Polish Londoner

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

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

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

New deal on EU citizens rights must be internationally guaranteed

With regard to Matthew d’Ancona’s article on latest Brexit negotiations (“Brussels will squeeze us till the pips squeak” ES 18th October 2017) there is still one initiative that can break the current impasse and the gloom that surrounds it. The Irish border is currently insoluble until issues of the UK’s main borders are resolved; the money game will rumble on to be played down eventually, EU style, to the wire when all the clocks are stopped to meet an agreed deadline suitable to the political needs of the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers.
Yet the most intransigent enemy of the current proposed UK offer is the European Parliament which could have the final veto on the text of any Withdrawal Agreement. But the EP’s main concern, expressed quite forcibly in the resolution passed 2 weeks ago, was the fate of EU citizens in this country. The current settled status option promoted so vigorously by the Home Office with community leaders and embassies is dead in the water unless it is guaranteed by international supervision recognized by the European Court of Justice and covers all EU citizens currently living here, along with their children and partners.
Even after Theresa May’s letter today scrapping Comprehensive Sickness Insurance and easing the passage of registration for those with permanent residence, the rights of large sections of the 3.2 million EU citizens will still not be guaranteed. Basically she is only removing barriers which she herself had put up. The hostile atmosphere built up quite deliberately by Home Office staff towards EU citizens in the last 2 years have convinced EU citizens here, UK citizens abroad and broadly public opinion in EU countries generally that there is no certain future for EU citizens after Brexit without an internationally approved guaranteed status for all of them. After all, this is a finite group of people who have legally chosen to live here, set up families and contribute massively to the British economy and to the country’s social and cultural fabric. The UK has obligations to them, moral and legal. There are UK precedents here. These families should be given the same “en bloc” comprehensive guarantee of permanent settlement here that was given earlier to groups to whom the UK had moral and legal obligations such as 250,000 Polish soldiers and their dependents in 1947 and 27,000 Ugandan Asians in 1972, but this should also now be guaranteed by a ring-fenced international agreement.
Not only will such an offer give assurance of permanence to those EU families living here for so many decades, it would also ensure a reciprocal positive response to the future of 1 million UK residents living in the EU and remove the embarrassment of watching so many vulnerable EU citizens being deported under haphazard Immigration Rules. In fact such an offer would be a signal to the EU that negotiations are being taken seriously by this government and that leave can be given now to start those future trade talks.
Theresa May has stressed that no EU citizens will be deported and that no EU families need to be separated by Brexit, but she is constantly being outflanked by her Foreign Secretary’s restated new red lines. Yet curiously Boris Johnson has always been keen to stress, during and after the EU referendum, that all EU citizens in this country should be safe, and he repeated that on Tuesday at the Polish-British Belvedere reception in the Foreign Office. Now he can give himself and his Prime Minister the free rein to announce an EU citizens’ rights resolution that would leap the current distrust and break the deadlock on the remaining negotiations. You can bargain over finances, over trade, over security, over agriculture, but not over peoples' lives.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Theresa May plays the wrong card on EU citizens’ rights

The latest outburst from Theresa May with regard to the EU is completely counterproductive. She is throwing away what she had gained from the limited but still genuine expressions of approval from EU leaders following her Florence speech. Furthermore, she has reinforced her negative image in Brussels following the earlier criticism of Theresa May’s government by the European Parliament on September 26th when it recommended that trade talks should not be initiated because “sufficient progress has not yet been made on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the Northern Ireland (sic), and the settlement of the United Kingdom’s financial obligations”. The UK Government realizes that it still has a long way to go on all three issues, and that with the current negotiating period now nearing the half time break, its present stubborn stance on all those issues could eventually lead to no agreement being reached at all. Most of the government knows full well that such an outcome would be a disaster. That is why her latest outburst about the possibility of no deal and its impact on EU and British citizens' rights is the voice of despair.
The European Parliament may not be directly involved in the negotiations, but it has the final veto on anything that is negotiated. The most emotional issue for Euro MPs is the question of citizens’ rights and the one on which they are least likely to compromise. Finance is a hard-headed issue which will eventually end up with some last minute stop-the-clock kind of bargaining down to the wire with which EU institutions are familiar every time a budget is discussed. The Irish border question is, frankly, a regional issue, albeit a crucial one, as it will reflect what happens on the UK’s main borders as well. Yet the question of EU citizens’ rights in the UK and UK citizens’ rights abroad appears to be the most intransigent, even though both sides pretend that they want the same thing – the preservation of EU citizens’ rights. Even if the EU negotiators may feel they could come to a compromise on this with the British government, they know that the European Parliament will not let them.
Both sides now agree that EU citizens and their families in this country should be allowed to stay with full working rights, access to the same pensions, benefits and health services as UK citizens, while those who have not yet worked off their full 5 years to achieve the right to stay should be given time to complete those years. What is more, public sentiment in the UK is not divided on this matter. Opinion polls show a distinct majority in favour of EU citizens retaining their rights as before. The right to vote in local elections and the European Health Insurance card are also likely to be retained provided talks are not broken off and both sides are working towards agreeing continuing mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications. In her letter to “the3million group”, who have been putting the case for the 3.z million EU citizens in this country, Theresa May still maintains that she wants 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.”
Yet practice has belied the Prime Minister’s words, not only for the period after Brexit, but even now, while the UK is still supposedly in the EU and subject to its directives. The Home Office is already treating EU citizens as if they were subject only to UK Immigration rules, deporting vulnerable EU citizens, depriving EU children of British passports previously granted to them and authorizing health authorities to charge EU citizens for their services. Furthermore, as a show of UK sovereignty the Home Office has already announced that the current EU based permanent residence scheme is to be abolished and is advising community groups that all 3.2 million EU citizens should apply to register for a new form of “settled status”. EU citizens will now have to apply afresh in the space of 2 years for rights they currently already have, rather than having them merely confirmed, while existing rights to unite families and to return to the UK after a 2 year stay abroad will be abolished after Brexit. The British government is drawing a red line over leaving EU citizens under the protection of the European Court of Justice.
Yet the European Parliament has also drawn a red line over accepting a UK administered settled status which would leave EU citizens at the tender mercies of a regrettably compromised Home Office officialdom, bent on attaining the Government’s impossible target of a ceiling of 100,000 immigrants a year. We have an impasse.
Despite this, it is on EU citizens’ rights that the UK government could show a bold and truly generous initiative which would cut the administrative logjam, restore confidence of EU citizens in this country and UK citizens abroad about their future, and convince the EU negotiators and the EU parliament that it would be possible to bring forward the future trade talks which the UK desires. The government could recognize that the 3.2 million EU citizens is a large but a finite group in numbers whose contribution to the UK economy and to its social fabric is overwhelmingly positive and that they should all be allowed to retain their acquired rights including the equivalence of permanent residence or the continuation of the existing pathway to obtaining that status. A certified record of this new status should be offered to all of them proactively through the channels of local authorities who already have records on them as taxpayers, voters, entrepreneurs, pensioners, students or schoolchildren. It should be a lifetime status for all current residents and their children as individuals and they would also be eligible after a further year to apply for UK citizenship. As long as this status is similar to permanent residence it can be reciprocated easily by the EU with a similar status for UK citizens abroad. A separate early agreement on this status could be guaranteed by a mutually agreed international body to which all citizens could appeal. Nothing new there as a similar form of supervision is already being envisaged by the UK for future commercial disputes with EU countries. Nor is it a concession that would have negative political repercussions as most Leave campaigners have always argued that EU citizens currently here should be allowed to stay. No need therefore for a divided Cabinet to panic over a new “concession”.
There is also a precedent for such a blanket entry system granted to a finite group to whom the UK government has had obligations. The Labour government did this in 1947 with the Polish Resettlement Act when all 215,000 Polish soldiers and their civilian dependents in Western Europe were allowed to settle in the UK, regardless of their political or social status and regardless of whether some of them had previously been conscripted into the Wehrmacht. This was followed by a further similar decision over 86,000 displaced Europeans living in camps in Germany and Austria. The beneficiaries of these decisions were given full access to education, payment of war pensions, assistance with finding employment and the right eventually to apply to be British subjects. This decision was a clear-cut and honourable conclusion to those left stranded by Poland’s tragic fate after Yalta, and saved the UK government from responding to heart-breaking stories of Polish soldiers being forcibly repatriated to a Communist country. Admittedly the numbers were somewhat smaller but the principle was the same.
Similarly, such a blanket decision on 3.2 million EU citizens would also be the clear-cut and honourable conclusion to a vexed issue. It would also break down the logjam with the EU negotiations and open up the chance for the EU negotiations to cover the more promising issues of trade, financial services and the environment. Can Theresa May screw up the courage to do this in time for the sixth round of negotiations?

