Polish Londoner

These are the thoughts and moods of a born Londoner who is proud of his Polish roots.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Letter to Labour MPs on Parliamentary Debate on Polish Holocaust legislation

While I seriously regret the misguided decision by an over sensitive Polish Parliament in passing an amendment in March to its law on the Institute of National Remembrance which criminalizes certain aspects of the debate on the Holocaust in relation to “the Polish nation or the Polish state” and can understand the concerns it has raised in the international community, including in the British parliament, I would not want the subsequent parliamentary debate on June 5th to transform itself into a diatribe against the Polish nation. I should not want it to minimize the Polish nation’s heroic struggle against Nazi Germany including its valiant attempts to rescue many Jews from the Holocaust or to equate Poland’s new law with anti-Semitism or the overall description of “Holocaust denial”. The legislation stems from a perceived concern in Poland that their country was being depicted in Holocaust liter ature as being equally responsible as Germany for the Holocaust being carried out on what had been and is now Polish soil, but which at the time of the Final Solution was under German occupation. The Polish government rightfully claims that if Germany had not invaded Poland in 1939 there would have been no Holocaust.

Please remember that Poland was subjected to a level of murder, brutality and subjugation under German occupation that far surpassed what occupied Western European countries experienced. 3 million Polish non-Jews were murdered as well as 3 million Polish Jews, while a further 3 million Poles were taken for forced labour. In German occupied Poland uniquely any attempt to save or assist Jews was automatically punished by the execution of the whole family. Yet a whole industry was set up by the Polish Underground movement, involving churches, nunneries, children’s homes, factories, as well as individual Polish families, to save Jewish families and especially Jewish children from death. Thousands of Poles were executed or were tortured because of this activity. It is also important to be aware that the clandestine courts run by the Polish underground state condemned Poles to be executed as traitors for betraying Jews to the Germans. It was also the Polish government in exile which publicized the underground state’s reports on the death camps and the genocide of the Jewish people to an unbelieving public in the West. The official behaviour of the Polish state towards the Jews was not perfect, but it deserves approval, bearing in mind its precarious situation. There was no Vichy regime or Quisling government in Poland systematically betraying Jews to the Germans.

On the other hand, thousands of individuals Poles, for whatever motive, betrayed and blackmailed Jews, mocked their killing or helped to hunt them down in the forests. Others in Eastern Poland took a misguided revenge on innocent Jewish communities in remoter towns like Jedwabne after these towns had been “liberated” from a Soviet occupation which until then had been as brutal and murderous towards Poles as the Germans had been. The majority of Poles simply remained uncommitted as they struggled for their own survival under the Nazi German terror. All these facts are regrettably true, and Poland must live with the shameful consequences of these crimes as much as with a sense of pride in what its more heroic countrymen did. No sensible Pole denies these crimes occurred and neither does the new law deny it as it speaks only of the whole “nation” or the whole “state” being criticized. Under German occupation Polish official authorities, themselves clandestine and under constant threat of capture and death, were unable to fully prevent these crimes being carried out by their countrymen, even though many were executed as traitors.

However, if this issue is to be debated on June 5th with full sensitivity towards both Poles and Jews, without heaping overblown statements of condemnation against the Polish government and the Polish nation, MPs would be right to use that occasion to urge the Polish government to rescind this legislation. In place of an increasingly fruitful earlier dialogue and mutual re-examination between Polish and Jewish historians we now have a dialogue by megaphone which debases all the arguments, subjecting facts to self-serving emotions, which in turn will only encourage both anti-Semitism on the one hand and Polonophobia on the other. The Polish government must be given the breathing space to be able to repeal the controversial amendment voluntarily because it is in the best interests not only of the international dialogue on the Holocaust, but of Poland as well.

Also, the debate would be a useful occasion to remind the British public and the British media that the term “Polish death camps”, however innocently intended as a geographical description, is offensive to all Poles because of its unwritten implication that the death camps were set up or run by Poles.

