Almost half of EU citizens in UK worried about losing rights, study finds

Research: 44 per cent of respondents say equal treatment to British citizens will not last

File photo: Shoppers cross the road in Oxford Street, in London, Britain August 14, 2016. Reuters
File photo: Shoppers cross the road in Oxford Street, in London, Britain August 14, 2016. Reuters

Nearly half of EU citizens living in post-Brexit Britain fear they will lose rights and not be treated the same as native citizens in the future, a study published on Thursday says.

EU nationals living in Britain before December 31, 2020, and who registered under the EU settlement scheme, retain the same rights to live, work and access social security despite Britain's departure from the bloc.

Most of the respondents to the Independent Monitoring Authority study said they were treated the same as British citizens.

But 44 per cent said they were not confident that would last.

IMA, an organisation set up to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, polled about 3,000 people from the 27 EU member countries in the online study.

Their findings revealed that "a significant minority has a lack of trust" in the institutions to defend their rights, Kathryn Chamberlain, IMA executive director, said in London.

Half of respondents said they were "not aware of their citizen rights", with only 48 per cent aware that their professional qualifications are equally recognised in the EU and in Britain.

One in 10 respondents plan to leave Britain after June 30, 2021, when the grace period for registration ends.

Some of the reasons given for a possible departure include a "lack of trust" in the government, a feeling that Britain is a "less welcoming place" because of Brexit, and concerns that their rights "would not be upheld by public bodies".

There were 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, according to a 2019 estimate by the Office for National Statistics.

But the Home Office received 5.6 million applications for registration by the end of March 2021.

The IMA called on public institutions to focus on the "vulnerable and marginalised", and that institutions "have a crucial role to play in building trust and positive engagement with European citizens".

The group said it was disappointed that one in 10 citizens said they would not complain if they had a problem.

"We must strive to seek a trusted status with European citizens, including building confidence in sharing their complaints directly with us so that we can identify and investigate any systemic issues," the study recommended.

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Updated: May 13, 2021 10:13 AM


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