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Brexit hatred in Kent drives away French woman Murielle Stentzel

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A French woman who lives in the Canterbury district says she is being forced out of the country - and away from her family - because of discrimination sparked by Brexit.

Murielle Stentzel claims she has been left with no option but to move back to her home country next week after eight years in England, leaving her daughter and British-born granddaughter, aged five, behind.

The 57-year-old, who worked in Hersden, says she has been denied jobs, suffered abuse and faced a "staggering rise" in xenophobia since the June 2016 vote.

Murielle Stentzel
Murielle Stentzel

She moved to Herne Bay after securing a bilingual role at Mattress Next Day on the outskirts of Canterbury, and after being made redundant got another job in Sittingbourne.

“Unfortunately I lost my job a few months ago and despite sending 30 CVs a week I only got a few interviews,” she said.

“I kept being asked if I had the right to stay and could I prove it, which is still illegal to ask.

“Each time my answer was the same ‘I’m European for now, my passport is enough proof and I have been here for eight years and according to the EU laws, I have the same rights until 2019’.

“I had to report some jobs adverts as they are clearly discriminatory, specifying British nationals only.

“I thought I might have more luck in Canterbury as so many people voted remain, but it is a university city with lots of students so why would they need someone like me?”

Murielle Stentzel has already packed her belongings to move back to France
Murielle Stentzel has already packed her belongings to move back to France

Just a month after the Brexit vote last year, Canterbury Cathedral was forced to issue a grovelling apology after one of its guards told an Argentinian woman: “Dover’s that way, love.”

Mum-of-two Silvina Fairbrass was met with the offensive jibe as she headed into the Cathedral precincts.

She said at the time: “Since the referendum, unfortunately, there has been a minority who see a platform to voice their opinions against foreigners.”

Ms Stentzel says such discrimination has left her no option but to move back to France.

“I’m going to live in a room in La Rochelle in hardship as the French authorities will not help for three months as I have been living here,” she said.

Ms Stentzel says she was happy before the Brexit vote and had met lovely people in Herne Bay who became her adoptive family.

“Things have got bad now, though,” she said.

A security guard’s racist jibe caused headlines last year
A security guard’s racist jibe caused headlines last year

“I have been told to return to frogland, I have been abused online because I’m a foreigner.

“All this, plus 15 months of uncertainty about our rights and the staggering rise of xenophobia, is enough to fall out of love with this country.

“I wish no-one to experience this pain inflicted on us since June 2016.

“We have done nothing wrong other than love this country and contribute to it.

“I don’t feel welcome anymore and I will return to France – not home, because home was here.

“I’m leaving my daughter and granddaughter behind.”

Ms Stentzel has contributed to a book called In Limbo, which gives testimonies from EU citizens in the UK about their plight since the vote.

“I encourage people to read it to see the impact it has had on us,” she said.

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