I hope that, if you do choose to take part in this debate, you will seek to avoid a confrontational approach to the Polish government and and instead urge them to recognize the futility of replacing dialogue with legislation and to repeal the controversial legislation.
Yours sincerely
Wiktor Moszczynski
former Labour Councillor and parliamentary candidate

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Hostile Environment for EU citizens same as for Windrush generation

Letter to Editor of "The Guardian"

Dear Sir,
I can fully understand the impact of the Home Office's hostile environment on the Windrush generation ("Rudd tells MPs: we were wrong" 17/4/16) especially when,with the passage of time, documentation which had never earlier been required disappears and suddenly elderly hard-working and often long retired British citizens are asked to account for everything they have done over the past 60 years.
This same hostile environment is now being visited on vulnerable EU citizens who have been here legally for several decades without any need to account for their activities other than they have been living and working here and bringing up families. Now, disregarding all their current rights as EU citizens at a time when the UK is still a member of the EU, many Poles and other EU citizens have been faced with internment in detention centres, deportations, their children's UK citizenship revoked and their right to free NHS treatment challenged. It is not always possible to have these measures reversed in time.
With the new system for registering settled status and temporary status under way senior Home Office staff have been promising us a "culture change" for EU citizens. I do not doubt their good intentions but I very much fear their earnest recognition of their current toxic work culture and negative attitude to foreign applicants is probably too late to prevent seasoned Home Office officials further down the line interpreting the complex byzantine immigration rules in their own way even when faced with the eventual terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.
Following the recent revelations about the treatment of former Commonwealth citizens I remain very sceptical.
Yours faithfully

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Polish Saturday Schools in UK give proud Polish children a chance to prosper in UK

On 2nd April the Guardian printed an article headed "Polish schools in UK accused of links to far-right associates.

This is grossly unfair. Polish Saturday schools have a long and proud tradition in the UK ever since they were set up in the 1940s for children of Polish political emigres stranded here after the War. Currently there are over 150 such schools in the UK serving both the grandchildren and great children of those emigres as well as the new diaspora following Poland's entry into the EU. These schools vary in size and resources and they teach Polish children to have a pride in their parents' country of origin by learning the language, customs, history and geography, These schools respect the British attitude to tolerance of other minorities and prepare their pupils to live and prosper in a multicultural society, especially as older children are given the possibility to sit GCSE and A level exams and thus add an extra subject to their CV.

While accepting that currently the political polarisation within Poland has led to the radicalisation of some young Poles arriving recently in the UK this is not something that Saturday schools are in a position to monitor and to check the background of their children's parents. However the Polish Education Committee which has responsibility for 120 of these schools would be happy to accept any Home Office guidance on this issue as the lines between pride in your country of origin and a nationalist ideology can sometimes be blurred.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Jeremy Corbyn Passover Message upsets UK Poles

In his Passover Message in London today Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has sought to distance himself from anti-Semitic incidents within the Labour Party but has upset many members of the Polish community in the UK by referring to recent Polish legislation which has sought to criminalize the statement that Poland was responsible for the Holocaust in the same breath as the racist murder of a Jewish woman in Paris.

In this way he wrongly implied that the Polish government is a Holocaust denier and that the Polish nation was responsible for the Holocaust. Both propositions are manifestly not true and overlook the fact that it was the wartime Polish government which did its utmost to publicize in the West the mass killings and persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany, while its courageous underground leaders set up agencies to protect and save Jews in Poland at the same time as they sought to protect Poland's Christian population against persecution. Any attempt by a Pole to save a Jew would lead to the execution of the entire Polish family. Nobody denies that in the severity and privation of the German occupation individual Poles betrayed Jews and even hunted them in the forests, but that was not the response of the Polish nation as a whole, while betraying a Jew to the German authorities was punishable by a death sentence from the Polish underground. .
Yours faithfully,
Wiktor Moszczynski
Friends of Polish Veterans Association.
Stowarzyszenie Przyjaciol Polskich Weteranow (SPPW)
Author of "Hello, I'm Your Polish Neighbour"

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Letter from the3million to Local Government Association


For the Attention of
Mr Mark Lloyd,
Chief Executive,
Local Government Association,
18 Smith Square,
London SW1P 3HZ

Dear Mr Mark Lloyd,

The3million is a grassroots organisation acting as the voice of more than three million EU27 citizens and their families in the UK, who are currently held in limbo as they await a final agreement between the EU and UK negotiators on their status after 29 March 2019.

