The UK is behaving like an ‘enemy state’ towards EU citizens trying to enter the country perfectly legally, according to the Guardian.
The newspaper has been collecting testimony from people who have suffered at the hands of the UK Border Force, which polices posts of entry, and concludes that confusion reigns within the force as to the exact content of the regulations.
One man, a German IT consultant, was detained at Heathrow airport despite being legally resident in the UK with settled status, indefinite leave to remain. He is also waiting for his British passport to be delivered.
Nonetheless, his established rights were wiped out with one stroke of the Border Force officer’s pen.
The man now intends to remain in Germany and not return to the UK until his passport arrives.
“I pay a large amount of tax there, I have never used the health service, I contribute to the economy, I own property there. London is my favourite city in the world, but I have no documents to show I can stay there,” he said.
The British government has rejected a proposal to issue EU citizens a residency card to show when required – something similar to the card the Belgian government intends to issue to UK nationals resident here.
In theory, settled status is open to citizens of an EU or EEA member state, as well as Switzerland, and means that the individual has the right to live, work, and remain indefinitely, free of immigration control. It also means that the holder can access public funds (e.g. benefits), and after 12 months, apply for British citizenship.
In another case, a Spanish airline worker was detained at Gatwick while Border Force officers tried to work out whether he was lying about his pre-settled status. The reason his passport did not show that status was because he applied using his identity card, but he was told ID cards are no longer acceptable at the border.
He was finally allowed through when he showed his airline ID and his flight plan.
“Because of my job I have flown to many destinations and I have been through border controls in different countries. I felt I had landed in some random enemy state,” he said.
“This is the first time I felt intimidated by a police officer asking me questions just for being a foreigner living in the UK.
One Labour MP, Hilary Benn, said the cases appearing thus far demonstrate what could be the fate of the 4.9 EU nationals currently resident in the UK with settled or pre-settled status, should they decide to travel to their homeland and return afterwards.
“It’s worrying to hear of these incidents happening. The Home Office needs to make sure that all Border Force staff are fully trained in applying the new rules.”
“EU citizens are our friends and neighbours and we want them to stay in the UK, which is why we launched our ground-breaking EU Settlement Scheme,” a spokesperson for the Home Office said.
“Those who do not have status under the EUSS can enter the UK for up to six months as visitors, visa free. However, now freedom of movement has ended, those coming to work or study must prove they meet our entry requirements. We urge people to check the requirements before travelling.”
The UK deadline for applying for settled or pre-settled status is 30 June this year. The Home Office still has an estimated 320,000 applications to process.