A few days ago, Theresa May appealed – in an open letter – to three million EU nationals, asking them to stay in the UK after Brexit. This follows the EU’s refusal to begin trade talks until progress is made on the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
A month earlier this site reported that the Home Office had sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal.
One of these was Eva Johanna Holmberg who has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade and was threatened with detention under the Immigration Act. Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. When the department called to apologise it did not offer to cover her legal costs of about £3,800.
Further encouragement to stay was given to another widely valued EU citizen, who has lived and worked in this country for years; her (fortunately secondary!) bank account had been blocked. She couldn’t access online banking nor use the ATM.
When she went in to the local branch they said it was because a bank statement had been returned.
- She said this was impossible as she only gets online statements.
- Response to that: “Well it must have been something you’ve done”.
- To unblock the account she had to provide proof of ID, proof of address, confirm she had paid UK taxes etc …
This is expected to happen more often from next January, as the accounts of ‘identified’ foreign nationals will be closed down or frozen. Even if the people concerned provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing they are lawfully present in Britain, banks have been instructed that such customers should be told to take up the matter with the Home Office – clearly an intent to harass.
Will there be more ‘rebuttals and clarifications’ on the Home Office media blog, as its recent record shows clearly that it cannot be trusted to implement such systems without errors.
Imposition of the forthcoming checks will simply add another category to the stress-inducing procedures incorrectly inflicted on ‘foreign nationals’ who have every right to be in Britain.
Broken Britain 8: EU nationals experience the maladministration which has affected the country’s poorest for decades
EU nationals’ deportation threat was an ‘unfortunate error’, according to Theresa May
The Home Office mistakenly sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal
One of these, academic Eva Johanna Holmberg has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade, but the letter from the Home Office said that ‘A decision has been taken to remove you from the UK.’ It added that if she did not leave the country of her own accord the department would give “directions for [her] removal” as “a person liable to be detained under the Immigration Act”.
Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. Several people have been told wrongly they should leave the country after trying to apply for permanent residency but this is the first time the Home Office has issued a letter telling people to leave.
Though the department called to apologise, the person who telephoned did not agree that the government would cover her legal costs of about £3,800.
The Financial Times reports that more than 120 MPs have challenged the rollout of Britain’s flagship “Universal Credit” benefits system, saying that delays are leaving poor households exposed.
Universal credit payments are withheld for the first week and then paid monthly in arrears. In practice, almost a quarter of claimants are waiting even longer — for up to 12-13 weeks. A DWP spokesperson said “Around 80% of payments are made on time and where they are not it is usually because a claimant commitment has not been signed or there is a verification issue over information”.
Citizens’ Advice has helped more than 30,000 people facing problems with the new system, and the Trussell Trust ((food banks) has seen a sharp rise in referrals for emergency food in areas where universal credit has been introduced.
But private enterprise flourishes: MP Ruth George said there was evidence that high-cost payday lenders were targeting areas where the universal credit system has just been introduced – and household debt is already 140% of GDP.
Eva Amsen adds to the apprehensions of many readers who have friends or relatives living and working in Britain as EU citizens
Note also that David Gray solicitors reminds us there are large numbers of Britons working and running businesses in EU states.
Recent estimates by the UK government are that around 2.2 million British citizens live in other EU countries.
EU states could also impose visa restrictions upon British nationals.
Her account of the situation is summarised here (Ed: preamble and graphic added):
Misconception 1: Any Europeans who are already living in the UK will be able to stay
We have been trying to get the government to make exactly this promise, which a lot of people take as a given, but they have not done so. They’re waiting for all other EU countries to make a similar promise for UK residents abroad. Both Europeans in the UK and British citizens in EU countries are being used as bargaining chips. If you see an “I’m not a bargaining chip” image on social media, that’s what this is about. The insecurity about the future status of EU residents in the UK is already causing people to leave, creating labour shortages.
Misconception 2: If you’re a skilled worker with degrees, you can definitely stay
There is an immigration route into the UK for skilled workers from outside of the EU (and you might, for example, have American friends who moved here via that process) but this immigration pathway is NOT currently available for Europeans to use. There is only one immigration pathway for all Europeans regardless of degrees or jobs, and the system is malfunctioning (more on that below).The immigration requirements are actually extra hard for scientists and other academics, who can get disqualified either because they didn’t have the right insurance during their full-time PhD . . .
