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BREXIT

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit

Almost two years after the UK officially left the European Union, one of the consequences of ending free movement has become clear for the hundreds of Britons who have been ordered to leave countries across Europe.

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit
Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Data published recently by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, reveals that about 2,250 UK citizens were ordered to leave EU countries between 2020 and September 2022. If we add the numbers for the countries of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), where EU free movement rules also apply, the total increases to 2,830.

The UK officially left the EU at midnight on 31st January 2020, but free movement with the EU continued until 31st December 2020, when the post-Brexit transition period ended. This period coincided with lockdowns and travel restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Data on non-EU nationals ordered to leave EU member states includes people found to be illegally present in member states who are subject to an administrative or judicial decision imposing them to depart. In other words those who fail to meet residency or visa requirements as well as those ordered to leave after committing crimes.

While the data doesn’t include the exact reasons on why these Britons were ordered to leave – so we don’t know the exact figure on how many orders were directly linked to the results of Brexit and the ending freedom of movement –  Citizen’s Rights campaigners say the numbers reflect what has been happening in certain countries since Brexit.

It is also not possible to compare the figure to pre-Brexit figure for the number of Britons deported because Britons were not considered third-country nationals prior to Brexit so the data is not available.

In total, according to Eurostat, more than a million non-EU citizens were ordered to leave the EU between January 2020 and September 2022. UK citizens represent a small proportion, but the situation varies between countries, depending on national migration policies, administrative and judicial procedures and data reporting.

This is what emerges from the Eurostat data for the countries covered by The Local.

Sweden the toughest

While France was responsible for the highest proportion of leave orders to non-EU citizens, it is Sweden and the Netherlands that have taken the toughest approach to Brits.

Sweden is responsible for 1,050 of the 2,250 British nationals ordered to leave EU countries between the first quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2022.

In the run up to the Brexit deadline for residency The Local carried a warning by a leading group for Brits in Sweden that authorities in the country were not doing enough to reach UK citizens to make them aware of the date.

READ ALSO: Post-Brexit residence status: Sweden rejects more Brits than any other EU country

Recently The Local covered the story of Stockholm chef Stuart Philpott, who only learned that he should have applied for post-Brexit residence shortly before he was frogmarched onto a return flight by Swedish border police.

After Sweden the Netherlands followed with 615 orders for Britons to leave. Norway and Switzerland, which are not part of the EU and have separate Brexit agreements with the UK, issued 455 and 125 departure orders respectively, according to Eurostat data.

Malta ordered 115 UK citizens to leave, France 95, Belgium 65, Denmark 40, Germany 25 and Austria 10.

When it comes to Denmark The Local revealed that hundreds of Brits who had moved to the country shortly before Brexit were not sent reminder letters that they needed to apply for a new residency status. Some of those Britons now face deportation, despite having jobs and family in Denmark.

Spain, which hosts the biggest UK community in the EU, has not ordered any Briton to leave the country since Brexit, and nor did Italy – at least according to the Eurostat data.

Jane Golding, co-founder of the British in Europe citizens’ rights group, said the data about Sweden was “not surprising”. “We do know that, statistically, the percentage of refusals of status in Sweden is far higher than in equivalent countries and the numbers ordered to leave correspond fairly closely to refusals of status under the withdrawal agreement,” she said.

Michaela Benson, Professor in Public Sociology at Lancaster University and expert on migration, citizenship and identity, added: “It is a reminder that since Brexit, British citizens no longer enjoy freedom of movement.

“Anyone newly arriving or who did not meet the deadlines for applying for status under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, is now considered as a third country national and subject to domestic immigration controls in the EU-26 member states [the 27 EU countries minus Ireland].”

Similar to other nationalities, the majority of leave orders concerned men (1,560).  Some 195 also affected young people below the age of 18, with Sweden topping the list (135), followed by the Netherlands (20) and Germany (5).

Debbie Williams of the group Brexpats Hear our Voice said countries need to provide more detailed data to explain the orders to leave.

“I’d like to see more transparency on these issues because how do we know if the withdrawal agreement is failing people if we don’t know the detail,” she said.

Illegally present in EU

When it comes to immigration law enforcement, Eurostat collects statistical information from individual countries not only about orders to leave, but also about people refused entry at the EU external borders, people found to be illegally present in a member state territory and people returned, or deported, following a leave order.

There might be differences however between the number of persons found to be illegally present in a country and those ordered to leave because those affected might have left the territory voluntarily or their situation might have been regularised.

Third-country nationals are considered illegally present in an EU member state under national immigration law if they have entered unlawfully – for instance avoiding immigration controls or using a fraudulent document – if they have overstayed their permission to remain – for example stayed for longer than 90 days without a visa or residency permit – or they have undertaken unauthorised employment.

Of the 681,200 non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU in 2021, only 590 (less than 1 per cent) were British, according to the available data. The real figure for the number of Britons found illegally present in EU countries since Brexit may be higher but more accurate data which includes figures for 2022 is not yet available.

Some 110 cases were due to overstays, 90 to illegal entry and 210 for “other reasons”.

Switzerland reported 75 overstays and 50 illegal entries.

