By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad assured that Britain’s exit or “Brexit” from the European Union will not have an impact on the 250,000 Filipinos working and living in the United Kingdom as they arrived in the United Kingdom (UK) under a “completely different immigration regime.”
Ahmad noted that the UK has an independent migration and visa policy, not being part of Schengen.
Schengen area includes EU member-states that have abolished passports and any other type of border control documents at their mutual borders. It functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The UK negotiated opt-outs from Schengen.
“We are not part of Schengen. They came to UK based on our rules and those rules will not be changed,” said Ahmad, referring to entering Filipinos.
He said Filipinos came to the UK based on rules that would not be changed.
“There’s a period of uncertainty for many people in the UK because nobody likes change. But if you look at the fundamentals of the status of the Filipinos who live and work there, they came under a completely different immigration regime,” stressed Ahmad.
“We have special categories of our immigration rules that allow essential workers to come in. It’s not that we are suddenly shutting the gates to people moving. We make our own decisions as to who comes and goes,” he added.
The British embassy official admitted that Britain needs the services of the Filipinos. He also does not see any change in the arrangement on British investments in the Philippines following the Brexit vote.
He said that UK investments in the Philippines’ financial market, manufacturing and oil and gas would not diminish.
He likewise expressed confidence that Philippine investments in the UK and sales to the Philippines, which rose by 38 percent in 2015, would not be affected.
“I don’t think anybody from the Philippines should be worried,” Ahmad said.
“Our role in the world will not change dramatically because of this decision,” he said, referring to the Brexit vote.
Britain and the European Union have serious disagreements on opening borders to refugees from Syria and other conflict-stricken Middle East countries.
“Migration of people within the EU and the UK is something that should be negotiated on how that takes place. Our government has been at pains to reassure everybody living in the UK that there is no immediate change to their status,” he said.
While the European Union’s core values include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Ahmad, however, noted that migration should not be equated with human rights.
“It is wrong to put human rights and migration in the same pot,” said Ahmad, reacting to issues of opening the borders of the UK to refugees from Syria.
He said migration is completely a different issue. He said migration means every country has a right to retain control over its borders, determine whom it wants to have and in what quantities and terms under which people should come in or not.
Ahmad said ASEAN could learn from the Brexit in terms of “avoiding the areas of difficulty.”
He said ASEAN members can create and open markets “where you could trade with each other and negotiate trade deals as a bloc.”
“What you see in the UK is a desire of a member-state to have a strong voice in determining their economic well-being, sovereignty, defense and other ambitions that any country has,” said Ahmad.
Ahmad said the referendum has to be activated by enacting legislation.
“This is something the Parliament will decide on, the mechanism for changes to be effective,” Ahmad said.
He said enacting legislation would be delayed until the successor of Prime Minister David Cameron takes over. The latter announced that he is stepping down in October.
Meanwhile, Bataan Bishop Rufino Santos, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) — Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said OFWs based in Britain, many of them nurses, would not be affected by the Brexit.
He said the working visas of our OFWs were issued by the UK government and not by the EU, which is called Schengen visa. He also said our OFWs are hired by the UK government to work in the country. So they can remain in the UK and work there.
He allayed fears that the OFWs would be sent home or be out of work.