Author: Saskia O’Donoghue
Maria – not her real name – was detained at Luton airport after spending a Christmas break in her home country of Spain.
A Spanish woman was deported from the UK after returning from a Christmas holiday in Málaga, despite presenting the necessary Brexit paperwork that showed her right to live and work in the country.
The 34-year-old was detained overnight at Luton airport and then flown back to Spain on Boxing Day.
Border officers reportedly told her she was “wasting her time” if she thought the Home Office documentation she had showing her right to be in the UK would allow her into the country.
“I went home because my sister had a little baby girl, and literally four days later in Luton airport they took me to the detention room, took my stuff and my phone and told me to wait there,” Maria – not her real name – was quoted as saying in The Guardian.
“I was left there all night and then put on a plane.”
Maria’s husband flew out to Spain to help his wife after British border officials told her not to attempt to re-enter the UK for at least a month.
“I was supposed to be back at work but now my life has gone. All my stuff is in the UK: my dog, my car. I was doing this veterinary nursing apprenticeship, which was my dream. If I try and… go back it will be even worse,” she said.
The incident has highlighted some of the problems facing EU citizens whose applications to remain in the UK following the Brexit withdrawal agreement have yet to be finalised.
The Spaniard had made a late application for the EU settlement scheme in 2023.
However, her application was refused in June on the grounds she did not provide sufficient evidence.
She has since asked for an administrative review of the decision and had a certificate of application (CoA) from the Home Office.
The certificate states: “You can work in the UK until you receive a decision on your application to the EU settlement scheme”.
Living in the UK between 2014 and 2018, Maria returned to the UK more recently after a period in South Africa. COVID lockdowns prevented her and her husband from coming back at an earlier date.
Under current rules, Maria must demonstrate her break from the UK wasn’t too long that it could invalidate her rights under the withdrawal agreement.
The Border Force denied her entry because her “application for EUSS [EU Settlement Scheme] has been refused,” The Guardian reported.
It also specified: “You no longer have a right of admission to the UK as saved by the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) Regulations 2020”.
Maria denies this – saying her current certificate of application simply spells out her right to work in the UK while her case is still being reviewed.
She is currently seeking legal advice and says she is prepared to escalate her case to the Home Office.
The Home Office has previously said the issue for those with the CoA trying to enter the country was not about their right to work, but instead about demonstrating evidence they had the right to be in the country.
They say those who are refused entry at the border are “liable for detention pending their removal from the port and UK.”
The Home Office added that the situation “is not the same as being subject to a deportation order which, whilst valid, would prevent re-entry to the UK.”
A CoA didn’t permit an EU citizen any right of travel in and out of the country, they continued.
Since December 2020, officials have been entitled to ask those who hold a CoA for further evidence of their residence in the UK when they arrive at the border.
“Border Force’s number one priority is to keep our borders safe and secure, and we will never compromise on this,” the Home Office is quoted as saying in The Guardian.