Malta reported 70 Britons, all for overstays. 

Germany found 140 Brits to be illegally present in the country’s territory in 2021; the Netherlands 55; France 50; Austria, Sweden and Norway 30; Italy 25; Denmark 5; Spain none. 

Deportations

In all some 840 UK citizens were returned in the year 2021 and 1,340 overall since Brexit including up to September 2022, the most recent data reveals. The countries responsible for the most deportations were Sweden (745), Malta (115), Finland (110), the Netherlands (75) and, outside the EU, Norway (375). 
 
Again Eurostat’s data for deportations doesn’t explain the reasons behind the decisions so we don’t know how many are directly linked linked to the consequences of Brexit. There is also no data for the numbers of deportations of Britons prior to Brexit to compare with.
  
In comparison, some 82,700 non-EU citizens were returned to another country in 2021, with Ukrainians and Albanians representing the largest share. This was before the start of the war in Ukraine.
 

For more info on these statistics READ MORE.

  • The Local originally reported that 195 UK citizens were deported from EU countries in 2021 after receiving an order to leave but we have revised the figure up because new more accurate quarterly data has since emerged that reveals the number for 2021 is much higher because it includes data from countries like Sweden. New data also covers up until September 2022.

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BREXIT

IN FIGURES: How many Brits have had their post-Brexit residence status rejected?

Following Brexit, many Brits in Sweden had to apply for post-Brexit residence status to stay in Sweden. How many Brits have applied, how many were rejected, and what happened to those who weren't granted residence status?

IN FIGURES: How many Brits have had their post-Brexit residence status rejected?

Between November 2020 and December 2022, a total of 12,461 Brits applied for post-Brexit residence status to retain their rights to live in Sweden under EU law. Of these 12,461 applications, 11,495 had been concluded by the end of 2022, with 966 still waiting for a response.

How many applications were approved?

According to Migration Agency figures seen by The Local, a total of 9,340 applications for post-Brexit residence status were approved between December 2020 and December 2022, meaning that more than four in five, 81.25 percent, of applications for residence status processed in this time period were granted.

The number of applications approved per month corresponded almost exactly to the number of applications submitted per month, with the most approvals (3,178) occuring in December 2020. December 2020 also saw the highest number of submissions: 3,529. There was another small peak in December 2021, where 432 of a total of 775 applications were rejected.

These two peaks in application numbers are probably due to the fact that December 2020 was the month when applications opened and December 2021 the last month before they closed.

How many applications were rejected?

A total of 2,155 applications for post-Brexit residence status were rejected between November 2020 and December 2022.

This means that around 18.75 percent of applications for post-Brexit residence status were rejected in this time period.

Again, the highest number of rejections occured in December 2020, with another peak in December 2021, where 223 applications were rejected.

 

Why were applications rejected?

When The Local contacted the Migration Agency for more information on why applications were rejected, press officer Frederik Abbemo was unable to give us exact information on the number of cases rejected for each possible reason.

However, he was able to give us a rough idea of the most common reasons for rejection.

"The most common reasons applications were rejected were incomplete applications, late applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status, and applications listed as 'reason unknown', where we cannot see in the statistics why the application has been categorised that way," he said.

What about people who appealed their applications?

According to Abbemo, around 450 of the 2,155 rejected applications were appealed to the Migration Court (Migrationsdomstolen). Of these 450 appeals, "around 20" were overturned, with the applicants being granted residence status.

It is not clear how many of those who appealed, if any, are yet to receive a verdict.

What has happened to the Brits who had their applications rejected?

It's difficult to know exactly what has happened in each individual case, but we can draw some conclusions based on other data.

For example, new figures from Eurostat earlier this month showed that Sweden has ordered 1,050 Brits to leave the country following Brexit - more than any other EU country. This number includes Brits refused entry at the Swedish border, Brits found to be illegally present in Sweden, and Brits ordered to leave for other reasons.

The Eurostat figures cover a slightly different time period than the figures from the Migration Agency above, stretching from January 2021 to September 2022.

If we focus on Migration Agency figures for the same period, January 2021 to September 2022, a total of 1,857 people had their applications for residence status rejected in this time period. This suggests that at least 800 Brits who did not receive residence status were able to stay in Sweden in other ways.

One way of staying in Sweden legally despite not being granted residence status could be by holding a valid residence permit (uppehållstillstånd) under different rules (such as due to being in a relationship with a Swede or applying for a work permit), or by holding Swedish citizenship, which also gives you the right to live in Sweden.

Could the EU figures include people who never applied in the first place?

Yes. The Eurostat figures also include Brits living in Sweden illegally who never applied for post-Brexit residence status, who receive an order to leave when detected by the Swedish authorities.

Many are indeed unaware of the fact that they should have applied and that their stay in Sweden is illegal, and have simply not realised that their permanent right of residence under EU law (permanent uppehållsrätt) ceased to be valid when the UK left the EU.

A number of people in this category are detected when they leave the country and re-enter (like what happened to Brit Stuart Philpott in this article), and others only discover they are living here illegally when they receive an order to leave from the Migration Agency.

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