Commission expected to raise detentions of EU nationals with UK

MEPs say the Commission has assured them that it will press London on detentions of EU citizens at the UK border.

Commission expected to raise detentions of EU nationals with UK

LONDON — The European Commission will raise the recent detentions of EU nationals at U.K. airports on immigration grounds with the British government at a coming meeting, MEPs said.

At least 30 EU nationals from Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Romania have been detained at U.K. airports and held in immigration removal centers after being identified by U.K. border officials as intending to work in the country without a work visa, as POLITICO revealed last week.

Some of the individuals affected said they were detained after telling border officials that they were traveling to attend a job interview, something they are allowed to do without a visa.

Dacian Cioloș, a former Romanian prime minister who is now an MEP, said Friday that Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič told him in a phone call Wednesday that he will include this issue in his next meeting with British authorities, which will be a gathering of the EU-U.K. Joint Committee, a body overseeing the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU.

Cioloș is one of eight MEPs from the Renew Europe group who recently called on the Commission to address the issue of the detentions.

In a letter sent to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Šefčovič on Wednesday, the eight MEPs wrote that the Commission should demand clarity from the U.K. government over the number of EU nationals detained at the border and the reasons behind the detentions. Brussels should also press London “to refrain from adopting such disproportionate measures on EU citizens and instead follow a more reasonable approach based on good faith and cooperation,” they wrote.

Hours after sending the letter, Cioloș called Šefčovič to ensure it had been received, a spokesman for the Romanian delegation of MEPs told POLITICO.

“Mr Šefčovič told him that the letter was being taken very seriously and that he had already spoken with the EU ambassador to the U.K. in order to ask the U.K. counterparts about the issue. Mr Šefčovič told Mr Cioloș that he will include this in the agenda of the next discussion he will have with the U.K. authorities in about one week,” he said.

At least five Romanians have been detained in immigration removal centers in the U.K. and over 150 denied entry at the U.K. border since January, according to figures from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a tweet Friday, Cioloș expressed his gratitude to Šefčovič for “agreeing to raise the issue of the detainment of EU nationals with UK authorities.”

The Commission is yet to reply formally to the letter, and did not confirm the content of the phone conversation between the two politicians. A Commission spokesperson pointed to its latest statement on the topic, issued Monday, expressing “concern” over the conditions and length of detention, which in some cases was four days or more, and said this was a “consular issue.”

Meanwhile, the watchdog for EU citizens’ rights in post-Brexit Britain, the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), said Friday it had requested information from the U.K. Home Office on this issue earlier this week in a bid to find out if any EU nationals with rights to reside in Britain after Brexit had been detained by mistake. The IMA was established in January to oversee the U.K.’s implementation of the citizens’ rights provisions in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

“We are aware of this issue, it was brought to our attention early this week,” said Pam Everett, director of operational delivery at the IMA. “We have seen the press reports and had other conversations about this issue … We are trying to understand from the Home Office what’s happening and yes, of course, we are concerned. This is not a good position to be in.”

Everett encouraged any EU citizens affected by a situation like this to raise it with their consulate in the U.K. and consider making a complaint directly to the Home Office and to the IMA itself. However, she noted that the watchdog can only address cases concerning EU nationals who settled in Britain before the end of the Brexit transition on December 31, 2020.

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Source : Politico EU More   

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Boris Johnson hints at ‘hard choices’ as Indian coronavirus variant spreads

UK sticks to reopening plan, but the prime minister warned that could change if the new variant spreads.

Boris Johnson hints at ‘hard choices’ as Indian coronavirus variant spreads

LONDON — The U.K. will accelerate its coronavirus vaccine push for priority groups in a bid to halt the spread of the Indian variant, which the prime minister warned on Friday could force Britain to make “hard choices” in coming weeks.

Boris Johnson confirmed that the U.K. will move ahead with the third phase of the government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions, which will see the restart of indoor seating at bars and restaurants and the resumption of travel to a limited list of countries deemed safe.

Johnson said, however, that the spread of the variant circulating in India posed a threat to the fourth and last step of the roadmap — due June 21 — which would allow the return of weddings and major events and the removal of social distancing rules.

Speaking at a press conference, Johnson said the U.K. will offer second doses to people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable eight weeks before taking the first dose, rather than the initial plan of waiting 12 weeks between doses. The U.K. will also prioritize first doses for anyone eligible who has not yet booked an appointment, including those over 40. But Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said this should not lead to “significant delays” in the vaccination of younger groups.

Johnson’s comments come as the U.K. reported the deaths of four people with the Indian variant of the virus last week. Public Health England said Thursday that 1,313 cases of the Indian variant had been detected in England in the last week, more than double the figure of the previous week.

“I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely because the race between our vaccination program and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter, and it’s more important than ever, therefore, that people get the additional protection of a second dose,” he said.

Johnson said the Indian variant was “only marginally more transmissible” than the Kent variant, which was dominant in the last wave of the U.K.’s coronavirus cases. But he warned: “If the [Indian] variant is significantly more transmissible, we are likely to face some hard choices.”

“I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our roadmap and we will proceed to move to step three in England on Monday. But I must level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June. And I must stress that we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.”

The Indian variant is believed to be spreading in specific areas of the U.K., such as Bolton and Blackburn. The prime minister said the army would be deployed on the streets of these towns to hand out tests to the public. Efforts to vaccinate the cities’ residents will also step up, with vaccination centers opening for longer hours.

The U.K. added India to its “red list” of countries in April, meaning all arrivals from the country would have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Johnson urged people to “think twice” before traveling to areas with higher numbers of cases of the Indian variant.

Source : Politico EU More   

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