non-EEA migrants to begin paying up front for NHS services? That’s right, unless you are coming from Australia or New Zealand, if you are a non-EEA migrant and are applying for a 3-year general work visa, you’ll need to pay £200 surcharge per year alongside your visa fees for your application to be considered. Students pay £150 per year.

Here’s the documents: 23688-Surcharge_Customer_Q+A_v1.3_153454, 23688-Surcharge_factsheet_v1.2_153458

Before you ask, yes, I do pay taxes which, I had thought, went to the NHS among other things. So why a surcharge? The government says it will raise £200 million a year, but hey, if Britain ends the non-dom tax status, that will generate an estimated £1-4 billion. But no, let’s make the migrants pay, except the Tier 2 Intra-Company Migrants, because multinational companies are special. Let’s add another layer of bureaucracy to the NHS and make staff at my GP practice and the A&E check records to make sure they can register me. They won’t mind the extra work, particularly if they, too, are migrants working for the NHS. I mean, that’s not hypocritical, is it? I’m sure the other patients won’t mind the delays these any background checks into my immigration status to make sure I’m paid up.

If you want to know why this is terrible, read the opinion of Docs Not Cops, who make several really excellent points, including this one:

Worst of all, though, when immigration enforcement enters the health service, many people will become scared and deterred from seeking care. Some migrants may not be sure of the healthcare access they are actually entitled to. They may be afraid of having to pay or of having their movements reported to the Home Office and will not seek treatment.  Their health conditions will worsen and conditions that could have been more simply treated at an early stage will bring them to A&E at a much greater cost to the entire system (with an even smaller likelihood that they will be able to pay).

Infectious diseases (like TB and HIV) are identified and treated through regular doctors’ visits.  If many people are avoiding doctors, then infection rates will rise rapidly.  While the Government has made assurances that treatments for such diseases (like HIV medications) will remain free, that doesn’t do much good if people are deterred from going to the doctor and thus don’t know they have been infected.  They will only learn this when their conditions have become much more severe.

Additionally, the surcharge is discouraging for current migrants who will be reapplying for an extension of their visas, like myself. Currently, the fees to extend my visa are £651, but with the added surcharge, I need to pay £1251 to extend my visa for another 3 years by June 2016. At least I have a bit of time to save–if my visa were up this year it would be difficult if not impossible to afford this on my current rate of pay living in London. Get a second job? I’m legally prohibited according to the terms of my visa to get a second job in anything else other than what my visa is for, and for no more than 20 additional hours a week, so no picking up shifts at the local pub or book shop for me.

Read another opinion on the the new migrant health surcharge here.

If you’re not a migrant from a non-EEA country, you might not feel this issue applies to you. But, particularly if you live in London, you likely know a migrant from a non-EEA country. He or she might drive your bus, check your heart rate at your local practitioners’, help build a successful local business, teach your children, curate the exhibits you go to on the weekends and write articles you read in the newspaper. You might work alongside them, be friends with them or even in a relationship with them.

But even if none of these apply to you, there is the argument that this, to quote a friend, is “the thin end of the wedge,” which is echoed on this post on Bright Green. If non-EEA immigrants need to pay a surcharge purportedly going to fund the NHS, how long will it take for migrants of the EU to begin having to pay surcharges? How long until everyone has to pay a surcharge?

Meanwhile, apparently treating UK tourists in continental Europe is pretty costly–five times more than the equivalent cost in the UK.

I’ll end this post (which wasn’t really intended to be this long, but there you go) with this link to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, who are responsible for the excellent I Am An Immigrant campaign. Have a look at these awesome folks who work in various fields doing all sorts of interesting stuff. Don’t forget one of Britain’s beloved icons, Paddington, is also an immigrant.

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