We are writing to you as we think that local government may well be required to play a vital role in the registration process that would allow EU27 citizens and their families to continue to live, work and study in this country. We are aware that differences still remain over whether the registration process is to be merely declaratory, as demanded by the European Parliament, or obligatory, as an application for "settled status" (rather than mere registration), as currently proposed by the UK government. Either way, some form of registration is going to take place, with details resolved during the second phase of negotiations this Spring.

It seems difficult to imagine that with the best will in the world the Home Office will be able to successfully register more than three million citizens under the proposed online application proposals within a limited space of time. There will be a separate status for those here for more than 5 years and for those with less than 5 years of residence, including those likely to arrive during the proposed transition period between March 2019 and March 2021. We estimate that more than 3000 citizens would have to be processed each working day for the registration scheme to work. The Home Office has proposed to start the application scheme for "settled status" by the middle of this year on a voluntary basis, even though the final details of the scheme have not been defined or agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement and there would be no rights of appeal attached to this pre-Withdrawal Agreement ‘voluntary status’.

There have been consultations with many "user groups", including the3million, but they have largely been limited to the mechanics of how an online application system under the "settled status" proposal would work. Assurances have been given that an application for "settled status" will be based on checking identity, email number, residence (through HMRC and DWP records) and criminal records as well as security checks, and in the case of those residents here legally for more than 5 years, that there will be no questions about income. However there would be checks of recent long absences which would necessitate building up to 5 years again.

Home Office officials have told us they want to keep the application process firmly in their own hands via an online system, and to minimize non-online applications, for instance in case of "hard to reach" groups, even though it is clear that at least 5-10% of the 3 million or so EU nationals will not be IT literate. Cooperating with local councils has been considered by the Home Office, but they have stated their preference to recruit and train their own Home Office staff for this online application task. They are recruiting several hundreds more staff just for the online application period. However, the "hostile environment" created to counter illegal immigration has also impacted on "legal" migrants and has seen many EU27 citizens threatened with deportation. In meetings, different citizens groups’ representatives were assured that Home Office officials will undergo "a culture change", to dispel prejudice in their staff and allow for corrections and re-submission when required information has been omitted. Despite these promises we remain sceptical about the fairness, the efficiency and the supposed new groundswell of good will at the lower levels of the Home Office in this operation, and this scepticism is borne out with many examples of denial of access to justice, an understaffed and under-resourced Home Office and, on occasion, even non-compliance with court orders by the Home Office.

We have argued repeatedly that, to make it possible to register more than three million citizens in the space of two or so years, local government will need to be involved and indeed, to play a vital and leading role. We are convinced that registration of some 3 million citizens can only work if there is a light touch, local registration system purely based on residence and ID. Local government maintains electoral records, details of council taxpayers, register of births, deaths and marriages, social services records and school rolls and so is ideally placed to assist with information, where necessary regarding length of residency, relevant for the application and registration process. They also have registration processes in place and, with increased resources and capacity, could assist the Home Office with the process. This is also the view of many MPs and members of the House of Lords, as well as some Council leaders we have consulted.

With many EU27 citizens now regrettably wary of the Home Office, it is also not unlikely that many may resist going through an online application process where the pressing of a wrong button can cause you to be exposed to the "hostile environment". Others would not be informed properly about the process and the dire consequences if they fail to register within the required period. We are also worried about how difficult it could be to reach groups who may not be able to access an almost exclusively online system. On the other hand local government would be ideally placed to contact people they have on record and let them know about the need to register and can offer a local registration service rather than the proposed online application for "settled status" process.

We are convinced that, at the very least, the Home Office could engage local authorities in informing their own local EU27 residents of the need to apply for or register the proposed post-Brexit status. A useful opportunity would be as part of the electoral literature sent out by councils before the May local elections.The Home Office has been urged to explain clearly the current proposal for "settled status" and how this would differ from the current declaratory status, and the potentially serious consequences of non-application for "settled status" compared to the lesser consequences of simply registering an existing right.

