The number of EU citizens barred from entering the UK has skyrocketed in the past three months despite a massive reduction in travel due to Covid, according to Home Office figures.
A total of 3,294 EU citizens have been barred from entering the UK, even though post-Brexit rules allow them to visit the country without a visa. This compares to 493 EU citizens in the first quarter of last year, when air traffic was 20 times higher.
Visitors, however, can be arrested or detained and deported if they are suspected of traveling to Britain for work or to settle without meeting new visa requirements.
Air passenger traffic from the EU is expected to increase nearly 20-fold once the Covid-19 restrictions are fully lifted, with experts warning that the number of deportations and detainees will also increase as a result.
Most EU citizens have been turned away during UK border checks at European ferry ports or at the Eurostar rail terminal in Paris, with 738 being deported after landing at airports or terminals in Paris. British ferry.
Passengers arriving at airports and ports are routinely detained in UK detention centers before being deported.
The published figures confirm a trend that has shocked some European travelers who, after making honest mistakes on the new rules, found themselves locked up for days in detention centers.
Many more were forced to spend hours, or sleep at night, locked up at airports until they were put on return flights.
Since reports of trapped EU citizens appeared in the Guardian and elsewhere, the Home Office has ordered that, where possible, these travelers be released on bail so they can stay with friends or parents until they board a flight home.
The Home Office has also made it clear since then that people who have job interviews should not be kicked out, despite several recent cases of this kind.
Earlier this month, the Home Office ordered border authorities to stop locking EU citizens in a detention center and instead give them, if necessary, immigration bail. if they were deemed to be in breach of post-Brexit rules.
Immigration rules allow for some discretion at the border, but the burden of proof is on the visitor to convince the decision-maker that “he will leave the UK at the end of his visit”, that he “will not live. in the UK for long periods of time ”. and “will not undertake any prohibited activity”. They must also have “sufficient funds”.
The guidelines also set out six reasons to doubt a person’s history, including whether they are out of work and most of their family is in the UK, or that the “information provided” is “not credible”. .
Passenger traffic from the EU has declined year-on-year by 94 to 97% in the first three months of this year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
“It is highly likely that these numbers will increase,” said Marley Morris, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), highlighting the fact that Brexit has ended total freedom of movement between the UK and the United Kingdom. the EU. “There will be a lot more people turned down.”
Morris said first-quarter immigration figures also showed a significant shift in immigration trends, with EU workers staying on the sidelines as Hong Kong work visa applicants soared. sharply.
“If this trend continues, there will be a major impact on the labor market and future immigration models,” he said.
Naomi Smith, the chief executive of Best for Britain, called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to ensure that border forces personnel are well informed of the new rules and apply them fairly.
“Despite assurances to the contrary, the Home Office continues to foster a hostile environment for anyone arriving in Britain, even tourists,” she said. “The Home Secretary must give clear guidelines to border staff, improve training and provide an absolute guarantee that people who have likely made honest mistakes are treated with understanding and respect. “