Home Office error sees 100 EU expats threatened with deportation

Published:  24 Aug at 6 PM
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In the latest Brexit-related scandal, the British Home Office sent 100 deportation notices to EU expats, threatening removal if recipients didn’t leave voluntarily.

In a move indicating its inability to deal correctly with EU expats living and working in the UK, the Home Office mistakenly sent letters to 100 European nationals ordering them to leave the country or face forced removal. One expat, married to a Briton and resident in the UK for most of the past decade, was told she must leave within a month as she was ‘a person liable to be detained under the Immigration act’.

Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg, a visiting academic fellow from Helsinki University working at London’s Queen Mary University, received a deportation letter and posted her situation on Twitter. The post was picked up by the Guardian newspaper, which contacted the Home Office for clarification and was met with immediate backtracking and a confirmation the letter was sent in error. A spokesperson from the department confirmed its mistake, saying a number of letters had been sent out and advising recipients to disregard their contents. Six days later, the Home Office contacted Holmberg personally and apologised. In the meantime, Holmberg’s social media posts had caused a Twitter storm via a report in the Finnish media, and she’d spent several days with her lawyer, her employer and in unsuccessful attempts to contact the Home Office personally.

Eventually, Theresa May became involved, describing the letters as an ‘unfortunate mistake’ and acknowledging the Home Office had acted quickly to remedy the error. She added the status and rights of EU nationals in the UK remain unchanged. In an interview, Dr Holmberg told the BBC she had applied for a ‘qualified person certificate’ as was her right, just before she received the deportation letter.The certificates confirm expats’ rights to live in the UK for those with certain criteria, and are offered to nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as to Swiss nationals. She’s lost her faith in politicians as a result, calling the letter ‘absurd nonsense’, and quoting it as stating ‘a decision has been taken to remove you from the United Kingdom’.

According to Dr Holmberg, others in the same situation have been tweeting similar experiences, with Principle of Queen Mary University Prof. Simon Gaskell saying it’s vital that the British government is clear about the huge contribution made to the UK by overseas academics. It’s unfortunate, he added, that Dr Holmberg and her family have had to undergo the stress caused by the letter. Politicians and pro-EU support groups have condemned the Home Office’s action and expressed concern over its effect on the millions of EU citizens resident in the UK.
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