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Europe - politics

'We are not bargaining chips' say EU citizens caught in Brexit limbo

UK unveils immigration curbs as EU prepares for no-deal Brexit
UK unveils immigration curbs as EU prepares for no-deal Brexit AFP
14 min

The 3 Million is the United Kingdom's largest grassroots lobby organisation, representing the estimated 3.6 million European Union citizens living in the UK whose rights to stay are at risk from Brexit.


Click on "Play" above to hear the interview with Maike Bohn, one of the co-founders of The 3 Million

The 3 Million non-profit group has spoken out against the implementation of the British government's so called "settled status" plan which requires each EU citizen to apply to stay legally in the UK during the so-called two-year transition phase following the UK’s split from Europe in March 2019.

Organisers of The 3 Million say the settled status plan goes against everything that was promised in the lead up to the Brexit referendum on both sides of the political spectrum.

It is currently being trialled, despite negotiations between the British government and European partners that are far from concluded and a legal framework for EU citizens that remains unclear.

The organisation accuses the scheme of not being a simple registration process, but rather a conditional system, which means applications can be turned down – even for people who have been in the country for a long time.

'We are not bargaining chips'

Despite British Prime Minister Theresa May cancelling the £65 fee for the application last month, the deeper concerns still remain.

”The government has not fulfilled its duty to properly inform people,” says Maike Bohn, one of the co-founders of The 3 Million, “especially on a local level”.

“What I find the most tragic about the referendum is how it has divided people in terms of them and us. It’s pitted EU citizens against Commonwealth citizens from India and British citizens, as [if they are] job stealers and queue jumpers.

"We’re trying to undo that damage and to ask for solidarity and to say we are all the same and we all need a legal system we can trust in, we all need a government that is looking out for all of us.

“We wanted to show a lot of solidarity with our friends the British in Europe and since always gone to Brussels and Westminster together so that they couldn’t separate us and play us against each other.”

Home isn't home anymore

Many risk being left behind, Bohn explains, in what is known as a "hostile environment", a grey area when it comes to immigration status. This would then lead to a direct negative impact on the ability for people to work and to rent accommodation, she says.

The onus is heavily on the EU citizen to find proof to justify their right to stay. This may be difficult for people who are in care, or who have been out of the workforce, or don’t have their names on utility bills and so forth.

The 3 Million is fundraising to organise outreach sessions to inform people and help them deal with this process of filling in the online forms which only function on some types of Android phones.

The there are those that don’t have phones, or don’t know how to use them.

“At the moment, EU citizens feel that’s not the case and home isn’t home anymore. I think it’s our responsibility to give these 3,6 million people a voice.”

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