UK expats in Cyprus demand end to 15 year overseas votes law

Published:  9 Mar at 6 PM
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As debate over the upcoming Brexit referendum hots up in expat destinations worldwide, UK citizens living in Cyprus are demanding an end to the controversial 15-year rule which limits voting rights.

At present, expats who have lived overseas for more than 15 years are denied the right to vote in general and local elections or referendums affecting the UK’s standing. During the past several years, opposition to the rule has been growing and is now coming to a head amongst UK citizens working overseas or living in retirement havens. UK residents in Cyprus are now taking their protests a step further, calling for like-minded expats to sign an online petition against compulsory disenfranchisement based on the length of time a citizen has lived overseas. The petition has already passed the 10,000 signature level at which the UK government must respond, and its aim is to garner the 100,000 signatures required to force a parliamentary debate.

Samuel Crawford, the expat who started the petition, arrived in Cyprus more than 15 years ago as a minor after his parents decided to emigrate. As a result, he has been permanently banned from having any political voice in any country, even although he still has family and assets in the UK. Britain is one of only two world countries operating such disenfranchisement, along with the Irish Republic.

Although such petitions, however many signatures they garner, have little chance of changing anything in the long run, the importance to the future of the UK and the ramifications worldwide of a vote to leave the EU make this an unusual situation. Signatures have already passed the 10,000 number at which the UK government must respond but, as of today, no response has yet been received.

Long-term expats across the EU’s many favorite destinations for both work and retirement are concerned that a UK exit from the EU would jeopardise everything from residential and pension rights through local services to healthcare in their chosen locations. Mr Crawford is urging expats all over the world to sign the petition before its expiry date on May 16th, in the hope that it will force the UK government to reverse this discriminatory law
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