Tens of thousands of British people in Europe could soon become 'undocumented migrants' thanks to Brexit
- 10,000s of British expats in Europe have less than a month to avoid becoming undocumented migrants.
- UK citizens in France, Luxembourg, and elsewhere are required by law to apply for residency by June 30 or they could lose basic rights.
- Citizens’ rights groups said citizens who failed to apply risked losing access to healthcare.
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Up to 100,000 British ex-pats in mainland Europe have less than a month to apply for permanent residency on the continent or risk becoming undocumented migrants with the threat of lost rights or deportation.
Under post-Brexit rules, UK citizens who live in countries including France, Malta, and Luxembourg are required by law to apply for residency by June 30 or they could lose basic rights.
But tens of thousands living abroad have still not applied, leading to concerns that those affected could lose access to healthcare and other basic rights as a result of their new status.
“We are now less than a month before our deadline and people just do not know what the consequences will be. They don’t know exactly how their lives will be impacted,” Kalba Meadows, co-founder of the citizens’ rights group France Rights and a resident in France, told Insider.
“If they haven’t applied before the deadline and they aren’t due to have reasonable grounds for a late application, they’re going to become undocumented migrants.
“What the actual consequences of that will be we don’t know, but it is highly likely that they will lose access to healthcare. That has serious consequences, especially for the elderly and vulnerable,” she said.
“There are huge numbers of potential implications.”
Fourteen of the EU’s 27 member states granted automatic residency to British citizens who were already living there, but the remaining 13 require UK ex-pats to apply.
Those countries include Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which has extended the deadline to November 30.
According to the EU-UK joint committee on citizens rights’, 298,000 British citizens in total need to apply for residency, but only 190,100 had done so by April 28.
That figure includes 25,500 people in France from a total of 148,300 who had not applied by the end of April.
Many British ex-pats aren’t aware of their rights
British in Europe, a citizens’ rights group, has called for other member states to extend the deadline, spokesperson Fiona Godfrey told Insider.
The UK, several months ago, issued a set of guidelines on how it would treat late applications from people affected by COVID-19.
Godfrey said British in Europe had asked the European Commission for similar guidelines in member states and were told that they were, but no guidelines have yet been published.
“The thing we don’t know is if the deadlines are not extended if people do wake up undocumented on July 1, what that will actually mean for them. I’ve asked in meetings: What concretely will that mean for them? We haven’t been told that,” Godfrey said.
Insider contacted the European Commission for comment.
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