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LONDON – UK border officials have started asking some EU citizens living in the country to prove they are legal residents, in apparent violation of the law, according to EU diplomats.
After the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, border officials have the right to ask questions to verify whether a non-UK national is entering the country as a tourist or as a resident. But EU diplomats say some officials have gone beyond that, demanding that EU nationals living in Britain provide documents to prove their status – particularly that they have been granted established status. or preinstalled as part of the government’s EU settlement program.
The deadline for EU nationals residing in the UK to apply for such status is June 30, so many do not have these documents. Border officials are not supposed to ask for it before then.
POLITICO is aware of cases affecting at least four nationals of Finland, Malta and Romania who were arrested at the border on their return home, although there is no official count of how often this occurs. product.
The lack of a physical ID card proving residency status under the program means that some of those involved did not know how to respond to border officials. Others tried to log into the Interior Ministry’s website at the border post or showed prints of their digital certificate of settlement status. This printed document is not legally considered proof of established status but, in some cases, has been accepted by officials as proof.
Sirpa Arovaara, a Finnish national, flew from Helsinki to London Heathrow Terminal 2 on January 9 with her 11-year-old daughter. Families with children under the age of 12 cannot use electronic passport doors, so their documents have been verified by border force officers.
While in line, an official shouted that they should have proof of their Unlimited Residence Permit (ILR or EU Settlement Program) ready or else they would be fined. This came as a surprise to Arovaara, who has lived in the UK for almost 20 years. She was granted permanent resident status but did not expect to be required to provide proof. She logged in on her cell phone and showed the screen to a second official.
“I felt we hadn’t arrived in the UK, it was more the feeling of border control you get in the US,” she said. “The official told me that in the future it would make it easier if I printed the first page of my ILR form and still had it with my passport. The official was nice, I think he wanted to. I thought, ‘Brexit had just happened and that’s why they were asking for this document’. I kind of blamed myself, thought maybe I might have missed some information.
Two Maltese citizens have requested support from the Maltese embassy in London, after they were asked for proof of their residence in Britain when they attempted to re-enter the country at Heathrow Airport early of the month. “In both cases Maltese citizens held the pre-established status as granted under the EU’s settlement program and in both cases there appears to have been a misunderstanding at the UK border regarding the lack of physical evidence of said status, “said a Maltese diplomat.
An EU diplomat said the cases were likely due to officials’ lack of clarity on the new rules, rather than a hostile environment towards foreigners.
“It’s kind of a gray area,” they said. “Border force officers have the power to try to determine who you are and even ask you for details of your residence, but they cannot ask you for proof of your established or pre-settled status.”
Meanwhile, passengers on a Milan-London flight in early January were required to prove they had proof of established status before boarding their flight, according to a third European diplomat.
The Home Office said border forces personnel received a comprehensive training program on the new procedures and provided advice to airlines.
“We have made it clear that there have been no border changes for EU nationals returning to the UK after traveling abroad – except those linked to the pandemic of coronavirus, which apply to everyone, ”a government spokesperson said. “A person granted status under the EU Settlement Program should continue to use their valid passport or national identity card to cross the UK border.”
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