Wiktor Moszczynski 10/10/2017

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Comment on Theresa May speech in Florence

I see it as a step forward that Theresa May is recognizing the need for “new dispute resolution mechanisms” (presumably international and approved also by the ECJ) to resolve commercial disputes with the EU in post-Brexit Britain. It shows that “sovereignty” is not after all an absolute concept.

This mechanism should be extended also to the issue of EU citizens currently in this country and their British counterparts living in EU countries.

It was a welcome if somewhat cautious step forward in the right direction for her to say that UK courts resolving issues of EU citizens’ status in the UK would be “able to take into account the judgements of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent interpretation” but surely it would be better to reassure the EU negotiators that its citizens could have the same international protection that she proposes for EU companies. In saying this I am not imputing the impartiality of British judges but I am aware that in the present purely British legal format of “settled status” most decisions on EU citizens would be made and enforced not by British judges but by Home Office officials, applying Immigration Rules, which are wholly inappropriate for EU citizens who have been residing here legally for many decades. Because of recent Home Office howlers on sending EU citizens deportation notices and using obsolete interpretations on comprehensive sickness insurance to refuse permanent residence, confidence in Home Office measures by EU countries is practically nil.

EU citizens here are seen by the EU as hostages being held by the British government in the current dispute and Theresa May should know that EU negotiators will remain intransigent on other issues, such as future trade talks, until those hostages are released by the removal of “settled status” and a simpler proactive speeded up registration system be introduced for the current permanent residence status. This way the rights of EU citizens here and UK citizens in Europe need not “diverge” as she feared. Also the mass hemorrhage of EU citizens uncertain of their future is already hurting British industry, agriculture and the NHS and it is in Britain's interest to encourage them to stay by resolving the uncertainties. An open-ended resolution to allow all of them to stay with the exception of those who are recognized by a British judge as an immediate threat to security in this country is the best solution. It was done before very successfully with the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947 which allowed 300,000 Polish soldiers and civilians, mostly without documents, to settle here at the end of the Second World War.

Incidentally, in her speech Mrs May referred only to the registration of EU citizens arriving after March 2019. Is she no longer pursuing the new registration for settled status of those already here?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Dislodge the Diplomatic Fatberg