Before we press this further with the U.K. government we would like to consult your organisation in order to obtain your view on these issues and to better understand how local authorities in England are preparing for the departure of the UK from the EU. The3million, as representatives of the EU27 citizens in the UK, would be happy to be considered as a consultative body and provide information where this may be helpful to you and the councils you represent. We would also urge you to consult the the3million publications and "Hostile Environment" pages for insight into our registration proposal (The Alternative Proposal) as can be found on the following link from our website: https://www.the3million.org.uk/publications.

We look forward to hearing from you or to discuss these matters further at a meeting,

Yours sincerely,

Wiktor Moszczynski
(former Borough Councillor)
Senior Adviser

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

EU citizens’ rights – two realities

As UK citizens slowly absorbed the overnight shock of the referendum result on June 23rd, 2016 and contemplated the extraordinary potential consequences, including an independent Scotland, uncertainty over the Irish border, the future of the economy, the fall of the pound, the triumph of nationalism, the one factor that seemed to remain stable was the fate of the EU citizens in the UK. After all, most of the Leave campaigners Farage, Gove, Johnson had all stressed that the EU citizens who were already here would not have to depart. It was like a constant repetitive mantra: “all EU citizens are safe”. And overwhelmingly many EU citizens, whether from Western, Southern or Eastern Europe firmly believed that. “We can stay; they need us; nobody will throw us out”. Even the sudden explosion of hate crimes against Poles and others in the 3-month aftermath after Brexit did not shake that feeling. Within 2 weeks of the referendum, on July 6th Andy Burnham, Labour MP introduced a motion in Parliament confirming that the rights of EU citizens would be retained in full. The vote at 245 to 2 was almost unanimous in favour and Boris Johnson also spoke eloquently in its favour. However, the vote was not binding on the government and the then Home Secretary Theresa May made clear that EU citizens’ rights can only be guaranteed when the EU was ready to respect the existing rights of UK citizens abroad. Weeks later she was Prime Minister, Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary and the EU citizens became a hostage in the diplomatic poker game between the UK government and the EU. Although some EU governments made clear that UK citizens’ rights in their countries would be respected the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers refused to be drawn saying all issues can only be discussed once the Prime Minister invoked Article 50. The tabloids laid the blame for not ensuring EU citizens’ rights firmly on the EU although the principle that they be allowed to stay remained unchallenged.
In view of that it seemed like an opportunity for the Government to draw up a detailed plan on how EU citizens’ rights could be preserved on the assumption that the EU would eventually reciprocate it for UK citizens in the UK. Opposition parties and new pressure groups like the3million, New Europeans urged this on the government. In December 40 prominent UK citizens of Polish extraction published a letter urging this in the parliamentary house magazine. Even if some of the details of such a proposal could have been challenged or improved in the negotiations, at least the UK government could have set the agenda on this issue and could show it was not treating EU citizens as hostages or bargaining chips. After all, Brexit was a UK initiative and it was therefore the UK government’s responsibility, and not that of the EU, to initiate positive reassurance to EU citizens, to British businesses, to EU governments (and not least to UK citizens abroad who were expecting whatever the UK proposed for EU citizens to be reciprocated by the EU countries) and reduce the inflammatory atmosphere that had caused UK-EU relations to deteriorate so badly at this time. Furthermore, the issue of retaining existing EU citizens’ rights was generally acceptable to the electorate in numerous opinion polls, even with those wanting to introduce more immigration control after Brexit.
Yet Theresa May, whether as Home Secretary or later as PM, did not choose that option, continued to talk about the need first for the EU to show reciprocity and stoked up public opinion towards the policy of a hard Brexit. As a Remainer she needed to reassure her Brexit-dominated Party and her Cabinet colleagues that she was a keen new convert to the idea of a hard Brexit and sought to unite her party around that posed stance. This was the period before the general election when she reiterated various phrases such as “Brexit is Brexit”, “red, white and blue” Brexit and “strong and stable government” as a camouflage for a lack of clear detailed policy on Brexit while she sought to ram through any negotiations without even consulting Parliament. She had also allowed Home Office officials to broaden the “hostile environment” which she had publicly announced in 2010 as the regime that would be applied to illegal immigrants, so that it would also cover more vulnerable EU citizens, particularly in relation to failed applicants for permanent residence. This was the period when EU citizens, from Western or Eastern Europe, found that their application for PR status required details of every foreign trip over the whole period of their stay (in some cases for 30 or more years), instead of just the required 5-year period required by the EU. The UK authorities needed full details on employment and income and confirmation, where necessary, of having comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI), which should have been superfluous where all had access to a free NHS. If, for whatever trite reason, the application was refused, then hundreds of EU citizens would receive notices of deportation (often later withdrawn), although they had British families here and may have lived and worked here for decades. Yet all this time she assured Polish community leaders and EU governments that she wanted to safeguard the rights of Poles and other EU citizens in this country.
Following a challenge in the Supreme Court in December the Government had to acknowledge eventually that they would need to consult Parliament before starting the process of leaving the EU and that the referendum mandate on its own was not enough. In March 29th of this year, having got her vote through Parliament, she finally invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and then called a general election, in order to strengthen her majority. Ironically, she lost many seats and now had to lead a coalition government with the support of the Democratic Unionists. This made her position more precarious and therefore caused her to be more stubborn, to promise various red lines, simply to keep her coalition together.
Consequently, when the EU negotiators had made clear that EU citizens’ rights was one of the three issues which needed to be resolved before negotiations could move on to issues such as trade and a possible transition period, they then published their negotiating position which included the requirement that in future all EU citizens at present in the UK should be assured of retaining the same rights, including pensions and access to the NHS, as before for their lifetime and that of their children, including the right not to have their families separated and the right to retain their status even if they had left the UK for a period of time. The right to stay for those with PR or who have eligibility for PR would be automatically registered and any appeal process would be supervised by the European Court of Justice. The EU offer was not perfect as it failed to ensure the rights of UK citizens to travel and work in more than one EU country and could not guarantee voting rights for UK citizens in EU countries, but it was able to offer most of these rights on a reciprocal basis for EU and UK citizens alike.
Instead of responding to this proposition the UK government was anxious to display that it was now a sovereign state and eventually in June it came out with its own alternative proposal using the term settled status, which until now was the equivalent of indefinite leave to remain. It offered EU citizens who had lived and worked here for more than 5 years the right to stay and work in this country with their families, with entitlement to NHS treatment, most benefits and UK pension rights, while those who would have arrived here more recently before an unidentified, as yet, cut-off date would be able to apply for settled status after the requisite 5 years had been served. Also, the much criticized CSI condition was now to be abolished. Mrs May described this as a generous offer and she wrote to the3million that “our intention is to make sure that no one who has made their home in this country will have to leave, that families will be able to stay together, and that people can go on living their lives as before”. Pressure groups like the3million and New Europeans, as well as EU governments disagreed. For instance, it was now necessary for all those who had previously laboriously achieved PR status to reapply for the new settled status, families could not be guaranteed to stay together if still abroad after the unnamed cut-off date or if the family member was a non-EU citizen and the provision of the status as well as its interpretation would be subject to Immigration Rules. Nor was it clear how up to 3 million EU citizens were to be registered over a period of 2 years (i.e. some 4000 a day) with all subjected to criminal records, when the PR registration service had already completely collapsed.

