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BREXIT

No second chance for Brits in Sweden who missed post-Brexit status deadline

Sweden is not planning to follow Denmark’s lead and let Brits who missed the deadline reapply for post-Brexit residence status, a government spokesperson has told The Local.

No second chance for Brits in Sweden who missed post-Brexit status deadline
A total of 2,630 UK citizens were ordered to leave countries in the EU and EEA in 2021 and 2022, with Sweden responsible for 41 percent of these. Photo: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The Danish government in March announced that hundreds of British nationals who missed the deadline for post-Brexit residency would be allowed to apply or reapply.

But a spokesperson for Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard confirmed to The Local on Tuesday that a similar reprieve was not being planned in Sweden “at the moment”.

Sweden has ordered 1,100 British citizens to leave the country since the end of the Brexit transition period, according to data from the EU’s statistical office Eurostat – 41 percent of the EU’s total deportation orders for Brits.

When The Local in February asked the migration minister to explain the high figures, she said they came as “complete news” to her.

“We want them here,” she told us at the time.

We have, despite repeated contact with the Swedish border police, Migration Agency and government, not been able to confirm how many of the Swedish deportation orders are due to late applications, but data suggests they are, as in Denmark, only a few hundred.

Reasons for rejected applications for post-Brexit residency, according to the Migration Agency, include “incomplete applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status, and applications listed as ‘reason unknown’”.

The deportation figures include Brits whose residency application was rejected, but also other reasons for deportation, such as recently released prisoners or people turned away on the border because they did not have the right to enter Sweden. There could be some degree of inaccuracy, including people being counted twice, and reported data may to some extent vary between EU countries.

OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations

In Denmark, at least 350 British nationals who lived in Denmark at the time of Brexit failed to apply to remain in the country before the deadline of the end of 2021, after letters to remind them were not sent out. Many of them were subsequently given orders to leave.

But after criticism from rights groups, who accused Danish immigration authorities of not correctly applying the rules of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the Danish government announced that the deadline would be extended until the end of 2023.

“It’s hard to see how Sweden has fulfilled its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement concerning publicity and the admissibility of late applications from UK nationals,” David Milstead of the Facebook group Brits in Sweden, which in the run-up to the deadline warned that Sweden was not doing enough to reach Brits affected by Brexit.

Sweden ran information campaigns but generally did not contact Brits directly to inform them that they needed to secure their right to stay.

“Sweden mainly targeted those British citizens in the care of the state. This is important but ultimately these are people who could have applied late with a well motivated reason to have a late application accepted. The authorities essentially ignored the bulk of UK nationals. As a strategy to ultimately get as many Brits in Sweden as possible to acquire the new residence status and avoid deportation it was ill-thought-out,” said Milstead.

Several readers of The Local told us they wrongly believed they already had the right to stay in Sweden and did not need to apply for residence status, due to confusion over similar-sounding terms such as residence permit, residence card and residence status.

“Late applicants typically encountered confusing information from the Swedish state. For example, many looked at the Migration Agency web pages after Brexit and were assured that they had acquired permanent residency. They discovered much later that permanent didn’t mean permanent in their case,” said Milstead.

Late applications are not the only reasons why so many British nationals in Sweden have had their residence status rejected.

One British citizen, Gregory, had lived in Sweden for 21 years but was between jobs at the time of the deadline, which he told The Local meant he did not qualify.

Stockholm chef Stuart Philpott only learned that he should have applied for post-Brexit status shortly before he was frogmarched onto a return flight by Swedish border police.

James, a British citizen working in the building industry, only found out he no longer had residency in Sweden after calling the Migration Agency about an unrelated issue.

The Swedish Migration Agency last week put the deportation of Kathleen Poole, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, “on hold” pending an assessment of her health. The expulsion order, which has sparked outrage in the UK, has however not been repealed.

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EES PASSPORT CHECKS

How will the new app for Europe’s EES border system work?

With Europe set to introduce its new Entry/Exit biometric border system (EES) in the autumn there has been much talk about the importance of a new app designed to help avoid delays. But how will it work and when will it be ready?

How will the new app for Europe's EES border system work?

When it comes into force the EU’s new digital border system known as EES will register the millions of annual entries and exits of non-EU citizens travelling to the EU/Schengen area, which will cover 29 European countries.

Under the EU Entry/Exit System (EES), non-EU residents who do not require a visa will have to register their biometric data in a database that will also capture each time they cross an external Schengen border.

