Thousands of EU citizens could lose legal status to live in the UK

London (AP) — Marlies Haselton has called Britain home for over 30 years. The Dutch people marry an Englishman, have children there, and consider themselves a “part” of Britain. She had never thought about immigrant status in Britain until Britain divorced from the European Union.

55-year-old Hazleton is one of the millions of Europeans who have lived, worked and studied freely in the UK for decades, but Brexit no longer automatically grants that right. I did. In 2019, the British government introduced a “reconciliation” plan for the country’s large European immigrant community. The application deadline is Wednesday.

Beginning Thursday, European immigrants who do not apply will lose their legal right to work in the UK, rent a home, access hospital treatment and benefits. They may even be subject to deportation.

Meanwhile, the freedom of movement that more than one million British people have long enjoyed in EU countries is ending. Those applying for a post-Brexit residence permit in France will also face a deadline on Wednesday.

British activists are worried that tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of Europeans, may not have applied by the deadline. Many older people who have lived in the UK for decades are unaware that they have to apply. According to official figures, only 2% of applicants were over 65 years old. According to immigrant rights groups, many parents are unaware that they have to apply for their children.

Other vulnerable people, such as the estimated 2,000 children receiving social care, are also at risk of breaking through the rift and losing their legal status.

For Haselton and many others, it’s a moment reminiscent of the impact of the UK referendum on leaving the EU five years ago. Haselton successfully received her “settlement” status, which means she can live in the UK forever, but she makes the whole process uneasy about the life she built in the UK. I said that.

“I don’t feel calm,” she said. “I’m worried about the future. I don’t feel safe about getting older as a foreigner here. I’ve lost the sense of home I once had.”

The UK government states that the majority of people from Poland and Romania, about 5.6 million, have applied far beyond their original estimates. Approximately half were eligible to settle, but about 2 million migrants who did not live in the UK long enough were told they would have to resubmit their documents after completing their five-year residency in the UK. ..

Lara Parisot, the campaigner for The 3 million, a group founded after the Brexit referendum lobbying for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, is still in danger of about 400,000 people waiting for a decision. He said he was on the verge of death.

“These are the people we hear a lot,” she said. “You want to be safe and secure, you want to keep planning for your future … how complicated it is to not have that certainty in your life now that things are about to change. I can imagine. “

Dalia Riabuchikova, a Russian woman who applied in February as a partner for a Belgian citizen living in the UK, said waiting four months for the documents to be processed was “very frustrating.” She fears that delays will affect the new work she is about to start.

“I feel like a third-class citizen, despite working here, paying taxes with my partner, living here and contributing to the fight against the pandemic over the past year,” she said. Told. It was processed on time. “

There is no number that indicates the exact number of people who missed the deadline. But even a small part of Britain’s European population will add up to tens of thousands, Parizott said. In recent weeks, a 25-year-old Brazilian-Italian has traveled with other volunteers across the UK to encourage them to enroll in a European community working on rural farms and warehouses before it’s too late. ..

One of the key concerns is that immigration policy in the UK when many people in the Caribbean who legally settled in the UK decades ago were mistakenly caught up in strict new government rules to crack down on illegal immigrants. It has the potential to leave a dire legacy similar to the “Windrush” scandal.

Many of the “Windrush generations,” named after the first post-war migrant ships from the West Indies, lost their homes and jobs simply because they couldn’t prepare documents to prove their residence. , I was deported.

Madeline Samphon, director of the Oxford University Immigration Observatory, said many Europeans, especially young people whose parents did not apply, “are not necessarily aware that they have lost their position immediately.”

“For some people, it will become clear later, for example, when they get a new job or need to be treated in a hospital,” she said. “It may take years before legal, political, economic and social impacts begin to emerge.”

The British government has admitted to giving suspicious benefits to those who have “reasonable reasons” to apply late, but that did not ease the worries of activists. Many, including those who have secured a well-established position, are no longer confident in their future in the UK.

Elena Remigi, a translator from Milan who founded the project “In Limbo” to record the voices of the EU people in the UK since the Brexit referendum, said that many Europeans were wondering how the adopting countries treated them. He said he still felt betrayed.

“It’s really sad that people who used to live here now feel unwelcome and have to leave,” she said. “Some people are really hard to forgive it.”

Haselton, a Dutch immigrant, said his British husband was considering moving his family to the Netherlands as a direct result of Brexit. She is torn.

“I still love this country. If I had to move, it would hurt my heart,” she said. “At the same time, I don’t know if I want to stay. When it comes to the feeling that I belong, it’s not something I can do with a piece of paper.”

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