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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

BREXIT

British actor married to Swedish pop star gives up post-Brexit fight to stay in Sweden

Former Bollywood actor Kenny Solomons' imminent return to the UK after failing to get post-Brexit residency has made national news in Sweden thanks to his marriage to the singer from the band Alcazar. He tells The Local why he's leaving.

British actor married to Swedish pop star gives up post-Brexit fight to stay in Sweden

The QX gala – Sweden’s glitzy, televised celebration of gay culture – is not the first place a man in his 20s would go to find a future wife. 

But that’s what happened to British actor Kenny Solomons.

Solomons, now 37, was already a well-known face in Sweden after playing the superhero in adverts for the internet provider Bredbandsbolaget. He was there to give out an award. Tess Merkel, singer for the nu-disco band Alcazar – one of Sweden’s most successful ever groups – was there to receive one.

“It was utterly insane,” Solomons remembers. “I had had a few drinks and then I woke up the next day in this typical Swedish apartment with kids’ toys everywhere. I was like, ‘what the fuck is going on?'”

“The kids were away with their dad, and Tess went off to work the next day and she left a note – as a joke – on the kitchen table that said ‘sorry I left you, but I took off to plan our wedding’. I thought it was a one-night stand. I was 25 years old and she was 17 years older. I didn’t expect to be married.”

The actor Kenny Solomons (right) arrives at the QX Gala in 2016. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

But in 2015 they got engaged and then in 2017, they married in the Indian holiday paradise of Goa, making it legal for Sweden with a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall the next year. 

By then, Solomons was so deeply embedded in Stockholm’s celebrity whirl that everything from the Brexit referendum to the deadline for post-Brexit residency had more or less passed him by. It was only when he took a trip to Greece in the summer of 2022, his first international trip since the pandemic broke out, that he realised the mistake he had made. 

“We flew back through Serbia, which is outside the European Union, so as we were coming in through the Swedish border, they said ‘hey, you do realise that you’re going to need to send in a whole load of information’, and I was completely shocked. I had no idea. I mean, to some people, I might sound like an absolute moron, but I just wasn’t aware of it.” 

In some ways his ignorance was unsurprising, given the Swedish authorities’ decision not to contact British citizens directly, even digitally, to inform them of the need to apply for post-Brexit residency by the end of 2021, although there was information published online.

READ ALSO:

Unlike many Brits in Sweden, Solomons was at that point completely integrated, living in the upmarket Stockholm district of Hammarby Sjöstad, and speaking almost exclusively Swedish.   

“It wasn’t originally the plan to do everything in Swedish. It was after I started working and running a business here, that it just sort of kicked in,” he remembers. “After three or four years, I suddenly was like, ‘ah, OK, I’m speaking Swedish. My mother would be very proud, that me, a dyslexic boy from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, could speak even one word in another language!”

Because he only hung out with Swedes and rarely met other Brits, he had simply not heard about the Brexit deadline. 

“All of my friends are in the industry. I socialise among those who also work as artists here in Sweden,” he explains. “When you work as an entrepreneur or an artist, there is nobody to give you that little nudge and say, ‘hey, there is a thing going on called Brexit and it’s going to affect your status here in Sweden’. I had absolutely no idea that it would affect me in this way, and would still be affecting me four years on.”

Looking back, he remembers spending much of 2020 and 2021 desperately trying and eventually failing to save his chain of barbershops and hair-replacement therapy centres from bankruptcy due to the pandemic.

READ ALSO:

When he did apply for post-Brexit residency – nearly a year late – he was rejected as the Migration Agency does not treat ignorance as “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline. He appealed the decision to the Migration Court, but this month decided he had had enough of waiting, given that rejection was “inevitable”. 

“It’s now 19 months since I sent in my appeal to the Migration Court, and the pressure of not knowing, every day, and the pressure of having to say ‘no’ to career opportunities outside of Europe, and the pressure of not knowing with 100 percent certainty that I can live and work in Sweden in the long run was just affecting my health, and my mental health as well,” he says.

“I hit the wall, was suffering with anxiety, and was incredibly unhappy. So I made the decision.” 

He’s now going to return to the UK and apply for spousal reunion with Merkel. As he has no young children of his own, there is little chance of getting granted the right to do this from within Sweden.

Since he left the UK as a young man, his mother has died, and his 60-year-old father has left their childhood home in Essex and moved to Chester on the other side of England, somewhere he has never been. 

“I guess I’ll go and sleep on his couch,” he says. “I can moan and be upset and say all these awful things. But I have my health and I have a place to go. There are people in a similar situation that don’t have any connections or ties left in the UK any longer, so I’m very grateful to at least have a couch to crash on while I figure out this next step.” 

His father got married in the middle of June, and Solomon’s plan is to return for the wedding party on August 24th, handing in his application for spousal reunion in Sweden within days of arrival. He has no idea if he will then have to wait six months, or two years, before he is granted the right to live again in Sweden.  

“My wife and I, we really always try to make the best out of a bad situation, whatever it is, so when I leave Sweden and start my process from my dad’s I want to continue to be able to give back to this country.” 

READ ALSO:

His next plan is to return to India, where he spent several years before coming to Sweden working as an actor in Bollywood films. 

“You’re gonna think I’m completely nuts. I want to fly to the most northern part of India and run from North India to South India, the whole way, and raise money for Läkare Utan Gränser [the Swedish arm of the global medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)].” 

He says that one of the silver linings to his situation is that as someone involved in Swedish showbusiness, his case has received media coverage, unlike hundreds of other British citizens who have been victims of Sweden’s strict application of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. 

“It’s a very, very great luxury and something I don’t take for granted that I have a platform that can be used for to spread my thoughts and my opinions,” he said, adding that he has also enjoyed sharing information with and trying to help other British people in the same situation. 

Tess Merkel’s band Alcazar performed at the Eurovision Grand Final in Malmö in 2024. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Now he’s looking forward to returning back to the UK, where family and friends were in May blown away by the surprise appearance of Merkel and the rest of Alcazar at the Eurovision Grand Final. 

“I had to keep it a secret from my family in England. I couldn’t tell anybody because Alcazar had written a contract with Eurovision,” he remembers. “So my family didn’t know, and they were just shocked when they came on. They Facetimed me just afterwards and said, ‘they really made fun of Alcazar. I felt really sorry for them’.”

But Alcazar, he said, had no issues with being made the butt of a joke about their ‘reunion’ not quite being the hoped-for Abba appearance. The are, he says, “a playful band”. 

“She is that person in real life. She’s absolutely fantastic. She’s an absolute gem. She’s my best friend,” he said of Merkel. “She might say to you, ‘it will be quite nice to have a bit of a break from Kenny. He’s a pain in the ass’. But taking this step is like losing my right hand, because we are so co-dependent on each other – in all the best ways.” 

Membership+ subscribers can listen to the full interview with Kenny Solomons in the Sweden in Focus Extra podcast, which will be available from Wednesday, June 26th.   

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