Furthermore, away from the reality of optimistic declarations by ministers and officials, there was still a second reality where more than 5000 EU citizens had already been deported against their will, where Polish and other vulnerable EU citizens, mostly East Europeans, were being detained for indeterminate periods, sometimes more than a year, in detention centres, following decisions by Home Office officials, where equally vulnerable EU citizens were initially being denied free NHS treatment and chased by court bailiffs for unpaid NHS bills, employers and landlords were starting to discriminate against EU citizens and home loans were being denied to EU citizens. Consequently, EU commissioners made clear over the six rounds of negotiation that the UK offer was nowhere near good enough.
And slowly over those 6 rounds of negotiations between June and November the process of extracting more reasonable concessions was like pulling teeth from a divided and disorientated UK cabinet. Thus low and intermittent income for self-employed would no longer become a criterion for refusal, cost of renewing settled status for those already registered for PR would be free of charge and require only evidence of residence or lack of criminal record, UK judges could hear appeals based on EU law, Immigration Rules would no longer apply and special status criteria would be based directly on the terms of the final Withdrawal Agreement, future family members, including future children, would now be covered by settled status, past criminality where sentence was completed would no longer be a bar to settled status. However up to and until December many issues remained unresolved as the cabinet battled internally over supposed red lines such as European Court jurisdiction, child benefit paid to children still abroad, and the right for all EU families to unite after the Brexit deadline, even though British citizens had no such rights. The cut-off date was now fixed on the same day as Brexit, i.e. at 29th March 2019. Every concession followed intense lobbying by pressure groups and renewed meetings on improved systems. Also, the Home Office has been consulting local communities, and specifically the Polish community at conferences in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh, where it was made clear that the previous Home Office culture of creating a “hostile environment” would be changed, that settled status would be merely swapped for PR status and that local organizations could assist in testing pilot schemes for a new simplified online system for registration.
Of course, the rollercoaster negotiations in the first week of December, finalizing the issues of the financial settlement and the Irish border may have left the European citizens issue on the side-lines but some key final agreements were made here too which were published in a Joint Statement by the EU and UK negotiators.
Following that publication, the current position on EU rights was presented by the Home Office as follows:
EU citizens who arrive here by March 29th, 2019 and have been continuously and lawfully living here for 5 years will be able to stay indefinitely by getting settled status, so they will be free to live here, work or study, have access to public funds and services, including healthcare and pensions, and go on to apply for UK citizenship. If they have not been here for 5 years they can apply for a temporary residence permit to work off that period until they reach the 5-year threshold and then apply for settled status. Close family members and dependents already here can also apply for settled status, while those who arrive later, while still in that relationship, would also be allowed to stay. This includes spouses, registered partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and persons in a durable relationship. Grounds for refusal would only be those quoted in the mutually agreed Withdrawal Agreement, i.e. a residency and criminality check. CSI will no longer be a criterion for refusing settled status but could still be invokes in relation to students or self-sufficient EU citizens seeking access to a free health service.
The Home Office promise that they will apply a more user-friendly application system for settled status, where some of the information will already have been obtained from HMRC or the DWP, missing documents or mistaken responses could still be rectified without rejection. Applicants will be required to provide an identity document with a recent photo and to declare any criminal convictions. For existing PR holders, the application will be free of charge, for others it will be the equivalent to the cost of applying for a passport. Applications could start in 2018 before Brexit and need to be completed within 2 years. Successful applicants will receive a new settled status document. All applicants can stay in the UK until their status is approved or rejected. If EU citizens had already obtained indefinite leave to remain earlier they need not make any further applications, but could also apply for a biometric residence permit if they wish or swap their status for the slightly superior settled status free of charge.
If an EU citizen arrives here after 29th March 2019 but during the 2-year transition period that person will still initially be allowed to live, work and study here but many of the rules are still subject o negotiation in phase 2 of the negotiations in 2018. For all those arriving after the end of the transition period their status will be subject to immigration rules to be decided by parliament after the publication of the Independent Migration Advisory Committee report in July 2018.
