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OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
OPINION: Sweden should follow Denmark and reconsider Brexit deportations
A demonstrator waves a Union flag as he stands draped in an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 28, 2018. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Hundreds of Brits who failed to secure post-Brexit residency in Denmark will be given a second chance. Sweden should offer the same kind of amnesty, writes The Local’s editor Emma Löfgren.

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The Danish government this week announced that British nationals who missed the deadline for post-Brexit residency will be allowed to apply or reapply.

At least 350 British nationals who lived in Denmark at the time of Brexit failed to apply to remain in the country before the deadline of the end of December 2021, and many were subsequently given orders to leave.

But after criticism from rights groups, who accused Danish immigration authorities of not correctly applying the rules of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the government on Monday announced that the initial deadline will now be extended until the end of 2023.

It is time for Sweden to follow Denmark’s lead.

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Sweden has ordered more Brits to leave since Brexit than any other EU state. Eurostat data reveals that about 2,205 UK citizens were ordered to leave EU countries between 2020 and September 2022 – with around half of this number from Sweden alone.

It’s hard to get clarity into the facts behind these figures, with authorities conceding there could be some degree of inaccuracy, including people being counted twice. They also include people turned away on the border, so they could also include Brits who never lived in Sweden nor had the right to stay post-Brexit.

At The Local, our reporters have repeatedly contacted both the Migration Agency and the border police for more information, which each authority directing us to the other.

But other figures such as rejected applications support the claim that Sweden has turned away an unusually high number of Brits compared to other EU states.

What we know for sure is that Swedish migration authorities rejected a total of 2,155 applications for post-Brexit residence status between November 2020 and December 2022. It’s not clear how many of these were denied because they arrived after the deadline, but data suggests these were a few hundred at most.

Several readers of The Local have told us they wrongly believed they already had the right to stay in Sweden and did not need to apply for residence status, due to confusion over similar-sounding terms such as residence permit, residence card and residence status.

Late applications are however not Sweden’s only problem.

Other reasons for a rejected application, according to a Migration Agency spokesperson, include “incomplete applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status, and applications listed as ‘reason unknown’”.

They also include people such as Gregory – who had lived in Sweden for 21 years but was in between jobs at the time of the deadline, which meant he did not qualify for residence status. Or Kathleen Poole, a bedbound grandmother with Alzheimer’s.

When The Local in early February asked Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard to explain the high figures, she said they came as “complete news” to her.

“We want them here,” she told us.

She said she could not explain the figures and promised to look into them, but after chasing her office for nearly two months, our reporters have yet to receive a reply.

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It’s not as if the risk of deportations should have come as a surprise to anyone.

In the run-up to the Brexit deadline for residency, The Local carried a warning by a leading Facebook group for Brits in Sweden that authorities in the country were not doing enough to reach UK citizens to make them aware of the date.

Malmer Stenergard’s party wasn’t in government at the time, but she chaired the Swedish parliament’s social security committee, which processed the government’s bill on post-Brexit residence status for Brits – a bill the group Brits in Sweden had warned put a concerningly large number at risk of losing their right to stay.

Decision-makers in Sweden have less freedom than their Danish counterparts to influence decisions by government agencies such as the Migration Agency, with so-called “minister rule” being frowned upon – an issue that was brought to its head during the Covid pandemic.

But it should be possible to at least do what Denmark has done and allow those who missed the deadline a chance to reapply and be tried on the same terms as everyone else.

In any case, Brits affected by Brexit deportations deserve an answer, not just silence.

Denmark has found a (half) solution. Sweden, we’re waiting.

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Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2023/04/19 08:37
The sound of silence is a common strategy employed by the incompetent to make their ridiculous errors magically disappear, if given enough time to avoid accountability. It's why incompetence breeds incompetence. It's why Scandinavia is what it is. A backward-looking xenophobic oddity on the periphery of civilisation.

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