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BREXIT

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit

Almost two years after the UK officially left the European Union, one of the consequences of ending free movement has become clear for the hundreds of Britons who have been ordered to leave countries across Europe.

REVEALED: More than 2,800 Brits ordered to leave European countries since Brexit
Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Data published recently by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, reveals that about 2,250 UK citizens were ordered to leave EU countries between 2020 and September 2022. If we add the numbers for the countries of the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), where EU free movement rules also apply, the total increases to 2,830.

The UK officially left the EU at midnight on 31st January 2020, but free movement with the EU continued until 31st December 2020, when the post-Brexit transition period ended. This period coincided with lockdowns and travel restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Data on non-EU nationals ordered to leave EU member states includes people found to be illegally present in member states who are subject to an administrative or judicial decision imposing them to depart. In other words those who fail to meet residency or visa requirements as well as those ordered to leave after committing crimes.

While the data doesn’t include the exact reasons on why these Britons were ordered to leave – so we don’t know the exact figure on how many orders were directly linked to the results of Brexit and the ending freedom of movement –  Citizen’s Rights campaigners say the numbers reflect what has been happening in certain countries since Brexit.

It is also not possible to compare the figure to pre-Brexit figure for the number of Britons deported because Britons were not considered third-country nationals prior to Brexit so the data is not available.

In total, according to Eurostat, more than a million non-EU citizens were ordered to leave the EU between January 2020 and September 2022. UK citizens represent a small proportion, but the situation varies between countries, depending on national migration policies, administrative and judicial procedures and data reporting.

This is what emerges from the Eurostat data for the countries covered by The Local.

Sweden the toughest

While France was responsible for the highest proportion of leave orders to non-EU citizens, it is Sweden and the Netherlands that have taken the toughest approach to Brits.

Sweden is responsible for 1,050 of the 2,250 British nationals ordered to leave EU countries between the first quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2022.

In the run up to the Brexit deadline for residency The Local carried a warning by a leading group for Brits in Sweden that authorities in the country were not doing enough to reach UK citizens to make them aware of the date.

READ ALSO: Post-Brexit residence status: Sweden rejects more Brits than any other EU country

Recently The Local covered the story of Stockholm chef Stuart Philpott, who only learned that he should have applied for post-Brexit residence shortly before he was frogmarched onto a return flight by Swedish border police.

After Sweden the Netherlands followed with 615 orders for Britons to leave. Norway and Switzerland, which are not part of the EU and have separate Brexit agreements with the UK, issued 455 and 125 departure orders respectively, according to Eurostat data.

Malta ordered 115 UK citizens to leave, France 95, Belgium 65, Denmark 40, Germany 25 and Austria 10.

When it comes to Denmark The Local revealed that hundreds of Brits who had moved to the country shortly before Brexit were not sent reminder letters that they needed to apply for a new residency status. Some of those Britons now face deportation, despite having jobs and family in Denmark.

Spain, which hosts the biggest UK community in the EU, has not ordered any Briton to leave the country since Brexit, and nor did Italy – at least according to the Eurostat data.

Jane Golding, co-founder of the British in Europe citizens’ rights group, said the data about Sweden was “not surprising”. “We do know that, statistically, the percentage of refusals of status in Sweden is far higher than in equivalent countries and the numbers ordered to leave correspond fairly closely to refusals of status under the withdrawal agreement,” she said.

Michaela Benson, Professor in Public Sociology at Lancaster University and expert on migration, citizenship and identity, added: “It is a reminder that since Brexit, British citizens no longer enjoy freedom of movement.

“Anyone newly arriving or who did not meet the deadlines for applying for status under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, is now considered as a third country national and subject to domestic immigration controls in the EU-26 member states [the 27 EU countries minus Ireland].”

Similar to other nationalities, the majority of leave orders concerned men (1,560).  Some 195 also affected young people below the age of 18, with Sweden topping the list (135), followed by the Netherlands (20) and Germany (5).

Debbie Williams of the group Brexpats Hear our Voice said countries need to provide more detailed data to explain the orders to leave.

“I’d like to see more transparency on these issues because how do we know if the withdrawal agreement is failing people if we don’t know the detail,” she said.

Illegally present in EU

When it comes to immigration law enforcement, Eurostat collects statistical information from individual countries not only about orders to leave, but also about people refused entry at the EU external borders, people found to be illegally present in a member state territory and people returned, or deported, following a leave order.

There might be differences however between the number of persons found to be illegally present in a country and those ordered to leave because those affected might have left the territory voluntarily or their situation might have been regularised.

Third-country nationals are considered illegally present in an EU member state under national immigration law if they have entered unlawfully – for instance avoiding immigration controls or using a fraudulent document – if they have overstayed their permission to remain – for example stayed for longer than 90 days without a visa or residency permit – or they have undertaken unauthorised employment.

Of the 681,200 non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU in 2021, only 590 (less than 1 per cent) were British, according to the available data. The real figure for the number of Britons found illegally present in EU countries since Brexit may be higher but more accurate data which includes figures for 2022 is not yet available.

Some 110 cases were due to overstays, 90 to illegal entry and 210 for “other reasons”.

Switzerland reported 75 overstays and 50 illegal entries.

Malta reported 70 Britons, all for overstays. 

Germany found 140 Brits to be illegally present in the country’s territory in 2021; the Netherlands 55; France 50; Austria, Sweden and Norway 30; Italy 25; Denmark 5; Spain none. 

Deportations

In all some 840 UK citizens were returned in the year 2021 and 1,340 overall since Brexit including up to September 2022, the most recent data reveals. The countries responsible for the most deportations were Sweden (745), Malta (115), Finland (110), the Netherlands (75) and, outside the EU, Norway (375). 
 
Again Eurostat’s data for deportations doesn’t explain the reasons behind the decisions so we don’t know how many are directly linked linked to the consequences of Brexit. There is also no data for the numbers of deportations of Britons prior to Brexit to compare with.
  
In comparison, some 82,700 non-EU citizens were returned to another country in 2021, with Ukrainians and Albanians representing the largest share. This was before the start of the war in Ukraine.
 

For more info on these statistics READ MORE.

  • The Local originally reported that 195 UK citizens were deported from EU countries in 2021 after receiving an order to leave but we have revised the figure up because new more accurate quarterly data has since emerged that reveals the number for 2021 is much higher because it includes data from countries like Sweden. New data also covers up until September 2022.

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For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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