London, July 1, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
Amid the unprecedented political aftermath of the EU referendum in the UK, European ethnic communities have been left reeling with uncertainty about the future in their adopted country.
Prominent among them is the populous Cypriot community, whose members had a rare among other EU citizens right to vote as Commonwealth nationals.
The President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK Christos Karaolis (photo) said that the result for Brexit came as quite a surprise, as no one was really predicting it at the closing stage of the pre-referendum campaign. Now what for the UK Cypriots?
“There are so many uncertainties lingering over the country right now that we have to wait for some definite answers by politicians in order to be able to accurately appreciate the potential consequences. In the short term, however, I have already been informed of higher import costs for Cypriot-owned firms in Britain due to the fall of the sterling after the referendum,” says Mr Karaolis.
“A big concern of the UK Cypriot community members, the majority of whom have their own businesses here having left Cyprus decades ago, is a recession of the British economy,” adds Andreas Papaevripides, President of the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK), also based in London.
“For Cypriots who have been born in the UK and don’t have a Cypriot passport another fear is that they will be cut off from the rest of the EU, not being European citizens anymore sometime in the future. They should know however that they are entitled to a Cypriot passport as well,” continues Mr Papaevripides.
Mr Karaolis says that among the possible changes that might affect Cyprus and will have to be assessed in the near future are the cost of holidays for travellers from the UK, the largest pool of tourists for the Mediterranean island, and the rules for Cypriot students in English universities – the Cypriots being the sixth largest ethnic contingency of EU students in the UK.
“Thankfully, for the current year most of the holiday packages have been long booked. As for the students, we don’t know how changes would affect them, in terms of tuition fees and student loans etc.; but at least nothing will change for at least two years, until the UK leaves the EU.”
John Gyftakis, a young British/Cypriot/Greek entrepreneur says that there are many people, especially older ones, who have come to the UK recently and have not yet managed to secure a steady income, that are scared of even being deported. “We are trying to calm them down. The younger people from around the EU are much calmer, they know their hard work is needed by the UK.
“And then there is another thing, the issue of identity. All the young EU citizens currently in the UK have grown up as Europeans, free to travel, live, study and work wherever they wanted. I have always felt like that. Now I feel like me identity has been eroded somewhat.”
The referendum result has cause a spike in racist incidents, according to the police. Andreas, a Greek employee in a north London café, told IBNA that a couple of days after the referendum he was aggressively asked by a young Englishman when he would leave to “go back” to his country.
In terms of the organised Cypriot diaspora the challenges ahead are plenty. The Cypriot government and the leadership of the UK Cypriot community did not shy away from stating that Brexit would not be in the best interest of Cyprus, urging UK Cypriots to vote for Remain. Turnout and results for Remain in the areas where Cypriots mostly live were high. “But now we have to deal with the significant political developments in hand. There will be a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet, a new shadow cabinet, possibly snap elections. We have to be prepared and keep up the continuous pressure we apply on behalf of our island and the community here,” notes Mr Karaolis.
“Now that a crucial ally of Cyprus like the UK will not be present in the European Council, our role as an organised community becomes even more important. We need to redouble our efforts to strengthen the bilateral relations even further,” he adds.