I very much welcome the comments, printed in The Times, from the Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis in response to the EU citizens lobby organized on September 13th. He is obviously well intentioned in wanting EU citizens legally here to be able to stay and confirming the need for reciprocal treatment of UK citizens in the EU. He was recognizing the value of the lobby organized for MPs and Lords by the3million (representing the voice of EU citizens in this country), British in Europe (representing the voice of Bits on the continent) and the trade union Unison. More than 600 participated in the lobby which was met by more than 60 MPs including Sir Keir Starmer, Labour spokesman on Brexit and Lib-Dem leader Sir Vince Cable.
What Mr Lewis still needs to understand is that while the British offer of settled status may look good on paper it is based on Immigration Rules which are riddled with exceptions and provisos that his own officials in the Home Office will be using to limit the number of EU nationals currently in this country. After the Brexit cut off date EU citizens will have no recourse to any international body to defend their rights. In fact it means that all 3.2 million EU citizens will first be deprived of their current status of eligibility for permanent residence and will then have to reapply in the space of just 2 to 3 years for a new status, the so-called "settled status", which will be selective and not available to all of them.
Nobody believes the Home Office staff can do this fairly, or on time. The current uncertainty over their status is causing acute agony to EU citizens, especially for parents of young British-born children, some of whom have actually had their British passports taken away.
The UK government owes EU citizens, who came here legally and have contributed so much to the UK economy and to the social and cultural fabric of this country, a better deal than settled status, namely one which confirms their acquired rights, rather than dispenses them anew. It is better to simply recognize the right to stay of all 3.2 million citizens currently here, unless they are personally an immediate threat to the security of society.
There is a precedent for this. In 1947 all Polish soldiers and attendant civilians, whether in the UK or in Western European camps, were granted the right to stay in this country under the Polish Resettlement Act, with no questions asked. It protected them from deportation to a Communist Poland. It was a special moment which had arisen out of a sense of obligation to some 300,000 Poles uprooted by the UK breaking its alliance treaty obligations to defend Poland's independence.
Now again we have a special moment with the UK having an obligation to uprooted EU citizens, because of their sovereign decision to break their treaty of accession to the European Union. It means that with a simple administrative process in 2019 all these citizens' rights to stay in this country will be confirmed, as happened in 1947. Such a statement by the Prime Minister in Italy this week would also break the ice on the diplomatic fatberg currently blocking the negotiations and allow the EU negotiators to give a green light for discussing future trade relations, so desperately desired by the UK government negotiators.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

EU citizens in UK like cancer patients

Dzien dobry, London.
Today I’m addressing you on behalf of more than 1 million Polish citizens left stranded here by the disastrous Brexit referendum and its equally shocking aftermath.
The Polish presence here and that of other EU citizens was both a symbol of the UK’s economic success story and an important contributor to that success. EU citizens contribute on balance £12.1bln annually to the exchequer. The Polish diaspora in the UK has contributed also to the economic prosperity and the social and cultural fabric of their local community, with their commercial enterprises, their food shops, their “pączki” (doughnuts), places of worship and their motivated workers, who were also consumers, concert goers, sports fans, students and school children.
In turn, Polish citizens too saw the UK as their new home. They have settled with their families. On average 22,000 children of Polish mothers are born here every year and there are currently 187,000 Polish children in this country below the age of 14, the overwhelming majority of whom saw their future in this country. Well you can imagine the devastating effect of the referendum on those children, when they came into school that Friday morning, traumatized by their shell-shocked parents, only to be asked by their schoolmates, “So when are you going back to Poland”.
Leave campaigners had assured EU citizens that they will not have to leave and their acquired rights in this country will be affirmed. Yet the government has failed to give a formal guarantee of their stay, and when the EU negotiators put forward concrete proposals as to how permanent residence status could be extended after Brexit, the UK government counter-proposed with something called “settled Status”.
I can think of nothing more unsettling than settled status. Superficially it promises the right to stay permanently, but It actually begins with abolishing permanent residence status completely on the cut-off date so that everyone of the 3.2 million EU citizens must reapply again in the space of 2 or 3 years to obtain their new status. Immigration rules will not grant the new status out of hand, but will have so many provisos, about time of stay, past history, maternity rights, levels of income, uniting families. Also, any appeals will not have the protection from EU legislation. We have seen the early impact with Poles and other residents already receiving illegal notices of deportations while Polish children born here who had already obtained British passports are having them taken away.
Currently Polish and other EU citizens, including their children, sit in an alternative world, like cancer patients, who outwardly appear to live the same life as those around them but are faced with growing and stressful uncertainty about their own future and their families’ future in this country. Should they still register their children for school, should they buy a house, should they wind up their business, should they invest back in their original homeland? They are stuck in the country they once loved and admired, between the prejudices and taunts in the street or in the pages of the “Daily Mail” on the one side and the bureaucratic negativity of the Home Office on the other.
This nightmare existence of EU citizens must end now and the UK government must agree a new deal with the EU in the October round of negotiations which will end the stress and the uncertainty.

Wiktor Moszczynski Author of “Hello I’m Your Polish Neighbour”
Speech at the3million rally 13th September 2017 - Trafalgar Square, London

Saturday, 9 September 2017

EU citizens have all moved ….. to Limboland

Dzien dobry, London.
Today I’m addressing you on behalf of more than 1 million Polish citizens left stranded here by the disastrous Brexit referendum and its equally shocking aftermath.
Of course, we are only part, admittedly the largest part of the many cohorts of EU citizens left stranded here by that man-made catastrophe, which has undermined Britain’s currency and thrown the UK’s political, economic and cultural future into chaos.
The Polish presence here and that of other EU citizens was both a symbol of the UK’s economic success story and an important contributor to that success. Treasury statistics show that in the tax year 2013/2014 European Economic Area citizens have paid in £12.1bln more into the exchequer than they have drawn out. All these European communities, spread ethnically as well as geographically around the country, contributed also to the economic prosperity and the social and cultural fabric of the community, with their commercial enterprises, their food shops, their places of worship and their motivated workers, who were also concert goers, sports fans, students and school children.
In turn, they too saw the UK as their new home, even though most of them came here not expecting to stay, but more with a sense of adventures. Now they have settled with their families. On average 22,000 children of Polish mothers are born here every year, a sure sign of their optimism about their future in Britain, as well as a welcome counterbalance to the UK’s ageing population The ONS estimate for 2015 was 187,000 Polish children in this country below the age of 14, the overwhelming majority of whom saw themselves as citizens of this country. Well you can imagine the devastating effect of the referendum on those children, when they came into school that Friday morning, traumatized by their shell-shocked parents, only to be asked by their schoolmates, “So when are you going back to Poland”.
Well the Leave campaigners had assured EU citizens that they will not have to leave and their acquired rights in this country will be affirmed. Initially they trusted them, but the government while promising everything, has refused to give a formal guarantee of their stay, and when the EU negotiators put forward concrete proposals as to how permanent residence status could be extended after Brexit, they counter-proposed with something called “settled Status”.
I can think of nothing more unsettling than settled status. Superficially it promises the right to stay permanently, but It begins with the very negative decision about abolishing permanent residence status completely on the cut-off date so that everyone of the 3.2 million EU citizens must reapply again in the space of 2 or 3 years to obtain their new status. Even now with permanent residence applications there are so many provisos, about time of stay, past history, maternity rights, levels of income, uniting families. If this were to be applied to a settled status then as a promise it would be almost worthless, especially as these provisos are to be governed by that well known caring magnanimous institution called the Home Office. This is the institution that has 15 miles of shelved paperwork waiting to be investigated and where current PR applications would take more than 10 years to resolve. Also, any appeals will be governed by new UK immigration laws without any protection from EU legislation. We have seen the impact with Poles and other residents already receiving illegal notices of deportations while Polish children born here who had already obtained British passports are having them taken away.
If you are British citizens, you may not have noticed this yet but Polish citizens have already moved. They no longer live in the United Kingdom. They now live in Limboland, unsure of their future, or the future of their families and their jobs. They did not cross any borders, the borders crossed them and they sit alongside you on the London tube or at work but with anxieties and priorities of which you are not even aware, alienated from the security of being a citizen of this country. They are stuck between the prejudices and taunts of xenophobic bullies in the street or in the pages of the “Daily Mail” on the one side and the bureaucratic negativity of the Home Office on the other. And this was a country they had loved previously for its seeming freedom, resilience, tolerance, entrepreneurial possibilities and sense of security. Not surprising then that one EU citizen recently wrote “A bit of me is dying here….”
This nightmare existence of EU citizens must end, which is why the3million and other organizations are holding a mass lobby here on Wednesday of Parliament and holding a further rally on behalf of EU citizens at Trafalgar Square at 6pm. Either the UK government negotiates a proper safe settlement of EU citizens’ rights, or better still it calls a halt to the whole Brexit process and calls for a new referendum based on the sheer revealed impracticality and injustice of leaving the EU.
Thank you for coming and for listening.

