A Finnish historian at London’s Queen Mary University has been plunged into a “Kafkaesque nightmare” after being threatened with detention and deportation by the Home Office, despite being an EU national.
Already legally allowed to live and work in the UK, Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg was told she was “liable for detention” after her application for an EU registration certificate was bizarrely rejected.
Dr Holmberg applied for the Qualified Person certificate for “peace of mind” in June following the Brexit referendum.
It was rejected, apparently due to a technicality - and rather than spend money reapplying, Dr Holmberg decided that as the document would make no difference to her current status, she would not appeal.
The Home Office also informed her there was “no requirement to leave the UK”.
Home Office wants to deport a Finnish academic who is married to a Brit and pays taxes in Britain, i.e. me. https://t.co/4zpS1ENlW9— Eva Johanna Holmberg (@EvaJohannaH) August 23, 2017
However last Thursday, the academic was told by Home Office officials that “a decision has now been taken to remove you from the United Kingdom in accordance with section 10 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999”.
The letter said she was considered “a person liable to administrative removal...as you have failed to evidence that you are exercising Treaty rights in the United Kingdom”, and that she was “a person who is liable to be detained”.
It gave her a month to leave. The Home Office said the letter was a mistake and one of around 100 sent to different people “in error”.
Dr Holmberg, an expert in early British History, moved to the UK last August with her British husband James Chester, an optician, after being seconded to Queen Mary from the University of Helsinki.
She told the Standard the Home Office’s “absurd” decision was “unlawful, arbitrary and disproportionate”.
She said: “It makes you feel like you are being treated like a common criminal.
“Even if I were a criminal there are certain requirements that should be met before you are deported.
““How can an EU National be deported from the UK? There is free movement of people.
“I am a historian - I believe in the strength of paperwork and I like security and thought this of paper would be a way to show that.
“It turns out it has spiralled into some Kafkaesque nightmare.
“It is just unbelievable. All for a piece of paper I don’t even need. It would be funny if it were not so draining and stressful.”
Dr Holmberg, who pays UK taxes, said the situation could have been even worse if she had been on holiday and not seen the letter in time to lodge an urgent appeal through her lawyers.
She added: “This absurd nonsense has aged me at least five years and made me even less likely to trust anything Amber Rudd, Theresa May, or David Davis says to calm us EU nationals down.
“It shows the home office currently cannot function. It does not know how to obey the law or even its own rules. It is probably not able to deal with all the paperwork.”
The Qualified Person certificate confirms an individual’s right to live and work in the UK if they have resided in Britain for less than five years.
There is no requirement to apply, but many EU nationals worried about the impact of Brexit have done so.
It is even less important after the government said EU citizens in Britain for less than five years at the time of Brexit will be able to apply for special temporary status in order to stay in the UK, applying for “settled status” - effectively indefinite leave to remain - once they have reached five years in the country.
A Home Office spokesman said Dr Holmberg’s letter should not have been sent, and was one of “around 100” wrongly issued.
He said: “A limited number of letters were issued in error and we have been urgently looking into why this happened.
"We are contacting everyone who received this letter to clarify that they can disregard it.
“We are absolutely clear that the rights of EU nationals living in the UK remain unchanged.”