The European commission is examining the increased detention and deportation of EU citizens from Britain and has warned it will take “appropriate action” against Theresa May’s government if it believes the rights of EU nationals are being compromised.
Detentions and enforced removals of EU citizens from the UK have risen sharply since the Brexit vote, prompting critics to claim the Home Office is deliberately targeting EU nationals as part of the “hostile environment” May promised for those she believes should not be in the country.
An email seen by the Observer, dated 5 September, reveals that the EU’s Brexit negotiating team referred a complaint relating to the detention of EU nationals in Britain to the commission’s directorate general for justice and consumers, whose remit is to ensure the EU “is an area of freedom, security and justice”.
A commission spokesman confirmed that the complaint was “being analysed”, and that action against the UK would follow if it was not complying with EU law.
Celia Clarke, director of the legal charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BiD), said: “If other European countries were targeting British expats in this way, there would be justified outrage.”
During May’s Brexit speech in Florence last month, she offered to write legal protections for EU citizens living in Britain into the exit treaty. “The warm sentiments expressed in the prime minister’s Florence speech are at odds with the actions of Home Office officials, who appear to be riding roughshod over EU citizens’ rights to free movement,” said Clarke. “The government has a callous disregard for EU nationals’ rights to live and work in the UK.”
The development coincides with a significant increase in the number of EU nationals being deported since the Brexit vote, along with a spate of cases where EU citizens have been detained despite having committed no crime.
BiD said EU citizens were being detained and deported for relatively…