Ezgi and Arthur Vissing say BA ‘puzzled’ by system as couple struggled to return from Turkey
The first flaws in the new immigration scheme for EU citizens who want to remain in the UK after Brexit have been exposed after a couple who live in Oxford were blocked from getting a flight back from Turkey to the UK.
Arthur Vissing, a Danish citizen, and his Turkish wife, Ezgi Vissing, called on the government to urgently review its procedures to allow those who hold residency rights in the UK to travel unhindered.
Their ordeal started last Thursday at Istanbul airport when British Airways told them a number of times Ezgi did not have the right paperwork to get on the flight.
It took 24 hours, seven phone calls to the Home Office and others and the intervention of their Liberal Democrat MP, Layla Moran, before BA let them on the plane.
Non-EU spouses are entitled to travel and reside with their EU national husband or wife in another member state under EU freedom of movement laws but, under the UK’s post-Brexit plans, EU citizens and their family members must apply for “settled status”.
BA said it was only following instructions from Border Force in the Vissings’ case, but Ezgi said she got a blank look or negative response when she explained the new immigration system in place for EU citizens.
In a tweet posted as she was trying to get the situation resolved, she said: “I was asked time and time again if I held a UK visa. I said I held a pre-settled status. The officer, then, seemed puzzled by the very concept. I was advised by the @ukhomeoffice that my status would be checked on the screen automatically.”
She claims she was threatened with removal from the airport when she asked to see a manager to explain why she thought the check-in staff were wrong to refuse her a boarding card. “I got a very harsh reaction,” she said. “So we sat on the floor making phone calls to the Home Office to try and sort this out.”
Overnight, they tried but failed to get proof of their rights from the Home Office, leaving them concerned that Ezgi would not be able to get back to Oxford, where she has lived for six years.