Brexit means we are no longer welcoming the world – Ewan Aitken

The confilct and uncertainty caused by Brexit is unealthy for individuals and the country. Picture: AP
The confilct and uncertainty caused by Brexit is unealthy for individuals and the country. Picture: AP
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We are less than 1000 hours away from Brexit. No-one has a plan – neither the Government nor the official opposition or the many other factions in and some now outside the main parties.

Polls now show a majority in favour of remaining, or at least not leaving if this is what it means; which might not be the same thing as a majority to remain but there’s no chance of a second referendum to test the veracity of those polls.

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians Scotland

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians Scotland

And meanwhile people who have been in this country for decades, played their part in building communities in their work and their leisure, paying their taxes and being good citizens are now having to apply for permission to stay in the place they and their children call home.

And it’s not just about those who want to stay. The utter chaos has meant those who would have come and helped make a difference no longer see this country as a place of welcome.

Two of the communities of young homeless people Cyrenians have run for decades included volunteers from all over the world. Their presence has brought something special to the life of each community. Sadly, the number of people applying to join us from both in and beyond the EU has dried up considerably.

We had a very difficult period over Christmas where we were down to one and two volunteers in each Community respectively where there are normally six in each. There were a number of reasons for this but having far fewer applicants was a main driver.

My Cyrenians colleagues and community members worked together amazingly over this period and with the use of the sessional pool of staff and our fantastic staff team working different shifts we managed it.

With a lot of hard work from colleagues we have managed to pull numbers back up to six again in February. We have seen a very recent increase in UK applicants – five this year so far when we only had four in the whole of last year. Whether this is a reverse impact of Brexit or not can only be guessed at the moment. Whilst an increase in UK volunteers can bring some benefits, if it is coupled with a drastic decrease in overseas volunteers there is a sad loss to our mix of cultures and community.

Not only does it mean our communities are changing in ways we would not have wished but it’s another sign our country is somewhere people from other places feel is no longer a place of welcome. Not a good reputation in a global village. All this conflict and uncertainty is unhealthy. We need to manage differently how we feel when conflict is happening. And we need to listen to those who are going to have to live with the consequences of Brexit for a lot longer than those who led the campaign to lead us out of the EU. What kind of nation and community do they want to grow up in.

On March 5 we have the chance to hear those voices. Another Cyrenians event run by our Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution is taking place in the Glasgow Science Centre. This free event for young people will let them meet their Emotional Homunculus – the bit of our brain which responds to how we experience what’s happening around us. They’ll also explore what we call the Brain’s Amazing Drugs Cabinet – what happens in our brains when conflict occurs.

This national event for young people will explore the science behind conflict and the brain, why we act and react the way we do and how to maintain the best balance to keep ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. Given the levels of conflict in our political debates right now and the very real consequences we have seen in our communities, it could not be timelier.

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians Scotland