Wiktor Moszczynski Author of “Hello I’m Your Polish Neighbour”
Speech at People March against Brexit 9th September 2017 - Parliament Square, London

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Against a Settled Status

This is a translation of my current column in Polish on "Settled Status"

The recent statement by the Federation of Poles in Gt Britain and the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) on the rights of EU citizens (including Poles) in the United Kingdom is already a testament to the looming decisive battle over these rights. On the one hand, we have a disciplined EU delegation, headed by former French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, representing 27 EU states, but effectively executing the decisions of the well-coordinated central authority of the European Union - the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament. And on the other hand, we have a wavering British delegation, headed by DExEU minister David Davis, representing a government which changes its mind every week on its stance on leaving the EU.
Both sides have set a goal until the end of October this year to find a common agreement on the rights of EU and UK citizens, a financial settlement and the future nature of the Irish border. The aim of the EU is to settle these matters first, before tackling issues more precious to the UK side such as future trade relations, the future of the single market, or co-operation in the field of science, and the British side has reluctantly had to accept this. The framework of these remaining issues would have to be negotiated in the remaining 20 months in order to finally negotiate and legally agree on a final Withdrawal Agreement by March 2019. So, If they cannot keep up with the timetable for this first phase of negotiations by October this year, there may not be the time and even the willpower to negotiate a final deal by 2019.
It was at this crucial moment in the eve of battle that the Presidents of the Federation and POSK issued their press release. In their joint statement, the Polish community leaders pointed to the need for a speedy deal to safeguard the confidence of EU citizens about their future in the country. They also recalled that the British had a precedent for making a generous gesture when in 1947 they decided to allow Polish refugees a permanent stay in the UK under the Polish Resettlement Act. But our chairmen opted to maintain neutrality with both sides of the negotiations, counting on their good will.
Unfortunately, this good will has not yet materialized, although there is already agreement on a few issues related to citizens, such as the future of the European Health Insurance Card. But the main breakthrough on citizenship is not yet visible. Polish wishes about retaining full acquired rights may eventually be fulfilled, either through a good compromise, which has not yet been revealed, or by the surrender of one of the sides. But which one?
Let us examine what their main differences are. The European side believes that, despite the Brexit referendum decision, the full rights of EU citizens should be preserved in full and guaranteed by the European Court of Justice. Consequently, the status of permanent residence would be maintained which gives EU citizens similar rights to UK citizens, including the right of residence, employment without discrimination, access to health care and social security benefits. This right is to be granted to all those who have come here or are yet to come, including their immediate family, before the final date of leaving the EU, including those who have not yet completed their statutory five-year residency requirements as they will be granted the chance to complete those five years while continuing to work in this country. This is undoubtedly the best offer for us Poles. But it could be improved further by ensuring these rights to EU citizens and their children are for life, that EU citizens can be united with their families even after the Brexit cut off date and that the final agreement on the rights of EU and UK citizens can be sealed by an international treaty between Britain and the EU countries before the final talks on other aspects of exit are concluded. The last requirement may seem eccentric but it is this ring-fencing of an early agreement which guarantees its survival should the remaining talks eventually fail to keep to their deadline and there is no final Withdrawal Agreement.
But the British side has a completely different offer. It proclaims that its proposal matches the same guarantees as those made by the EU, but at its base it lacks conviction. It wants to liquidate the legal status of the EU based permanent residence, and replace it with something called "settled status", which can only by guaranteed by UK law and answerable to a British judiciary, outside the jurisdiction of the European Court. At present, this proposal is unacceptable for EU negotiators on the basis that it is not a sufficient guarantee for the rights of EU citizens present here. It is also unacceptable for organizations like "the3million" representing the voice of almost three and half a million EU citizens or "British in Europe", representing at least 1 million British citizens in Spain, France and other EU countries. It should also be unacceptable to Poles in the UK.
Why is the "settled status" proposal so damaging?
First of all, because it takes away the current legal status of Polish and other EU citizens from the A8 countries here since 2004, as well as for citizens from Western and Southern Europe, who have spent 30 odd years here or more. All their material, spiritual and cultural achievements and their legally acquired rights during many years of hard struggle to build a new home here in Britain would be set at nought. The new Polish mini-homeland in the UK set up by Polish businesses and Polish families would be dismantled and those who have obtained the hard-won permanent residency status, as well as the subsequent possibility of UK citizenship, would have to begin all over again, except that this will no longer be a confirmation of an existing status, but an application for a new status. The old permanent residency should have been automatic under EU law. Despite that for many Poles it was finally reachable only after a hefty fee and after completing an 82-page questionnaire and a half-year wait. For others, legally resident and legally employed here, obtaining residency had become an insurmountable barrier and now a cause for particular stress in the present stage of uncertainty. Suddenly, for hundreds of thousands of Polish families, even this hard-won status of permanent residence is now being questioned. Poles are feeling the ground collapsing under their feet.
Secondly, the new status is based on UK legislation and, in particular, on immigration law. Every Polish or English lawyer will confirm that there is no more Byzantine labyrinth of administrative regulations and legal quirks than the Home Office manual based on a specific interpretation of UK legislation. No such official decision by the Border Agency employee needs to be justified to the victim of a decision or to a third party. Suffice it to say that the clerk, submerged by a sea of applications and needing to demonstrate appropriate professional zeal, will find some shortcomings in the documentation or even harbour just a suspicion that not all in an application is correct, and so is still able to refuse an application. Even if his or her decision explicitly breaks official regulations, it is difficult to prove it. An official does not have to explain anything, even when the media intervenes, or the MP, or even a minister. Sometimes, as we have seen with the case of more than one hundred illegal letters sent to EU citizens demanding an immediate departure, even they themselves have admitted to mistakes albeit under pressure from the press. But despite the protests and interventions of consuls and advice centres, a number of people have actually been expelled from the UK despite the right of residence, because they were sick, or temporarily homeless or had a former conviction. Sure, many Poles might shrug their shoulders at this, but these expulsions were a contravention of EU Directive 2004/38 / EC, art. 27, which explains under which conditions one EU country may expel a citizen of another country, only if the suspect is individually a clear and present danger to society. At least until March 2019, EU law still applies here. The Home Office breaks this law knowingly so that ministers can have some kind of immigrant meat to feed to rabid "Daily Mail" readers. There is a British proverb - "the thin end of the wedge". If officials are doing this now when they are still bound by EU conventions then how will they behave in post-Brexit Britain without these restrictions?
Thirdly, if the British were finally to achieve a recognition for "settled status" in the negotiations, and would have acquired the 3 years transitional period which they are requesting in order to complete the transformation of the country into a new post-Brexit order, they would have to register and issue ID cards or similar certificates to more than 3 million EU citizens over the 3 or 4 years period. Even with the help of local governments and their records, which I have urged on Home Office officials, I still think that they would not be able to carry out this task, or to complete it fairly. Currently they are already bogged down by the number of applications from several thousands of residents just seeking to complete permanent residence applications. If they are left in charge of handling applications for a new status then I fear the list of expelled Poles and other EU citizens, along with their UK born children, would be even longer, despite the PM's assertion that "no one is to be expelled".
The sole justification for “settled status” lies in the fact that it appears to confirm the new sovereignty of the United Kingdom after Brexit and the exclusion of the powers of the European Court of Justice in this country. There is a high administrative price to pay, however, to satisfy such a gesture.
The only hope lies in obtaining an agreement on the introduction of another court of appeal recognized by the British Supreme Court and the European Court, which would allow for the further survival of the permanent residence status, but with an accelerated approval procedure.

