Syrian man ‘heartbroken’ after being denied European election vote in Redbourn
A Redbourn man was left heartbroken after being denied a vote in the European elections.
Syrian born Fares, who has lived in the UK for eight years and would prefer to only use his first name, was among thousands of EU nationals turned away at polling stations last Thursday.
The hashtag #DeniedMyVote was trending on social media on Friday, as indignant voters shared their stories.
It is thought confusion over registration amid Brexit delays was responsible for the chaos.
Fares, who has lived in Redbourn since 2014, arrived at Redbourn Village Hall polling station with his husband, only to find his name crossed was out and he was told he could not vote.
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The 32-year-old said: "I am extremely disheartened. My name was on the list, they knew who I was, I have been voting here for many years, but it had been crossed out by someone."
Fares has a Polish mother, but grew up in Syria where voting was more symbolic than democratic.
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He said: "When I moved to the UK, I was amazed that here you can actually change something. As a result, I have always been extremely passionate about voting when I can, and taking it seriously.
"I am emotional. I feel very heartbroken about what happened. I keep going over in my head the situation at the polling station."
For Fares, the experience rekindled old memories of alienation: "In Syria, I was a Polish man, so I did not truly fit in. As a man of dual identity, the feelings of belonging somewhere are extremely important.
"I care deeply about this country. For once, I feel like I have something to contribute. And it is my duty to give back to the community here. Even if it was an administration error, things like this are often a symptom of something deeper. On Thursday I felt like I was not wanted. Like I was being treated differently because of my nationality."
Electoral registration officer for the district, Mike Lovelady, said St Albans district council did all they could: "To vote in the UK, all EU citizens had to complete the European Parliament Voter Registration Form and return it by Tuesday 7 May. This was a signed agreement by an EU citizen saying they would vote in the UK only and not in their home country too. It was a legal requirement imposed by the UK Parliament."
He said they sent 5,000 letters to EU nationals in the district and also publicised the requirement.