Ministers have been accused of violating their promise to secure the post-Brexit rights of thousands of British nationals who settled in the EU and married foreigners.
Activists from British in Europe (BiE) wrote to Foreign Secretary Wendy Morton and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster to talk about the “heartache” and “distress” endured by British citizens facing problems with the Ministry of the Interior regarding their right of return. home in UK.
Before Brexit, all EU nationals – including Britons – were free to move between Member States with family members, regardless of their origin.
But after Brexit, non-British spouses of British citizens – including German, French and Spanish nationals – must apply for pre-established status by March 29 of next year. However, they are only eligible if they obtain a new European family permit from the Home Office.
The BiE said it was aware of several cases of spouses of Britons living in the EU being denied family permits under the “Surinder Singh route” for non-British spouses or partners or experiencing “problems important “with their requests.
He told Morton the examples were “precisely the kind of situations we knew British citizens and their families would face following the loss of our European rights and why we asked for a grace period”.
“As the immigration bill passed, your cabinet colleagues Kevin Foster and Baroness Trafford assured other MPs and peers that these families… the future was secure. Obviously that’s not the case, ”the letter said.
Elena Remigi, the founder of the Project in limbo, who campaigns on behalf of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, said: ‘In recent days we have seen more and more of these cases causing tremendous distress to families who before Brexit would not have had to think twice before returning to the UK but are now at the mercy of the Home Office.
“The government has repeatedly said that the rights of British nationals will not be diminished by Brexit. If they really care, they will look into it urgently.
The BiE calls on the government to extend the deadline for submitting applications beyond March 29, 2022 due to delays in giving Britons the opportunity to exercise their rights.
A heavily pregnant British woman living in Barcelona said she could not return home to visit her father, who recently suffered a brain injury, after her husband was refused a permit. Olivia Hughes said her Moroccan husband Abdel, a legal resident of Spain, had been denied a permit because of paperwork and was now on a razor’s edge for a potential appeal that could force her to go to first court.
Hughes, an elementary school teacher, said she was shocked and upset by the “harsh treatment” and “lack of compassion” from her own government.
“You have to apply on the government website and send a lot of documents, but it’s really not clear exactly what forms of evidence you need to provide in order for them to accept it,” she said. “They could have just asked for the additional documents, but instead they refused. A call can take months or a year and then we miss the deadline for pre-settled status. “
She wrote to Hove MP Peter Kyle asking him to take care of her case.
“The sad thing is that it creates problems between us. Not being able to come back with my husband in an emergency is really hard to swallow. And we have to move together because, being seven months pregnant, I don’t want to. not risk being alone. It’s just heartbreaking, “she said.
“We are not wrong. It is literally tearing my family apart and is currently having extremely bad effects on my father’s health and my own mental health. “
Hughes said the Home Office could have treated British nationals as EU nationals and simply given them the option of providing additional evidence rather than forcing them through lengthy court proceedings – which could ultimately mean time is running out for their right to return home.
BiE chairwoman Fiona Godfrey said Olivia’s case was typical of Brits trapped in a post-Brexit nightmare simply because they fell in love with a non-British national.
Another woman, Jenny Gruner, also living in Spain, now fears her request to return home with her German husband, Christian, will expire or fail due to Interior Ministry delays.
“If we don’t get this family permit on time I know we will never be able to return to the UK as a family because I will never be able to afford the spouse’s visa fee – which is £ 8,000” , she said.
Gruner, from Hackney in east London, said: “I want to move to Kent to be closer to my sister. My little boy is three years old and we have to choose a school by December. It is so unfair. The application deadline is so tight after Brexit. “
Another woman, married to a Brit for six years, with her own business and a mortgage-free house in the Czech Republic, said she applied for a permit from the Home Office in January and was told she was ‘she would have to wait two weeks. They are still waiting. “We find it appalling that our friends from the EU can stay in the UK with their non-EU spouses when I don’t even have permission to enter the country,” she said. .
The Home Office said: ‘UK citizens returning to the UK with their family members from the EU should apply for a family permit from the EU Settlement Program.
“Each case is examined as quickly as possible and on its individual merits. “