What the current Home Office guidelines did not make clear, just as Mrs May made no mention of it in her speech at the December 8th morning press conference in Brussels, was that “the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union should be preserved with regard to the consistent interpretation and application of the citizens’ rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.” This means that over the next 8 years the UK tribunals should be able to ask the European Court for interpretation of rights which may still seem unclear. The decision to make such a referral lies within the competence of the UK court or tribunal.
There are further details in the Joint Agreement of the EU and UK negotiators which are not mentioned in the Home Office summary. This agreement also covers EU workers who live in one state and commute daily to another state. Any decision on granting settled status should always give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant, whereas currently it is always in the hands of the Home Office official. Also, persons who absented themselves from the UK after acquiring permanent residence do not lose their residency rights unless they fail to return in 5 years. The European Health Insurance card continues to function. There is to be no discrimination in jobs or health care provision for EU citizens. A Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill will be introduced into the UK parliament to implement all that has been included in the Withdrawal Agreement, including all chapters on citizens’ rights. Significantly, the Joint Report refers only to “Special Status”, not “settled status” and a similar wording appears in EU Commission’s Report to the Council of Ministers.
Also, a number of issues are still to be resolved in the Second Phase of the negotiations. These include the rights of nearest relatives to join EU citizens in the UK who were not related at time of departure, voting rights in local elections, mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications, and the method of monitoring the application and implementation citizens’ rights by an independent national authority which can receive appeals from EU citizens.
Just as the ultimate arbiter of the financial negotiations was the European Commission and for the Irish border agreement was the Irish government, the ultimate arbiter on citizens’ rights is the European Parliament. It is possible that on December 13th the European Parliament may exercise its displeasure on several issues with regard to the Joint Report which will be presented in the coming week to the Council of Ministers.
Firstly, the Parliament wanted the registration to cover confirmation of existing rights, rather than an application for these same rights. This is still not clear from the final document although the universal introduction of criminal checks suggests that these will indeed be fresh applications, even if only described as a “swap”. Also, they had urged that future family rights for those not yet in a relationship should be assured as well and that the ECJ should have a more active and a permanent jurisdiction rather than just on the current temporary passive basis. The3million was also pushing for these issues, along with a more permanent supervisory role for the European Court of Justice but these would be difficult to implement now. However, it would be advisable for the Home Office to change the name of settled status as it could be misleading for citizens, police and legal bodies alike to have a separate meaning for settled status for EU citizens and for non-EU citizens, and would undermine the bespoke nature of the offered status for EU citizens. It would still be preferable to refer to some kind of UK version of permanent residence which could more easily be reciprocated in the EU for UK citizens.
While many may feel satisfied with the current agreement it has to be remembered that the alternative reality is still in existence. While the Home Office is promising to change its culture in time for Brexit it is still not changing its current culture. Recent suicides and attempted suicides by EU citizens facing deportation either at home or in detention centres is high. Current procedures with regard to expulsions of EU citizens should be in accordance with EU Directive 2004/38/EC, which refers only to the deportation of those who are a serious current threat to society or to security. Yet Poles who have families here have been deported for minor crimes past and present such as drunkenness or cheating on a tachograph, regardless of whether they have family here with children. “The Guardian” has reported how Polish fathers have been arrested and deported for a past crime in Poland after they complained to the police about being harassed and intimidated by neighbours or employers. There is considerable hostility still to East Europeans in the job centres, local government offices, health trusts and police stations in provincial Britain where at any excuse Poles have been told to consider returning to their own country. If there is this much uncertainty and hostility now while the UK is still a member of the EU, how much worse can it get after Brexit? Without supervision by the European Court of Justice, what is to prevent a future hostile government to repeal the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Act?
For those reasons it is still wise to consider retaining active and permanent monitoring by a European body with clout like the European Parliament, so that whatever is agreed on paper may still not give sufficient guarantees to Polish and other citizens and their families about the future.
Wiktor Moszczynski London 12th December 2017

