“Good” and “Bad” Migrants in the Perception of Czechs living in the UK

In today’s post we would like to describe an interesting feature of the interviews with the Czechs living in the UK that goes beyond life choices and strategies concerning Brexit. We will elaborate on ways how migrants in the UK were divided between desirable and undesirable in their speeches (with Czechs always on the right side).  

The previous post about the Czech Republic described the blasé attitude towards Brexit of Czechs living in the UK- so far none of our fifteen interview partners were personally worried about their future in the UK nor they expected any major change in their lives. But speaking about Brexit with people from Central Europe is a way to uncover a broader experience of migration and hear similar stories that were used in the LEAVE campaign. 

All of our interview partners remembered the Brexit morning shock- they did not believe that Britons will vote LEAVE. This shock is connected also to the image of tolerant, multicultural and open British society that the Czech interview partners shared. Czechs also tend to live in urban areas where the LEAVE campaign was not that successful. Either they personally did not know anyone or just a few individuals that voted for brexit. What was surprising was that the majority of our interview partners have understanding or even agreed with the common reasons for Britain leaving the EU (however these common reasons might be far away from the real political effects).

I can understand that there is this old guy from this small Scottish village and he goes to his pub and it is full of foreigners and he does not feel at home anymore” said Jakub, who used to work in a hotel in Scotland. “At least now they will be able to control migration from Africa, because this country is already full,” said stay-at-home dad Jan. 

More than a half of our interview partners declared either that there are too many migrants in the UK or that some migrant groups do not work or threaten culture  or life in Britain in other ways. However, these “bad” migrants are never Czechs- who were always (self)depicted as hardworking and unobtrusive. 

When Jakub was telling how he goes to the pub with other Czechs we had to ask if he thinks that this group of Czechs can possibly make an elderly local man feel not at home? “Hm, you are right…but we are not that loud and we know how to behave.” These, that do not know, how to behave, are always a different group- migrants from Africa, Romania or even from Poland (because “Poles stick too much together and they isolate themselves from the wider society” believes Lucie- caregiver and student.

Not just that Czechs are never the bad migrants, they even do not know any personally- even among their friends who are also migrants. These bad, undeserving, isolationist migrants are just somewhere there. 

This vision of migration was not shared by all of our interview partners- more nuanced understanding of ethnic relations have those that have a training in social sciences or have a closer knowledge through their work: “Majority of beneficiaries are born in the UK.” said Michaela who works for municipal social services provider.

The confidence with which Czechs were facing Brexit was based on a belief that everyone has to see that Czechs are the hard-working and therefore desirable migrants and that both the public and politicians must recognize that they are essential for the British economy.

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