Immigration lawyers have recently launched legal action to challenge the Home Office’s decision to bar many extended family members of European citizens from joining relatives who are already living in Britain.
The Home Office has been criticised over the treatment of European citizens since the Brexit transition period ended. It has been reported that EU citizens have been detained and held in immigration removal centres.
This treatment of EU citizens in Britain has caused tense relations between London and Brussels since the UK left the bloc. This time concerns over the treatment of extended family members, including siblings, cousins, and nephews of European citizens already settled in the UK with campaigners claiming that refusing to let them join their families is a breach of the divorce deal signed by the EU and UK in January 2020.
The Withdrawal Agreement states that extended family members who are ‘dependants or members of the household’ of an EU citizen living in the UK will retain their right to reside in Britain. To do so, applicants needed to apply for a permit, known as an EEA Family Permit, by December 31 2020 and arrive by the end of June 2021.
Letters sent by the Home Office have informed people who say they have relatives in the country that they cannot come to the UK, despite applying in plenty of time. In each of the letters the family members’ applications were initially rejected by the Home Office but later successfully appealed.
The Home Office then wrote to the applicants to inform them that although their appeal was successful, they would still be unable to come because the deadline for this process has now passed. However, several case studies have shown delays in issuing paperwork which left those involved unable to come to the UK, before the deadline had passed.
In one such case, a man who was hoping to join his brother in the UK was informed on May 21 this year that an initial rejection of his application had been withdrawn and that he was able to live in Britain. The required paperwork however, never arrived despite many requests, and he received an email on July 20 stating it was now too late.
In a further case an applicant had applied on 28 July 2020, months before the December 31 deadline, to join her brother, who has supported her financially for many years. The Home Office refused her application on December 17.
On June 22 this year, after an appeal, the decision was reversed, only eight days before the EEA family permit route closed. With more paperwork still required before travelling to the UK, the next correspondence the applicant received was a letter from the Home Office on July 21 stating her permit could not be used as the route had now closed.
Luke Piper, head of policy and advocacy at the 3million campaign group said: “These people applied in good faith expecting to come here. They won their cases, they have been stranded abroad and they should be allowed to come here”.
He went on to say: “The Withdrawal Agreement is pretty clear but it does feel to me that people are being messed about”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The EU Settlement Scheme has been an overwhelming success, with over 6 million applications received. We have taken a flexible and pragmatic approach with applications and will continue to do so”.