September 13 is the next opportunity for mass lobbying by EU citizens and their friends to convince newly elected MPs to require their own government to propose a more fair and efficient system for registering EU citizens after Brexit. Poles should also be there demanding an immediate end to the uncertainty and a prompt agreement of the framework for a new status confirming the existing rights of EU citizens legally residing here, while the proposal for a "settled status" should be ditched.
Wiktor Moszczyński 2 September 2017
I attach a link for people wanting to register their participation in the parliamentary mass lobby on 13 September: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mass-lobby-for-rights-of-eu-citizens-in -the-uk-british-citizens-in-the-eu-tickets-35863169706.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Deportation of EU citizens

Question for Ms Nicola Smith at the Home Office

Dear Nicola,
Thank you for offering so readily to respond to my concerns regarding the deportation of vulnerable EU citizens over the last 2 years when I raised the matter at the joint meeting of Home Office and DExEU officials with representatives of the3milion and British in Europe on August 22nd.

At present, advice centres dealing with Polish and other EU citizens from the A8 group, including several consulates, are recording with growing dismay an increasing number of actual deportations and threats of deportations in the last 2 years among their citizens and clients. These incidents are also being viewed with considerable alarm by citizens from those same countries wondering if these deportations may be the thin end of the wedge for wider deportations that may follow after March 2019. Most concerned are those who have failed to obtain permanent residence for whatever reason or who are dismayed by current UK proposals to make permanent residence obsolete and replace it with settled status.

Examples of deportations include two categories of EU citizens
1/ those with no fixed abode or who are sleeping rough, and
2/ those with past criminal records or who face prosecution for new offences.

The first category is being pursued under the 1824 Vagrancy Act or face charges from Public Spaces Protection orders. These deportations are being carried out contrary to the rights outlined in EU Directive 2004/38/EC, even though the UK remains subject to EU directives and legislation at least until March 2019. Under this Directive new EU arrivals should seek to either support themselves or find work after the the first 3 months and could face deportation if after those 3 months they have failed to look for work or become a burden on the state by drawing solely on the resources of social services. However, the majority of those deported or facing deportation now are not new arrivals at all but long-term residents. They have included rough sleepers who are working but on low wages, self-employed looking for work, divorced partners, people who worked but have lost jobs due to alcohol abuse, etc. Some have drawn no benefits from the state at all. One example was a person found simply standing next to a sleeping bag. These expulsions have increased recently as the Home Office has acquired registers of the homeless and maps of areas they frequent from homeless charities and from local authorities. These EU citizens have the right to stay, either for the reasons cited above or because the UK has tolerated their presence over many years and they have de facto acquired rights unchallenged until recently by any legal institution in the UK. Some homeless people may of course welcome an opportunity to return to their own country but all the cases in question were involuntary deportations.