Passports will no longer be manually stamped, but will be scanned. However, biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images will have to be registered in front of a guard when the non-EU traveller first crosses in to the EU/Schengen area.

Naturally there are concerns the extra time needed for this initial registration will cause long queues and tailbacks at the border.

To help alleviate those likely queues and prevent the subsequent frustration felt by travellers the EU is developing a new smartphone app.

READ ALSO: What will the EES passport system mean for foreigners living in Europe?

The importance of having a working app was summed up by Uku Särekanno, Deputy Executive Director of the EU border agency Frontex in a recent interview.

“Initially, the challenge with the EES will come down to the fact that travellers arriving in Europe will have to have their biographic and biometric data registered in the system – border guards will have to register four of their fingerprints and their facial image. This process will take time, and every second really matters at border crossing points – nobody wants to be stuck in a lengthy queue after a long trip.”

But there is confusion around what the app will actually be able to do, if it will help avoid delays and importantly when will it be available?

So here’s what we know so far.

Who is developing the app?

The EU border agency Frontex is currently developing the app. More precisely, Frontex is developing the back-end part of the app, which will be made available to Schengen countries.

“Frontex is currently developing a prototype of an app that will help speed up this process and allow travellers to share some of the information in advance. This is something we are working on to support the member states, although there is no legal requirement for us to do so,” Uku Särekanno said in the interview.

Will the 29 EES countries be forced to use the app?

No, it is understood that Frontex will make the app available on a voluntary basis. Each government will then decide if, when and where to use it, and develop the front-end part based on its own needs.

This point emerged at a meeting of the House of Commons European scrutiny committee, which is carrying out an inquiry on how EES will impact the UK.

What data will be registered via the app?

The Local asked the European Commission about this. A spokesperson however, said the Commission was not “in a position to disclose further information at this stage” but that travellers’ personal data “will be processed in compliance with the high data security and data protection standards set by EU legislation.”

According to the blog by Matthias Monroy, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP the Frontex app will collect passengers’ name, date of birth, passport number, planned destination and length of stay, reason for travelling, the amount of cash they carry, the availability of a credit card and of a travel health insurance. The app could also allow to take facial images. It will then generate a QR code that travellers can present at border control.

This, however, does not change the fact that fingerprints and facial images will have to be registered in front of a guard at the first crossing into the Schengen area.

So given the need to register finger prints and facial images with a border guard, the question is how and if the app will help avoid those border queues?

When is the app going to be available?

The answer to perhaps the most important question is still unclear.

The Commissions spokesperson told The Local that the app “will be made available for Schengen countries as from the Entry/Exit System start of operations.” The planned launch date is currently October 6th, but there have been several delays in the past and may be another one.

The UK parliamentary committee heard that the prototype of the app should have been ready for EU member states in spring. Guy Opperman, Under-Secretary of State at the UK Department for Transport, said the app will not be available for testing until August “at best” and that the app will not be ready in time for October. The committee previously stated that the app might even be delayed until summer 2025.

Frontex’s Särekanno said in his interview: “Our aim is to have it ready by the end of the summer, so it can then be gradually integrated into national systems starting from early autumn”.

READ ALSO: How do the EES passport checks affect the 90-day rule?

Can the system be launched if the app is not ready?

Yes. The European Commission told The Local that “the availability of the mobile application is not a condition for the Entry/Exit System entry into operation or functioning of the system. The app is only a tool for pre-registration of certain types of data and the system can operate without this pre-registration.”

In addition, “the integration of this app at national level is to be decided by each Schengen country on a voluntary basis – as there is no legal obligation to make use of the app.”

And the UK’s transport under secretary Guy Opperman sounded a note of caution saying the app “is not going to be a panacea to fix all problems”.

When the app will be in use, will it be mandatory for travellers?

There is no indication that the app will become mandatory for those non-EU travellers who need to register for EES. But there will probably be advantages in using it, such as getting access to faster lanes.

As a reminder, non-EU citizens who are resident in the EU are excluded from the EES, as are those with dual nationality for a country using EES. Irish nationals are also exempt even though Ireland will not be using EES because it is not in the Schengen area.

Has the app been tested anywhere yet?

Frontex says the prototype of the app will be tested at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, in Sweden. Matthias Monroy’s website said it was tested last year at Munich Airport in Germany, as well as in Bulgaria and Gibraltar.

According to the German Federal Police, the blog reports, passengers were satisfied and felt “prepared for border control”.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News.

 
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