"It's not only people who move, it's also borders"
I first moved to the UK from Hungary in 2013 as a student. Being the first one in my family to go to university — thanks to my parents’ hard work and sacrifices — it doesn’t escape me what a privilege this is.
Students from the European Union at the time were eligible for home fee status and the tuition fee loan, which was essential for me to cover the otherwise unaffordable tuition fees.
After Brexit, if I was that 20-year-old today seeking to come to study in the UK, I wouldn’t benefit from this anymore. Studying Sociology formed my understanding of how the world works but more importantly I made friends from various backgrounds, who through their own stories have taught me so much and shaped who I am today.
This was also where I first engaged in activism, and where I developed an interest for migration, largely triggered by the increasingly hostile rhetoric and asylum policies of the Hungarian Government in 2015. I went on to do a Masters degree in Global Migration in London, thanks to the postgraduate loan that my EU citizenship made me eligible for.
My research focused on young refugees’ access to education in Budapest and the role of the third sector in supporting them. My mother being an immigrant in Hungary from the former German Democratic Republic, a country which doesn’t exist anymore, keeps reminding me that it’s not only people who move but also borders.
Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and the Schengen Area in 2007. In my early teens at the time I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but I remember going with my family on our annual trip to Germany to visit my grandparents.
Before, we would join a queue of cars at the border with Austria, where border guards would check our passports, ask questions or look through the boot of our car, but now we could just drive through with only a sign reminding us that we crossed countries. This was the first time I thought about borders.
The day the UK left the EU (31 January 2020), I was working in Brussels for a UK Member of the European Parliament, in a team of change-makers who inspire me to this day. Brexit meant that our contracts ended, the Union Jack was pulled down, and we had to leave.
It was a surreal moment that made me think about how this will impact the rights of EU citizens in the UK. While this UK-EU divorce is a complex process, I knew that if I wanted to live and work in the UK, I had to go right away to be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme before the cut-off date.
I moved back in 2020 and am currently working in political research at the UK Parliament, trying to contribute to holding decision-makers to account, working on policy areas related to social justice, including social security and workers’ rights that also intersect with migrants’ rights.
Migrants are often used in public discourse as scapegoats for various ills of society, largely fuelled by the anti-immigration policies of the hostile environment, which doesn’t only affect us. Discrimination doesn’t end with citizenship; inequalities based on race, class, gender, among others, are reinforced beyond gaining a British passport.
Coming from a small town in the Hungarian countryside, I value the power of communities. Living in London now and building community with people who also have ties to various places and cultures beyond the UK gives me a sense of belonging.
I find solidarity in the overlaps of our stories, in shared struggles, and dialogue opens up spaces for learning about issues that we haven’t faced. It gives me great hope to see so much organising around migrants’ rights. People with lived experiences are the experts whose voices should be listened to and shape change-making on all levels.