EU Commission urged to help families forced to miss Brexit deadline
Updated 21:08, 03-Jan-2021
Andrew D'Ercole and Jim Drury


The European Commission has been urged to step in to help families trying to move to the UK ahead of a Brexit deadline who were refused entry due to coronavirus rules.

Up to 60 families with EU citizenship, travelling from South Africa, are believed to have been impacted after the government blocked entry to anyone traveling from the country who did not have a UK or Irish passport, a visa or were already living in Britain. The British government subsequently backed down, accepting that EU nationals could also enter, but the decision came too late for those hoping to arrive in the country ahead of a deadline to apply for residency rights.

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Nicola Glass, a South African expatriate living in London, says she is contacting the European Commission in Brussels to ask for their support and has launched an online petition demanding the UK government extend the arrival and application deadline for citizens denied entry. 

"From the people I've spoken to, we're looking at 60-plus families, and that's only the people I've spoken to within our Facebook community. If things weren't changed on the government website and so poorly communicated this would have never happened. 

"We'll also be lodging a petition with the EU Commission to make sure these families get a fair chance to start their lives here like they planned."

After the UK completed its exit from the EU on December 31, Europeans lost their automatic right to come and live in the country. However, Boris Johnson's government had agreed that anyone who arrived before that date could stay. 

CGTN Europe has spoken to families with European passports who sold their homes or gave up jobs in South Africa to make the move during the days before the deadline. However, on Christmas Eve the UK issued travel restrictions following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant linked to South Africa. Those families then found themselves turned back at the border or refused boarding at their departure airports.

However, legal experts said the measures, were "unjustifiable". CGTN Europe has spoken to lawyers who managed to overturn the initial decision to refuse entry to at least one person, a Portuguese national. 

In the afternoon of December 30, the guidance was changed, but too late to meet the deadline.

"This seems like an embarrassing U-turn by the government, knowing full well that the guidance prior to December 30 was incompatible with EU regulations and the withdrawal agreement," said Koshi Blavo Barna, an immigration lawyer who is also Santa Fe Relocation Services' head of UK immigration.

"It was completely nonsensical to restrict entry to the UK, on public health grounds, to EU passport holders when entry was permitted to UK nationals, Irish nationals and nationals with permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain. 

"Anyone who has missed out on the opportunity to stay permanently in the UK should be allowed to apply retrospectively," she added.

CGTN has contacted the UK Home Office by telephone and email but has not been given any comment.

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