Misconception 3: If you have strong ties to the UK, like a British spouse or children, you can definitely stay
Ironically, some of the people who have lived here the longest — who did their degree here and/or raised kids here — are now told they might not be able to stay. Having a British spouse or British children is entirely irrelevant for the immigration procedure for Europeans in the UK. You can only apply to become a permanent resident if you have “exercised treaty rights” for five years in the UK. That either means that you have worked during that period, and paid national insurance contributions via your employment, or that you had your own “comprehensive sickness insurance” during the years you were not employed.Until people started looking into immigration after the referendum last summer, most EU citizens in the UK had no idea that they were supposed to have had this kind of insurance. Nobody ever told them. Nobody ever asked for it. Nobody ever checked. Until now. In particular students and stay-at-home parents are affected by this insurance requirement. Many people who have been married to a Brit for decades are now being told that they are not qualified to become a permanent resident of the UK. A British spouse cannot be a “sponsor” for their immigration application.So, ironically, some of the people who have lived here the longest — who did their degree here and/or raised kids here — are now told they might not be able to stay.
Misconception 4: Okay, I think I get it: If you worked continuously in the UK for at least five years, you will definitely be allowed to stay
Well….maybe. This is currently the most likely guarantee, but there are snags in the system. First of all, we don’t know for certain that permanent resident status achieved on the basis of fulfilling EU treaty requirements will indeed remain valid after Brexit. That’s again something we would like the government to confirm. Many people are applying anyway, because it’s the only immigration route we qualify for, and the non-EU route (which we might have to use in the future) is twenty times as expensive. Second, the evidence required to prove that you have indeed fulfilled all the requirements to be here legally is enormous and elaborate. Do you still have all your old payslips? I didn’t, and I have now had to go back to two previous employers to request them (and a letter) to be able to complete the employment evidence section of my application. if you thought you were being environmentally friendly with paperless billing and electronic bank statements, that is a huge disadvantage.Employment evidence alone is not enough. To prove that you lived in the UK continuously, you also need things like old utility bills or other pieces of official mail sent to your address throughout the years. Electronic documents do not count, so if you thought you were being environmentally friendly with paperless billing and electronic bank statements, that is a HUGE disadvantage when you need to prove that you lived in the country all this time. And if you were living with housemates or a partner, you better have been the person the bills were addressed to! Finally, the Home Office wants to see proof that you were an EU citizen during the five year qualifying period, so if you renewed your passport recently you will need to still have the old one. Many embassies keep the old passport when they give you a new one, so this also a challenge for a lot of people!
Misconception 5: UK citizens in other EU countries are having similar problems.
They are not! Each country sets their own immigration procedures, and the Members of European Parliament that looked into the situation have not found evidence that the procedures for UK residents to settle in other EU countries have been as challenging.The permanent resident application system has lots of bugs in it. One commonly encountered issue is that someone who used to receive child benefits in the past, but doesn’t anymore, is technically unable to fill in the online application form. When they follow the steps in the online application, the thread of questioning brings them to a dead end where it is impossible to answer that they don’t currently receive any benefits.
It’s a weird, broken, application process and it needs to be fixed.
Eva ends: I will be visiting parliament on February 20 as part of a mass lobby for EU residents rights in the UK. We are mainly pushing for the government to make a firm statement about our status, i.e. to make it official that everyone who was already here can stay. This has been hinted at, but is not yet certain. (See “misconception 1” above). Everyone will try to speak to their MP about their own experience. Even if you can’t be there in person, anyone in the UK can contact their own MP to ask them to push for clarity and security for EU residents in the country. If I manage to get to talk to my MP, I want to focus in particular on the challenges that academics/researchers face with the current application system (see “misconception 2” above)
There is a petition asking for a reform of the permanent resident application, which addresses some of the same issues I described above.
Eva Amsen: Writer, science communicator, musician. I’m a biochemist by training, but now I work with scientists rather than as one.
Margaret Hodge, who chaired the Commons’ public accounts committee in the last parliament, attacked an unaccountable Whitehall “freemasonry” while speaking at Policy Exchange in February, alleging that the PAC has been threatened with break-up if it did not moderate its treatment of civil servants.
Mrs. Hodge’s tenure has been marked by penetrating criticism of civil service management of big projects [a search on this site will find several instances] – also shining a light on big companies, such as Google, whose tax affairs her committee exposed.