The second category are those who have had criminal records in the past, whether in the UK or in the country of origin, and following their conviction or court appearance are sent notice of a requirement to leave the country. This too is a transgression of EU Directive 2004/38/EC, Article 27, which maintains that restrictions on freedom of movement should be “proportional” to the actual threat to public security and the individual concerned represents “a genuine present and sufficiently serious threat” to the country. It is also a transgression of UK Border Agency Policy Notice EOPN01/2013 which interprets the above EU Directive to mean that both “minor offences” and “economic reasons” could not be considered justification for deportation. The same Border Agency Policy Notice also states that past criminal convictions in themselves do not justify expulsions.

As worrying as the issue of deportations is the policy of some hospital trusts and other NHS bodies which issue invoices to EU citizens for their services and thus selectively flout the Home Office current guideline which state that all EU citizens living in the UK or needing emergency treatment for their services are entitled to free access to the NHS. After correspondence and outside agency interventions, these NHS charges are often withdrawn, but it causes enormous distress to individuals, often with a poor knowledge of English, who receive invoices for several thousand pounds after a difficult operation or after childbirth.

These actions by Home Office and NHS officials are a concern because they transform EU citizens in the UK who are homeless or with criminal records or who otherwise feel vulnerable and intimidated, into potential outlaws seeking to avoid all contact with the authorities and aid agencies., Yet these actions contradict the EU’s guidelines, and also the UK’s own guidelines, while the UK is still a member of the EU, We are not sure if these transgressions are by design or just due to "overzealous" enforcement, but either way they undermine trust in the UK's own legislation. The recent revelation about some 100 deportation letters sent out erroneously to EU citizens reinforces that concern. Furthermore, current Home Office expulsions have ominous implications for the future. Many EU citizens have resided in the UK legally unchallenged for decades, have set up families, bought property, paid taxes, received benefits, served on juries,travelled in and out of the UK at various intervals and have had no reason to apply for permanent residence. In the case of citizens of the A8 countries many have worked here legally although they never registered for the Worker Registrations Scheme between 2004 and 2011, as it was a legal requirement for being eligible for benefits, but not for their employment or residence rights.

In our view, unregistered but legally resident EU citizens and their families, including those who are currently homeless or have a criminal record, or those who have fallen ill and claimed benefits, have acquired “de facto” residence rights over the years and decades. Yet following recent administrative decisions, such as being rejected for permanent residence, or their UK-born children being denied the right to renew their UK passports, there is increased concern that their right of residence, and that of their families, could be made null and void after March 2019, especially if their acquired rights to live in the UK are no longer respected and protected now. The Prime Minister’s promise to the3million group that ”no one who has made their home in this country will have to leave, their families will be able to stay together, and that people can go on living their lives as before.” should be fully honoured in the forthcoming negotiations, as set out in our "Joint Response to the Second Round". It should be made clear that those words should apply to any long-term EU resident in this country, whether a successful entrepreneur, a diligent NHS worker, a school pupil or a victim of homelessness, long term illness or other adverse circumstances..

A further reassuring statement by the Home Secretary that the current deportations have ceased and that all EU citizens residing would be eligible for life-long protection of their status, mutually agreed by both sides in the negotiations this year, would not just avoid the administrative and legal burden of creating a new scheme with reduced rights for more than 3 million EU citizens with their families in time for Brexit day, but would also be an encouraging incentive for fearful EU citizens not to avoid or resist obtaining their declaratory certificate of continuing entitlement. It would also be seen as a genuine humane measure which would reaffirm the UK’s reputation for fairness. I should add that there is no danger that this measure would set a legal precedent for the future. This is a unique situation in the UK’s history when the popular referendum result of June 23rd, 2016 obliged the country to break with long established rules of residence for EU citizens after Brexit, but not for those who had come here in good faith before Brexit to live and to contribute to the economic, social and cultural wealth of the United Kingdom and who therefore needed to have their existing legal status and acquired or "de facto" rights protected for their lifetime and that of their children.

Wiktor Moszczynski 27/08/2017

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Defend Polish democracy but not with sanctions

Letter to The Editor of "The Observer"

Dear Sir,

Your editorial (23.7.17) is right to highlight the danger of “Poland’s flight from democracy” but your readers should not be under the illusion that Poland has no democratic traditions. The multi-ethnic Polish-Lithuanian Republic, which saw itself as a continuation of the Roman Republic, had been a bastion for parliamentary democracy, religious tolerance and humanism in the XVth and XVIth centuries. These ideas re-emerged in Poland’s national revival at the end of the XVIIIth century when it voted itself Europe’s first liberal constitution. In its struggle to reclaim its independence in the following two centuries it did so under the banner of “Your Freedom and Ours”. It was Poland that produced one of the most celebrated and successful peaceful civic resistance movements in the Solidarity Union led by the iconic Lech Wałęsa, after which it was able to restore parliamentary democratic rule and a vibrant economy which over the next 25 years successfully rode out the recession and was a model for developing nations.

Of course, the Third Republic was not a perfect institution and many did not share in its wealth. Spooked by regional inequality, unresolved retribution for its Communist past, the refugee crisis and the tragic plane crash in 2010 which killed President Kaczynski and a large slice of Poland’s military and political leaders, Polish society underwent a similar populist crisis to that of the Trump election victory and the Brexit referendum, and at one stage threatened us with a victory for extremist parties in France, Holland, Italy and Austria. Robust national democratic institutions and a continuous democratic tradition in those countries prevented a total subversion of democracy. It could still do the same in Poland, even though its current democratic institutions are less than one generation old.

Western Europe and the EU institutions are right to sound the alarm and to support the democratic opposition, but actual economic sanctions against Poland would be counter-productive as they would increase the current Polish paranoia and bind the majority of the electorate closer to the ruling party. It would be more productive to give specific moral and even material support to independent Polish institutions such as OKO Press that monitor transgressions of the law and ensure consistent and unbiased coverage of events in Poland.

Polish society, which voted in the current authoritarian government in 2015, must resolve the current crisis in Poland with its own resources.
Wiktor Moszczynski

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Visit to DExEU and Home Office 23/6/17 - email to UK MPs and Polish Euro-MPs

Dear Friends,

Our joint organizations the3million (representing EU citizens here) and BritsinEurope (representing UK citizens in EU) had a meeting this morning with officials from DExEU and the Home Office in advance of the Government position paper to be presented in the House of Commons on Monday.

