“Don’t be Silly, You Won’t be Deported”

Or: On being a “bargaining chip” by Andrea Blendl

 Last September, I took one of the biggest steps in my life. I moved to Orkney from Germany and started a funded PhD here. The entire process to apply for funding for the project had taken almost a year before I finally moved, and my funding had been approved just before the Brexit referendum.

Of course, for me as an EU citizen the majority for Leave came as a little shock but I decided to come here nevertheless. I asked if I needed to do anything to guarantee my right to stay but was told that, since Article 50 had not been triggered yet, nothing would change.

Little did I know I was about to become a “bargaining chip “…

But Positives First:

I am having a fantastic time in Orkney. I simply love it, the landscapes, the people, the culture, and of course my research. Orcadians, both natives and fellow incomers, quickly gave me the feeling that, indeed, this was my new home and that I was very welcome in this community. The whole Brexit matter seemed a very distant issue that would not really impact on us on this beautiful and somewhat remote island.

With some irritation, I noted the continuous refusal of the British government to guarantee any right to stay to EU citizens unless the EU guaranteed UK expats the same rights (by the way, why are they expats and I am an immigrant?). I first read the word “bargaining chip” some months ago but I did not identify as one at all. After all, my research was contributing to British academia, I was funded by the Scottish Government, so certainly there would not be any issues.

However, over time, with reports of more and more EU citizens being rejected for permanent residence applications, I started to worry a bit. On February 20th, I participated in “One Day Without Us“, a day of protest for the right to stay for all EU citizens currently in the UK. The comment I most often heard from fellow Orcadians was “Don’t be silly, you certainly won’t be deported”.

I hoped they were right.

This morning, things escalated. One of the UK’s foremost immigration lawyers went through all the changes in regulations the Home Office introduced during February and his briefing came to the conclusion that, due to a little publicised requirement for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance for all those who are not paying National Insurance, I currently have no right of residence in the UK.

My PhD studentship is not taxable, and nobody ever told me about this CSI requirement. Following new Home Office regulations, I could be “removed from this country at any day“, and if I leave and re-enter the UK, I would be considered to commit a criminal offence against the Immigration Act. I have not found any solution how to secure a right to stay here yet.

It is a scary feeling. I want to be treated like a human being, not a bargaining chip.

Andrea Blendl is a German EU National currently studying for her PhD in Orkney

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13 replies »

  1. Hi Andrea, I totally relate with your story. I’ve been in Orkney for a while now, got a British husband and 2 kids with British passports. I’m originally from Poland but consider Orkney my home. My application for permanent residence has been refused because I stopped my employment because I wanted to look after my children when they were small, so I don’t have the qualifying period of 5 years. In 2015 I’ve started an undergraduate degree with Open Uni, didn’t know about CSI. I was told by home office it was a requirement. I recently got this but the 1.5 years that I’ve studied won’t count in the eyes of the Home Office. Bureaucracy in this country does not make sense -why should I pay for private health insurance when NHS is free?

  2. If we could only turn back time and have the vote again, with a better knowledge of what it could entail.
    All these tales are so frustrating and heartless and …pointless.
    I am a native of these islands – that is, the ……British Isles….so it could be said that this doesn’t affect me personally – but…..what about friends, people we know, and who are a part of our lives, who may suddenly disappear? It effects us all – and, anyway, it’s simply very, very, very unfair.
    What is happening? Britain is going to lose expertise, hard workers, knowledge, new ideas. I said I’d like to step back to before the vote – we are stepping back, in our attitudes to others.
    All those years ago ‘Live Aid’ showed that we are one world – I thought the idea was that we join together, not divide.
    I risk ranting on to no purpose, but it makes me so angry.

  3. Earlier today someone in England on Twitter feared that an independent Scotland might become like “The Lives of Others”, German film about Stasi in GDR, because of Scottish nationalism. My reply was that I feared, in light of Singaporean lady being deported the way she was, it was already happening in England. And obviously looks like could & will happen in Scotland under UK Government. Yes we’re Better Together. Ha!

  4. My youngest daughter spent a year in Austria via Erasmus, and then a year teaching in Germany with the British Council scheme. This coming week I hope to hear a lecture from the writer of this article.
    That is how things should be. Local focus with a freedom to travel and share for the future of us all. I was born in England, have lived more than half my life in Scotland, and I am ashamed of that now. This current situation is not the world I grew up in, or the one I want for my grandchildren.
    I too am angry, but even more I am desperately said, and utterly terrified.

  5. Just on the law. The underlying principle of freedom of movement is summed up rather pithily in the explanatory note of the relevant European Parliament Directive 2004/38/EC, (the Directive).
    (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:158:0077:0123:en:PDF) as being;
    “on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States”. The right to enter is only contingent on the production of a valid ID card or passport. Family members (defined in the Directive) also enjoy the same rights.

    When it come to right to stay longer than 3 months this is covered by:
    3 Right of Residency for longer than 3 months (Article 7 the Directive)
    This right only extends to those who meet other conditions, called exercising their treaty rights.
    a) They must be working or self-employed or;
    b) Have sufficient resources to keep and accommodate themselves and also possess comprehensive sickness insurance valid in the host country or;
    c) Be enrolled in an accredited place of study or vocational training, have comprehensive sickness insurance and make a declaration that they have sufficient resources for themselves and any family to be self-sufficient or;
    d) Be a family member of one of the above.
    There is still an unanswered question in the UK if access to the National Health Service should be comparable to Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) but the Home Office are currently taking a restrictive view.
    Please acquire it if you can or be prepared for the legal challenge ahead.

  6. The EU directive was not written with the UK in mind. In other countries, like France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, you have to register when you arrive, you are explained what you need (insurance among others) and on how to get what you need and warned that if you don’t take car of it, you will be asked to leave after 3 months. When I arrived in the UK I went to the job centre to register – they basically laughed me out of the building. I was an EU citizen, so I didn’t need to do anything, I wasn’t looking for a job just yet (stay at home mum), so didn’t even need to get a tax number according to them. “Just register with an GP for access to the NHS” is the info I got. And now I am told that my first 2 years in the UK I was here “illegally”. Seriously?

  7. I do hope that all our fears and worries turn out to be unnecessary. However,in the meantime the uncertainty and pushing from Home Office is creating stressful times for many.
    What sadens me is that even some of my friends in Scotland have this “you’ll be alright” attitude, completely lacking an understanding of our current situation.
    I may get caught out by the -to me until recently unknown – CSI issue too. I decided to wait and see though and in a worst case move to another European country.
    …Here is hoping for all of us… slainte math

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