Having lived in Krakow, Dublin and New York, it was London’s dynamic intersection of cultures from all over the world (and the EU in particular) that made me want to put down roots here.
But sadly that dynamism has started to ebb away ever since the EU referendum was announced last year. The entire campaign has been overshadowed by sensationalist, anti-immigration storylines of uneducated migrants invading Fortress Britain to live off benefits and steal jobs.
I don’t see myself in any of these storylines. I speak quite a few languages (including fluent English), and the FinTech company I co-founded employs nearly 100 people between London and Krakow. Oh, and I love nothing more of an evening than sitting down to watch a good British TV drama with my Brit-born partner in our East London flat.
There aren’t many things I’m afraid of in life, but I’m definitely afraid of people making decisions on the basis of unfounded fears. All manner of scaremongering scenarios and statistics have been dreamed up during the referendum campaign, but the facts tell a very different story:
- More than 60 per cent of migrants in Britain are employed or in higher education
- One in seven UK firms have been founded or co-founded by migrants, employing at least 1.16m people
- EU migrants contribute at least £2bn more in tax and National Insurance than they pocket in tax credits and child benefits
Azimo is one of Europe’s fastest-growing fintech companies and we pride ourselves on having a wonderfully diverse workforce. Nearly 80 per cent of our London team were born outside Britain, and there are 21 different nationalities and 25 languages across our two offices.
We’ve worked very hard to build a digital money transfer business that touches millions of people’s lives around the world, but the EU referendum campaign has affected each and every one of us personally, and the company as a whole.
The uncertainty of the results is creating significant disruption in the currency markets. So for the first time in Azimo history, we’ve had to stop our service today until the markets settle on Friday. Gambling with people’s hard-earned money is something we’re simply not willing to do.
How the markets play out when the results are announced on Friday is anyone’s guess. But I do know two things for certain: our business will resume and, whatever the result, this campaign will have an everlasting impact on Britain.
I don’t have a vote, but I do have a voice and so do my colleagues at Azimo. That’s why we’ve decided to start a campaign to redefine the word "migrant" to show that the story being told now is not the only story. We’ll continue to stand alongside people who move around the world in order to make their lives, and the lives of their families and communities, better.
To start our campaign, we asked 3,000 Brits and migrants about their opinions and experiences of 21st century Britain. Some of the results were shocking: we found that one in three migrants have suffered verbal abuse just for being from another country. But we also learned that family is just as important to Brits as migrants: 50 per cent would pack a bag and move to a different country if their family was in need.
Redefining the word migrant won’t happen overnight. But it will happen because, however the EU referendum turns out, we all have to find ways to live together, do business together and thrive together on a planet where people will always move from one country to another.
As a resident of this country, I genuinely care about its future. I truly believe both Britons and migrants deserve better and I’m certain that the UK remaining part of the EU makes complete economic sense – not just for the success of my business, but for the success of the country as a whole. And if Vote Leave wins tomorrow? Well I’ll focus on the fact that we just have a little more of the world to change.