We were presented with the following paper:

"PM offers certainty to EU citizens

The Prime Minister tonight set out details of the rights and status EU citizens in the U.K. will enjoy after Brexit - vowing to give them reassurance, and to make them a priority in negotiations.

Theresa May told EU leaders she wanted to provide as much certainty as possible to the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain as she outlined the fair deal the U.K. intends to offer.

Reiterating that she wanted to reach a reciprocal settlement for EU citizens in Britain and UK nationals living in Europe as quickly as possible, the PM told fellow EU leaders her aim is to provide EU citizens in the UK with:

- Certainty: with a clear commitment that no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave the country at the point that the UK leaves the EU, and all EU citizens lawfully here at the point the UK leaves will have the opportunity to regularise their status to remain in the country. The PM told leaders that the UK does not want anyone here to have to leave, nor does it want families to be split up;

- The opportunity to achieve settled status: any EU citizen in the UK with five years residence, at a specified date no earlier than the trigger of Article 50, and no later than the UK’s exit from the EU, will be granted UK settled status. We will be aiming to treat them as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, education, benefits and pensions. Any EU citizens with less than five years residence who arrive before the cut off date will be given time to stay until they have the five years of residence to obtain UK settled status;

- A specified cut-off date no earlier than the trigger of Article 50, and no later than the UK’s exit from the EU. While the specific date will be the subject of discussion, the PM made clear that all EU citizens currently here will have their rights protected under EU law until the date we leave the EU;

- A grace period: the length of this period is still to be determined but expected to be up to two years - to allow people to regularise their status. No one will face a cliff edge. So all EU citizens either here today or arriving before we leave the EU will have the opportunity to regularise their status under new rules;

- Streamlined administration: the PM signalled that the administration of this system would be as streamlined as possible – with more details to be set out next week – using digital tools to register people in a light touch way.

Finally, the PM reiterated that reciprocity was, of course, vital, and that both sides should seek to agree terms and give certainty as early as possible in the talks.

Taken together, the PM said the UK’s position represented a fair and serious offer – and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives, and contributing so much to our society.

The full paper will be laid before Parliament next week.

It was explained to us that the final details would appear in the position paper Monday afternoon which the3million delegation will see at lunchtime and Parliament in the afternoon.
We pointed out that it would have been more fruitful if the Government had prepared such a position paper several months ago when they could still have retained some control of the agenda on issues that concerned them such as controlling a late surge of EU arrivals. Now the Government will find they are too late to regain the initiative.
We also criticized the comments about wanting reciprocity from EU when the EU position has already ensured reciprocity and with a much more ambitious project that the UK.
We also commented how little the Government had actually done for UK citizens abroad, except to use them (and us) as a bargaining chip. We particularly condemned a proposal that the children of UK citizens abroad would not be eligible for UK citizenship if they were not to spend part of their childhood in the UK.
We noted the positive points on which the offer was based seeing the so-called "settled status" as indefinite leave to remain with some improvements because of our former EU status.
We appreciated that the DExEU and Home Office wanted to continue a dialogue with us at various stages on an ongoing process during the negotiations and were pleased to be advised that the final agreement will have an international treaty status.
We were told that the so-called grace period would be for the benefit of both EU citizens here before the cut off point and those after, giving all of them the chance to make up the 5 year period over time.
All will have to register on a simpler online format over a 2 year period between now and March 2019, and that includes those already with permanent residence. However we pointed out that we thought 2 years would not be an adequate period. I reminded them of my previous arguments for letting local authorities use their records in order to initiate registration with their residents and was told that some element of this would be taking place.
However when we asked for details on a number of issues we were advised that the final version to be revealed on Monday will cover all of the points our delegations raised.

These included the eligibility for settled status to:
1/ Those on low wages, and especially carers, whose level of income does not make them eligible for permanent residence at present.
2/ The future of using WRS as a reason to hamper permanent residence now and take away British citizenship granted to British-born children of Polish origin 5 years ago, even though WRS was discontinued in 2011
3/ those without comprehensive sickness insurance
4/ those not currently in the country because working or studying abroad after a stay in the UK
5/ non-EU relatives of EU citizens
6/ EU citizens who invest in the UK but do not have regular extended residence here
7/ the homeless who have worked here for a number of years earlier

We also asked if this settled status included
1/ Paying UK level fees for higher education
2/ voting rights in local elections
3/ recognition of EU university qualifications
4/ being inherited by children of settled status residents not yet born
5/ possibility to apply for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment regardless of any pension paid out by EU country
6/ right to move and work freely between UK and EU countries
7/ right of equal treatment at work and in job applications
8/ right to use EHIC card
9/ right of membership of UK trade union

Apart from that we also raised the issue of the cut off point and the need for EU and UK to ringfence any agreement on citizenship and implement this into UK and EU law this year.

On all these matters we were assured that the the Monday position paper would have a view.
It may be worth cross-checking the final version of Monday and raise issues where a satisfactory answer has not been given.
We understand that the UK government rejected the notion of the European Court of Justice having jurisdiction on EU and UK membership in EU but we pointed out that we would have to have considerable reassurance about the content of UK legislation first as we would feel safer under the ECJ because of the blatant misjudgements by the UK government and the Home Office in relation to EU citizens so far.

Hopfully many of these points will be treated adequately in next week's position paper.

Best regards and good luck
Wiktor Moszczynski

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Letter to Editor of i - Glossary on Hard and Soft Brexit

Dear Editor,

I thought your readers may find the use of terms like "hard" and "soft" Brexit, as used by Tory and Labour politicians, somewhat confusing.
So here is a glossary on these terms:

1/ Hard Brexit - We leave single market and customs union singing and dancing and rely on Word Trade Organization rules for our trade with EU

2/ Soft Brexit - We leave single market and customs union crying and weeping and begging EU to be nice to us and give us access as "partners" rather than "members" of both, provided we allow a few more of those EU foreigners into the country.

Hope that will be helpful to your readers.

