Great Britain

Detention of EU nationals in UK ‘source of concern’, says EU Commission

The EU Commission has said the detention of EU nationals in the UK is a “source of concern” after it emerged people from the bloc were being held in removal centres after entering the country.

The commission is “closely following” what it describes as a “consular issue” whereby a number of EU citizens are reported to have been detained after entering the country for work without visas or residence status - treatment non-EU nationals in the same situation have long faced.

A statement released by the commission on Monday said it was particularly concerned about the conditions of and the duration for which these individuals were being held.

It comes after Politico reported that 30 EU nationals, including those from Germany, Greece and Italy, had been held in removal centres since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

European embassies in London are said to be offering legal advice and intervening to try to shorten the period of detention, although not all EU citizens are seeking consular support.

EU nationals who were resident in the UK before the end of the transition period have until 30 June to apply for the EU settled status, which will grant them residency rights in the country.

Those who were not can enter Britain visa-free for tourism and stay for up to 90 days, but Home Office border officers are entitled to reject entry if they have reasonable grounds to suspect they intend to work in the country but cannot produce the necessary documentation.

The EU Commission said the EU delegation in London had met with the Home Office about the issue and remained in contact with their team, and that it “stands ready to support member states in so far as possible”.

“This does not seem to be a generalised trend as a small number of EU citizens are concerned. Nevertheless, the EU Delegation is following this case closely, in particular the conditions and the duration of retention, which are a source of concern,” the commission added in a statement.

A Home Office spokesperson said EU nationals who were not resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 were required to evidence their right to live and work in the country upon entry, “as the public expects”.

“If an EU citizen is considering moving to the UK for work or study, we encourage them to check the requirements for applying for a visa – we have communicated this requirement in every EU country, translated information into EU languages, and have worked closely with the Foreign Office and EU consulates to encourage EU member states to also communicate this to their citizens,” they added.

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