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Carolina's Story

"My identity spans across continents"

I was born and raised in Lisbon in a family where different cultures intertwined for decades. Belonging to an ethnic minority means my Portuguese identity is always up for questioning by others which has put my sense of belonging in limbo from a young age. 

Although I only hold one nationality, my identity spans across continents - I identify as Portuguese of African and European descent. Moreover, my sense of belonging is fragmented across all the places I’ve lived in and where I felt like a local. 

So, it might sound like a cliché to say I feel like a world citizen but I have always found purpose outside my home country, hence my complex view on identity, citizenship and belonging. 

Being a Portuguese citizen born in the 1990s I have always known myself as a EU citizen who can "feel at home from Lisbon to Sofia". I have always been fascinated by the opportunities that EU citizenship provides and was fortunate enough to take advantage of such initiatives - from short-term exchanges, to Erasmus and volunteering abroad - I did it all! 

I find it ironic that I first moved to the UK to live for an initial period of 12 months in 2019, still through a programme made possible by the EU. I knew I was stepping into unknown territory - not only was I going to live outside the EU for the first time for that period of time but also, I was going somewhere people chose to leave this Union of nations.

The excitement of moving away was daunted by fears of racism, discrimination and scapegoating. It’s safe to say that so far my life in the UK has been mostly smooth sailing. But that doesn’t mean that Brexit and its impacts aren’t daunting. 

The most anxious Brexit-related experience that repeats itself countless times? Arriving at the UK border! The fact that we have been left without an ID document to prove our status always makes me feel powerless in my interactions with authorities. Learning about stories of families separated by Brexit and common defaults in digital systems only add up to my anxiety!

I am a migrant and I came to the UK to work in the charity sector in the field of migration. I come across people hailing from many different backgrounds. What do they all have in common? The fact that they survived trauma, conflict and hazardous journeys to reach safety. People who yearn for a new life, whose identities are shaped by their cultures of birth and their new society. I witness the challenges migrants face to feel like they belong and to integrate. It’s an uphill battle faced by the most vulnerable and unprotected people amongst us. 

My job often leads me to reflect on the perks and drawbacks of citizenship. Is it possible to feel like we belong somewhere where we are not citizens? I believe it is, but we must do better to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome to participate and contribute. 

Putting the focus back on EU citizens, I believe many of us now feel there is no place for us in the UK. I personally worry about the divide between people and fear mongering. We are more than headlines and more than a monolithic bloc. 

This is why I truly believe new narratives are needed - fresh, diverse, multilayered narratives about EU citizens living in the UK. Giving voice to the people is the best way to create empathy and build bridges of dialogue!

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