Cross-party of MPs slam Priti Patel’s ‘shameful’ detention of EU nationals

Last week reports surfaced of European citizens being handcuffed at airports, made to sleep in parked vans or prevented from accessing medication after being denied entry to the country under Brexit rules.

Organised by the pro-internationalist group Best for Britain, and coordinated by Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone, politicians from six Westminster parties have now signed a letter criticising the measures.

The MPs told the home secretary: “We are deeply concerned about reports that EU citizens are being detained, sometimes for weeks, for not producing correct work visas at the border.

“Several first-hand testimonies suggest EU citizens were being locked up in squalid detention centres, deprived of their belongings and forbidden from contacting the outside world, just for looking for work in the UK without the right paperwork.

“No one, no matter where they come from or why they’ve come here, should face such conditions on our shores.”

Asking for “urgent clarity” on the Home Office position and for figures of the number of EU citizens being detained, the government has been told to “act with compassion and proportionality towards our fellow citizens in the EU, and all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who end up on our shores”.

They add: “The people you have been locking up are looking for work in good faith. They are not criminals, they are our friends and neighbours and deserve to be treated as such.”

Notable signatures include Layla Moran and Daisy Cooper from the Lib Dems, Janet Daby and Bell Ribeiro-Addy from Labour, plus Amy Callaghan and Stewart McDonald from the SNP.

Others include Colum Eastwood of the SDLP, Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party, Ben Lake from Plaid Cymru and Independent MP Claudia Webbe.

Following the reports in national newspapers, the Home Office announced a rule change allowing EU citizens stopped at the frontier to ask for bail in order to spend time with friends and family in the UK before facing an expulsion flight.

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone said: “Everyone arriving on our shores should be treated fairly. The fact that such draconian treatment was meted out to the citizens of some of our closest allies will leave a bitter taste for many.

“While we welcome the government’s screeching U-turn, the home secretary must now come clean on the number of EU citizens who were detained, and confirm with an urgent statement to the House that this practice has ended.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “While international travel is disrupted due to the pandemic, we have updated our guidance to clarify that overseas nationals, including EU citizens, who have been refused entry to the UK and are awaiting removal should be granted immigration bail, where appropriate.

“Now freedom of movement has ended, people from across the EU can continue to visit the UK, but those coming to work or study must meet our entry requirements and we urge them to check before travelling.”


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