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Mistreatment of EU citizens in East Anglia

On Sunday I visited Great Yarmouth at the invitation of the local immigration advice agency - Atena Porady (actually based in Lowestoft). She serves EU citizens, mostly Poles, but also Lithuanians, Portuguese, etc. She has close links with a solicitor's office and is able to access legal services to her clients at a reasonable rate. She is horrified by a number of Polish advice agencies which consistently give harmful advice.
She gave me ludicrous examples of how the Home Office has behaved in the last year with applicants for PR.
One example - a Polish lady married for several years to a Pakistani. When she applied for PR it was refused because the Home Office accused her of a sham marriage, which it is not.
A second example - a Polish lady employed for 11 years in an estate agent but before referendum never bothered to apply for PR as she thought it unnecessary. She lodged the usual documents along with her passport. Several weeks later the passport was returned as the Home Office took a copy of the document. A month later her application was rejected because there was no passport on the file.
Another Polish lady applied in the usual way and her application was rejected because there were no photographs, but the photographs in an envelope attached to the application form were returned with her other documents and the refusal form. She reapplied using the same questionnaire but the Home Office refused again because page 6 was apparently missing from the application. The agency adviser thinks the Home Office removed that page earlier so its absence when resent to the Home Office was not noticed.
Another of her clients was notified that her application was going to be refused because her birth certificate was missing. The Agency worker who supervised the completion of the questionnaire rang the Home Office official asking her to look again because the certificate was definitely sent, and a minute or so later the official confirmed she had "found" the certificate as it had fallen on the floor. When their application was returned it transpired that her son's name was misspelt. When the agency worker lodged a complaint she was told the correction could not be rectified but a new application could be made for him with the corrected spelling.
The agency worker told me it is now impossible to follow up complaints as there are either no responses, or worse the email addresses supplied are changed and other addresses claim they know nothing about the case and it then becomes out of date.
She described the treatment by the Home Office as a kind of mendacious negligence by Home Office staff. Refusals are prompt and since the referendum PR acceptances are very rare.
Even worse is the behaviour of local officials in East Anglia. Job Centre staff and police officers whom she has pursued in her casework have been under the impression that all Poles will be leaving after Brexit and are acting as if they were surprised that Polish families are still here after the referendum. When a Polish family, whom I met there, had complained about harassment by an aggressive neighbour haranguing their children with shouts of "go back to Poland", a policeman arrived, visited the neighbour and had a cup of tea with her and then came back to the Polish family and said there was no case of harassment to answer and "if you don't like it you can always go back home." When children from that same family were being told by fellow pupils that they should go back to Poland, the teacher refused to act saying the children were only repeating the views of their parents. She refused to remonstrate with the children repeating these taunts.
When the agency worker herself, who is Polish, applied for an advertised managerial position she was told that this post was only for British citizens and not for foreigners.
A Polish born student whom I met had been refused a student loan because of her nationality.
This is not London, It is an area that is economically depressed, voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and has no concept of discrimination or of EU laws, which they feel does not apply to them. This deterioration in attitudes to EU citizens followed the referendum results and as far as local residents are concerned the UK has already left the EU.
Incidentally the agency worker Dorota Darnell is a real firebrand, fighting for her clients like a lioness. She is a great admirer of the3million and would be happy to assist us in any way she can, especially on any public events.
It would be useful to raise these examples when we meet DExEU and Euro MPs.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The only way to get a deal : guarantee EU citizens' rights