A researcher at the Institute for Government think-tank was said to have passed on comments from senior civil servants, one accusing the PAC and the National Audit Office of being “modelled on the red guards”. Another asked: “Should the PAC be broken up?”
In the past, Total Politics has commented: “Aircraft carriers, IT projects, border checks – the slippery Sir Humphreys are forever hiding behind their department’s ministers to avoid proper accountability for the sometimes very expensive decisions they make”.
The FT reported Margaret Hodge’s statement that the sad truth was – in a battle between Whitehall and politicians – civil servants were most likely to win because whereas we are here today and gone tomorrow, they are there for the long term.
As 26,000 civil servants in the Home Office had not been able to keep up with an era where services were delivered by “a plethora of autonomous health trusts and academy schools” and private providers were delivering public services through “a range of fragmented contracts”, Ms Hodge suggested the principle that had worked when there were 28 civil servants in the Home Office was no longer sustainable.
As noted on this site under the ‘reward for failure’ category, Ms Hodge stressed that those responsible for “dreadfully poor implementation” were rarely held to account for their failures and all too often showed up again “in another lucrative job paid for by the taxpayer”.
Next post: an insider’s view from a civil servant
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who sees himself as a ‘moderniser’, lauding the government’s IT prowess, has faced several less-than-creditable charges according to his Wikileaks entry. After recruiting Tony Caplin, who recently resigned as head of the Treasury’s Public Works Loans Board, Maude has made a far more serious mistake.
Despite David Cameron’s Davos commitment to ‘reshoring’ British jobs, Francis Maude has appointed an offshore and outsourcing expert, Peter Swann, to supervise the export of jobs of civil servants who provide back-up facilities such as pay roll and contract details to Whitehall offices.
David Hencke records in the Tribune that these jobs handling sensitive personal pay roll details, and possibly criminal and police records, are to be moved offshore by private companies under a Cabinet Office initiative to save money.
A rising star
Under Swann’s leadership, Steria, a French international company with a presence in India, has a joint venture with the Cabinet Office: Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) – its slogan: ‘a Trusted Transformation partner’.
The latest news on Steria’s website is that the Council of the European Union’s General Secretariat has chosen the company to secure its internal communications networks.
SSCL has already taken over back offices across the country for the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Environment Agency. It is now looking at taking over work at the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.
Within a year, it started a closure programme of sites affecting more than 500 jobs in Sheffield, Cardiff, Newport and Leeds and is looking to relocate the work to India. Other centres such as Blackpool, Newcastle, Peterborough and York will also lose staff.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “It will be a major blow for local economies losing hundreds more jobs . . . The Government should act now to keep these jobs in the UK, rather than attempt to cynically exploit the inferior pay and employment conditions that workers abroad face.”
Senior judge says there is no guarantee that tribunal procedures satisfy common law requirements Home Office photo supplied by Geograph
A Moseley reader brings to our attention the report that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which claims to be completely independent of the British government, is secretly operating from a base within the Home Office, by which it is funded. Its staff is said to include at least one person believed to be a Home Office official previously engaged in intelligence-related work.
Ian Cobain and Leila Haddou explain that this tribunal was created in October 2000 by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and given the power to investigate any complaints against GCHQ, MI5 or MI6, as well as complaints about surveillance operations mounted by the police or any other public bodies. Cobain and Haddou add that its location in the Home Office, “strengthen concerns that the IPT is too close to the very agencies which it is meant to be overseeing.”
The IPT has investigated about 1,500 complaints, and upheld only 10; five of these concerned members of one family who had lodged complaints about surveillance by their local council.
Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, ruled against Scotland Yard’s claim that the IPT should hear a case brought by women who said they were duped into sexual relationships with undercover police. He decided that part of the claim should be heard by the tribunal and that part should continue at the high court.
“There is no guarantee,” he said, “that the procedures adopted by the IPT in any particular case will satisfy the common law requirements of natural justice.”
The Guardian article noted that:
- there is no legal aid for individuals complaining to the IPT;
- their lawyers will not be permitted to attend IPT’s closed hearings;
- not only are complainants and their lawyers prevented from being present at the court: until now they have not been permitted to know where the court is located.
- there is no right of appeal;
- no complaint against any of the intelligence agencies has ever been upheld.
When courts and tribunals close their doors and won’t tell lawyers and complainants what is going on, you know that an essential part of a free society is in the process of being degraded . . .
Let’s have the law and the courts out in the open so that everyone understands what the hell is going on. Our free society depends on it.