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BREXIT

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit

Almost two years after the UK officially left the European Union, one of the consequences of ending free movement has become clear for the hundreds of Britons who have been ordered to leave countries across Europe.

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit
Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Data published recently by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, reveals that about 2,250 UK citizens were ordered to leave EU countries between 2020 and September 2022. If we add the numbers for the countries of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), where EU free movement rules also apply, the total increases to 2,830.

The UK officially left the EU at midnight on 31st January 2020, but free movement with the EU continued until 31st December 2020, when the post-Brexit transition period ended. This period coincided with lockdowns and travel restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Data on non-EU nationals ordered to leave EU member states includes people found to be illegally present in member states who are subject to an administrative or judicial decision imposing them to depart. In other words those who fail to meet residency or visa requirements as well as those ordered to leave after committing crimes.

While the data doesn’t include the exact reasons on why these Britons were ordered to leave – so we don’t know the exact figure on how many orders were directly linked to the results of Brexit and the ending freedom of movement –  Citizen’s Rights campaigners say the numbers reflect what has been happening in certain countries since Brexit.

It is also not possible to compare the figure to pre-Brexit figure for the number of Britons deported because Britons were not considered third-country nationals prior to Brexit so the data is not available.

In total, according to Eurostat, more than a million non-EU citizens were ordered to leave the EU between January 2020 and September 2022. UK citizens represent a small proportion, but the situation varies between countries, depending on national migration policies, administrative and judicial procedures and data reporting.

This is what emerges from the Eurostat data for the countries covered by The Local.

Sweden the toughest

While France was responsible for the highest proportion of leave orders to non-EU citizens, it is Sweden and the Netherlands that have taken the toughest approach to Brits.

Sweden is responsible for 1,050 of the 2,250 British nationals ordered to leave EU countries between the first quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2022.

In the run up to the Brexit deadline for residency The Local carried a warning by a leading group for Brits in Sweden that authorities in the country were not doing enough to reach UK citizens to make them aware of the date.

READ ALSO: Post-Brexit residence status: Sweden rejects more Brits than any other EU country

Recently The Local covered the story of Stockholm chef Stuart Philpott, who only learned that he should have applied for post-Brexit residence shortly before he was frogmarched onto a return flight by Swedish border police.

After Sweden the Netherlands followed with 615 orders for Britons to leave. Norway and Switzerland, which are not part of the EU and have separate Brexit agreements with the UK, issued 455 and 125 departure orders respectively, according to Eurostat data.

Malta ordered 115 UK citizens to leave, France 95, Belgium 65, Denmark 40, Germany 25 and Austria 10.

When it comes to Denmark The Local revealed that hundreds of Brits who had moved to the country shortly before Brexit were not sent reminder letters that they needed to apply for a new residency status. Some of those Britons now face deportation, despite having jobs and family in Denmark.

Spain, which hosts the biggest UK community in the EU, has not ordered any Briton to leave the country since Brexit, and nor did Italy – at least according to the Eurostat data.

Jane Golding, co-founder of the British in Europe citizens’ rights group, said the data about Sweden was “not surprising”. “We do know that, statistically, the percentage of refusals of status in Sweden is far higher than in equivalent countries and the numbers ordered to leave correspond fairly closely to refusals of status under the withdrawal agreement,” she said.

Michaela Benson, Professor in Public Sociology at Lancaster University and expert on migration, citizenship and identity, added: “It is a reminder that since Brexit, British citizens no longer enjoy freedom of movement.

“Anyone newly arriving or who did not meet the deadlines for applying for status under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, is now considered as a third country national and subject to domestic immigration controls in the EU-26 member states [the 27 EU countries minus Ireland].”

Similar to other nationalities, the majority of leave orders concerned men (1,560).  Some 195 also affected young people below the age of 18, with Sweden topping the list (135), followed by the Netherlands (20) and Germany (5).

Debbie Williams of the group Brexpats Hear our Voice said countries need to provide more detailed data to explain the orders to leave.

“I’d like to see more transparency on these issues because how do we know if the withdrawal agreement is failing people if we don’t know the detail,” she said.

Illegally present in EU

When it comes to immigration law enforcement, Eurostat collects statistical information from individual countries not only about orders to leave, but also about people refused entry at the EU external borders, people found to be illegally present in a member state territory and people returned, or deported, following a leave order.

There might be differences however between the number of persons found to be illegally present in a country and those ordered to leave because those affected might have left the territory voluntarily or their situation might have been regularised.

Third-country nationals are considered illegally present in an EU member state under national immigration law if they have entered unlawfully – for instance avoiding immigration controls or using a fraudulent document – if they have overstayed their permission to remain – for example stayed for longer than 90 days without a visa or residency permit – or they have undertaken unauthorised employment.

Of the 681,200 non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU in 2021, only 590 (less than 1 per cent) were British, according to the available data. The real figure for the number of Britons found illegally present in EU countries since Brexit may be higher but more accurate data which includes figures for 2022 is not yet available.

Some 110 cases were due to overstays, 90 to illegal entry and 210 for “other reasons”.

Switzerland reported 75 overstays and 50 illegal entries.

Malta reported 70 Britons, all for overstays. 

Germany found 140 Brits to be illegally present in the country’s territory in 2021; the Netherlands 55; France 50; Austria, Sweden and Norway 30; Italy 25; Denmark 5; Spain none. 

Deportations

In all some 840 UK citizens were returned in the year 2021 and 1,340 overall since Brexit including up to September 2022, the most recent data reveals. The countries responsible for the most deportations were Sweden (745), Malta (115), Finland (110), the Netherlands (75) and, outside the EU, Norway (375). 
 
Again Eurostat’s data for deportations doesn’t explain the reasons behind the decisions so we don’t know how many are directly linked linked to the consequences of Brexit. There is also no data for the numbers of deportations of Britons prior to Brexit to compare with.
  
In comparison, some 82,700 non-EU citizens were returned to another country in 2021, with Ukrainians and Albanians representing the largest share. This was before the start of the war in Ukraine.
 

For more info on these statistics READ MORE.

  • The Local originally reported that 195 UK citizens were deported from EU countries in 2021 after receiving an order to leave but we have revised the figure up because new more accurate quarterly data has since emerged that reveals the number for 2021 is much higher because it includes data from countries like Sweden. New data also covers up until September 2022.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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