Tom Bradby described the limited options facing Leave and Remain politicians (The clock's ticking ES 30/10/2017) as a possible breakdown of negotiations with no deal looms ever closer. Yet one option does remain, a concession that even Brexiteers should buy, and one which could break the ice with the most intransigent body in the EU - the European Parliament - which has the final veto over any Withdrawal Agreement..
I suggest that, while the money issue will be subject to hard bargaining, on the issue of EU citizens' rights the UK government could go much further than their barren "settled status" project which leaves vulnerable EU citizens and their children subject to the UK's notorious Immigration rules as interpreted by whatever immigration officer takes up their case. In the last 2 years the Home Office has been softening up EU citizens with expulsions, instructions to the NHS to charge for services and threats to employers and landlords which makes them reluctant to offer jobs or homes to foreigners, whether EU or not. This has undermined Europe's faith in any unilateral UK promises on EU citizens.
The UK government should reverse that and make concrete what it has been promising all along, namely, a secure future for all 3.2 million EU citizens, with no attempt to divide their families,.and confirmation by registration of their current status either as life long permanent residents or, in the case of those employed less than 5 years, registration as temporary residents. Furthermore the UK government should guarantee this finite group protection under an international agreement recognized and maintained jointly by both the European Court of Justice and the UK Supreme Court. This same body would also protect the rights of UK citizens in Europe.
All along Leave campaigners have been repeating the mantra that all EU citizens currently here should be "safe" and allowed to stay. Two weeks ago Boris Johnson repeated this at a meeting with Polish community leaders. Only by such an international guarantee can this promise be kept. It would also have the added advantage of making the European Parliament keen to press for a special deal that would confirm this agreed new status for its citizens.
Yours faithfully,
Wiktor Moszczynski