THE UK has seen a massive rise in the number of European Union citizens refused entry to the country since Brexit, Home Office figures reveal, including increases of more than 500 percent from some Eastern European states.
A Freedom of Information request to the UK Home Office showed that 3,808 Romanians were refused entry to UK ports between end-June 2020 and the end of June 2021, up from 772 in the 2019-2020 period.
This marks a 397 percent increase in the number of Romanians turned away from UK borders from the previous year.
Bulgaria saw a 531 percent rise in the number of citizens barred from entering the UK between the end of June 2020 and June 2021, while there was a 125 percent hike in the number of Polish travellers turned back from British borders during that year.
The steep rise coincided with the end of the Brexit transition deal, when freedom of travel to the UK ended for EU citizens and British Border Guards were given greater powers to turn away Europeans.
The Home Office confirmed to Redaction Report that 83 percent of the refused entries for EU citizens between June 2020 and June 2021 were after Brexit on 31 December 2020.
“The British people voted for us to take back control of our borders and that is what we are delivering. If someone comes to the UK and does not meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules, the public rightly expects us to prevent them from entering,” a Home Office spokesperson told Redaction Report.
“Prior to the end of free movement, EU citizens could only be refused entry in limited circumstances in accordance with EU law. It is therefore unsurprising that there has been an uplift in refusals of entry across EU nationalities, when compared to the volumes refused during free movement.”
The Home Office also acknowledged that there was a 271-percentage spike in EU refusals between the two periods.
Professor Jonathan Portes, Senior Fellow for UK in a Changing Europe, an independent research group, told Redaction Report that the EU citizens could only be denied entry to the UK on a very limited list of grounds prior to Brexit.
“Now, however, immigration officers apply the same rules as to non-EU citizens and can deny them entry if – for example – they think that they are coming here to work without a valid work visa, which of course was not needed prior to 1 January 2021,” he said.
“Do the numbers suggest that immigration control officers are discriminating against Romanians… that’s possible – in the same way, that Indians or Pakistanis are much more likely to be turned away than Americans or Canadians.”
After Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme gave European citizens from EU states the right to continue living in the UK, while those without settled status could be refused entry.
The Home Office said it ran a £7.3 million communications campaign in 24 languages to 30 countries notifying people about the new immigration rules.
Despite this, Portes said the figures show that there still appears to be some confusion about the rules for some travellers.
“It’s not surprising that Romanians have been more affected, in that a very large proportion of recent migration to the UK from the EU was from Romania,” he said.
“Some Romanians may not realise that they need a visa; others may have been working here before, gone home, and then are trying to return here but have not for whatever reason secured settled status, so are not able to do so.
“Although the numbers may rise further as travel opens up, over the long term you’d expect them to fall back again as visitors get accustomed to the new rules.”
The Romanian and Bulgarian embassies in London did not respond to Redaction Report’s request for comment.
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