An influential House of Lords committee has urged Suella Braverman to step up her efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable British citizens in the EU after the case of an elderly woman with dementia facing deportation from Sweden.
He also said more needed to be done to ensure the rights of EU citizens in the UK – also guaranteed by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – are protected to avoid a “Windrush-like scenario”.
Stewart Wood, Acting Chair of the EU Affairs Committee, said: “As the time since the UK’s exit from the EU increases, it is imperative that the rights of UK and EU citizens remain a top priority and continue to benefit from the highest political level. attention.
In a nine-page letter to the Home Secretary, Lord Wood’s committee said it had been made aware of serious problems with residency schemes affecting British citizens who were already living in the EU before Brexit.
Issues included the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement in Denmark and Sweden, where they were told the refusal rate of British citizens asking for documents to stay in the country after Brexit was disproportionately high.
Among those turned away was Kathleen Poole, a 74-year-old Briton who cannot walk or talk and was threatened with deportation from Sweden because she failed to complete paperwork to stay in her care home.
His deportation order was frozen, but only after his family contacted the press, and the British campaign group in Europe brought his family’s plight to the attention of authorities in Stockholm and Brussels.
The committee also heard of a British family of four with two young children who were also threatened with deportation from Sweden; and British troubled children in Malta at the age of 18.
The peers told Braverman they were very concerned to hear that resources to support UK citizens in the EU had been drastically reduced since 2021, with no formal organization to provide advice to the 1.32million Britons settled in the EU, and no statutory body monitoring the application. of the withdrawal agreement throughout the EU. This is despite the increase in serious and complex cases like Poole’s.
Several witnesses who testified before the committee, including Sue Wilson, chair of the Bremain campaign group in Spain, said the decision to close the support fund for British nationals meant that many vulnerable people, including pensioners in Spain, may no longer be able to access support. they need.
Concerns have also been raised over the ability of UK nationals to travel within the Schengen area, with misunderstandings among border officials over the difference between holidaymakers and UK residents in the EU under the deal of withdrawal.
Regarding EU citizens in the UK, the committee pointed out that there was still a backlog of 181,000 EU citizens awaiting a decision on their applications for permanent status.
Peers told Braverman they had heard applicants were left in limbo, unable to apply for a provisional driving licence, obtain an EHIC card for EU holiday health insurance or access to social rights.
They told Braverman that in some cases EU citizens were advised not to travel out of the country while decisions were pending, making them “effectively imprisoned in the UK”.