Yours faithfully,
Wiktor Moszczynski

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Speech at Hammersmith & Fulham Unity Day

My name is Wiktor Moszczynski and as you can guess from a name like that I am a Londoner.
I am a member of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and I speak on behalf of the Polish community in West London whose historic roots go back to the Second World War when my parents and others arrived here to fight alongside the British in the struggle against Nazi Germany by land, sea and air, at a time when Poland was Britain’s most steadfast ally from the beginning to the end of the War. They remained here as refugees after the War when Poland and her neighbours were left under Soviet rule and when our community organized themselves around veterans’ organizations, parishes, social centres and Saturday schools, many of which exist to this day. There were influxes of Poles arriving here during the 60s and 70s and 90s but the largest arrival came here following Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004.
Currently there are some 950,00 Polish citizens in the UK, some 170,000 in London alone, but remember that these figures do not cover second and third generation Poles like myself who have had British citizenship from birth. You see our shops, you hire our plumbers, you will be served by Polish waitresses, be helped by Polish carers, hear Polish swear words at building sites, and commute to work with Polish bankers, lawyers and accountants. There are 10,700 Polish citizens eligible to vote in local London elections, of which one and a half thousand are in Hammersmith and 13,000 in neighbouring Ealing. Polish families are a largely integrated factor in the social and cultural fabric of London with a dynamic input into the local economy. There are 32,000 Polish-speaking children in our London schools, of which 503 are in Hammersmith and 4363 in Ealing. Those children see themselves as British as well as Polish, they speak both languages fluently and see themselves as part of London’s future.
You can imagine the shock those children felt on the night of 23rd June last year, following the Brexit referendum, when their world caved in and they felt that they were no longer wanted here. Teachers had to separate many of these Polish children and their other Eastern European classmates and console them, as other children asked them when they were going back to Poland. That was when the front of the Polish Centre in Hammersmith was smeared in graffiti, when Polish families were shouted at for speaking Polish in buses, when Poles were assaulted in race attacks in Yeovil, in St Ives, in Leeds, in Telford, in Lancaster, in Luton and most notably in Harlow where a Polish worker was killed. There were vandalised attacks on houses in Bristol, in Reading in Worcester. There were police reports on arson attacks on Polish homes, abusive messages on a war memorial in Portsmouth and on Polish shops. Police were drawn towards abusive messages on the internet, often between teenagers on the social media, which included at least one case of a Polish schoolgirl in Cornwall committing suicide and of many instances of verbal abuse including one where a patient with a heart condition had to be put on a life-saving machine in Leeds, as well as the famous incident of the anti-Polish laminated cards distributed in Huntingdon.
Of course, in the first 4 months it was not just Poles who suffered this kind of abuse. It happened to many other minorities too in that strange dark frightening period after the referendum when people haunted with the demons of unbridled racism felt that this was the time to let their prejudices run riot, hoping in this way to hound non-British, non-white minorities into frightened silence or even into leaving the country.
I am happy to say that racism did not prevail. Many people in Britain went out of their way to show solidarity with the abused and the victims. After the graffiti incident in the Polish Centre in Hammersmith the building was overwhelmed with people sending flowers, gifts and letters of support, especially from London schoolchildren. Many of those incidents are not being repeated now but racist words can still flare up in road accidents, neighbour disputes. The undercurrent of racism does still rumble on. Unfortunately, much of it is not reported to the police as Poles feel reluctant to present themselves as victims and fear retribution and legal complications.
Let us not just assume that racism exists only in one section of society. We must guard against racism in all communities. Some people feel that expressing contempt for other minorities somehow makes them more British. Well no. It doesn’t. It just makes them more racist. Let us remember that an act of racism against any minority is an act of racism against all of us.
The Brexit negotiations are about to start on Monday week, especially on the issue of EU citizens’ rights. We believe that Poles and other EU citizens should not be bargaining chips in these negotiations. The British government should guarantee our rights unilaterally and most parties now agree to this.
I would like to thank the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham for organizing this happy event each year and I am delighted that the Polish community is invited to participate. We do so with gratitude and pride.
Wiktor Moszczynski 11th June 2017

Friday, 19 May 2017

Home Office declares war on Polish children and Polish disabled

Two more examples of deliberate insensitivity by the Home Office. They are obviously pandering to the hopeless Tory manifesto pledge of bringing down immigration to the "tens of thousands". Because it is unachievable the application of existing and new Home Office rules will be applied all the more indoscriminately and with scruples over the mst vulnerable in society.

Have already passed this information to the Polish EuroMPs I made contact with in Brussels.

Firstly, Polish children normally received British passports after they were born here when their parent(s) could show they had worked here for at least 5 years and so were eligible for permanent residence.
Now, when it comes to passport renewal after 5 years, the children are stripped of their British nationality where it transpired that the parent had not registered earlier for the Worker Registration Scheme which had been valid in the period 2004 to 2011. Please remember that WRS was optional when it came to the legality of working here, but necessary only when an EU national applied for any benefits, These children are now left stranded without any travel document and quite understandably upset. They can apply separately for British citizenship again but only after paying a fee of £973.

Secondly, elderly Poles, many now bed-ridden and frail, who have lived here for 30 or more years and who have applied for attendance allowance or for disability benefit (under its new euphemistic name - personal independence payment) have been turned down if they receive a pension (no matter how paltry) from Poland. The Home Office response is is that if they are eligible for a small pension in Poland from their earlier years, then they should also apply for these benefits in Poland.

At the "Keep Race out of the Election" meeting I attended in Stratford on Tuesday I explained the work of the3miilion and we had an interesting discussion about
the issue of EU rights and the racist implications of a restrictive immigration policy. NUT teachers were very concerned about the Home Office requiring that schools now seek to record the place of birth and the nationality of children as well as their home language. There was a fear that it would be part of a Home Office plan to identify potential deportees for the future - Roma, Muslim, asylum seekers, East Europeans. Who knows? These points made with Nahella Ashraf.
They wanted to organize a series of mass rallies after June 8th "whoever wins" against racism and on behalf of EU citizens rights. They asked if the3miilion would be interested to participate. Of course I did not commit us but said I would mention it to my colleagues..
We'll be in touch tomorrow.